WhatsApp adjustments: What DA survivors must know

Current WhatsApp updates have sparked fears that new options might be utilised by perpetrators of home violence to additional abuse victim-survivors.

Right here, household lawyer Harriet Donovan outlines the adjustments, their potential affect, and what you are able to do in the event you obtain abusive WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp adjustments: What victim-survivors must know

For many individuals, WhatsApp is the popular methodology of messaging. The well-known app cleverly makes communication simpler and quicker, permitting folks to talk, share info and join with others all over the world, instantly.

And while this brings so many advantages, sadly, as with all communication apps and social media, it may be exploited by perpetrators of home abuse and used as a device to inflict hurt.

Vital adjustments to WhatsApp

On 23 Could 2023, WhatsApp modified their platform to introduce a brand new characteristic that enables customers to edit messages inside quarter-hour after being despatched; a characteristic already provided by different main tech giants, similar to Fb and Instagram.

This new change to WhatsApp has sparked concern amongst home abuse professionals, who consider that it’ll enable perpetrators to ship their sufferer and survivors a barrage of abuse, after which edit the messages, eradicating the abusive language.

It will imply the survivor will probably see the messages, triggering them and inflicting emotional misery earlier than it’s rapidly edited and both eliminated or deleted solely. This then makes it extraordinarily troublesome to point out a path of proof of abuse via messages alone.

How the WhatsApp adjustments affect victim-survivors

Messages from texting platforms similar to iMessage, WhatsApp and social media platforms are often used as proof in home abuse circumstances heard within the household legislation court docket. Messages is usually a key a part of the proof in abuse circumstances, as they usually present the intention of the perpetrator, together with patterns of behaviour. For this proof to be thought-about, the Courtroom must be happy that the proof being thought-about has not been tampered with and may due to this fact be relied on.

This new change by WhatsApp and different tech giants will solid doubt over the reliability of messages as proof, and in some circumstances take away it utterly, particularly when the abusive language can not be seen. There’s additionally the priority {that a} survivor should show that the unique messages had been acquired when the perpetrator’s messages will doubtless differ.

What can somebody receiving abusive messages do?


After all, there may be the flexibility to screenshot the message earlier than it’s edited or deleted, nevertheless, this may be troublesome for survivors who’re understandably triggered by the message and should not assume to take a screenshot of the messages as quickly as they’re acquired.

Along with this a sufferer could also be used to this sample of behaviour and due to this fact not react instantly, at which level they could lose the chance to seize the proof on the time it’s despatched.

There’s additionally those that might not want to have the messages or images on their telephone as it will imply that they re-live the abuse every time they’ve sight of the messages.

To dam or to not block

An alternative choice, whether it is secure to take action, is for the survivor to dam their perpetrator and their family and friends from all social media and messaging platforms.

If there should be a line of communication as a consequence of having youngsters collectively, utilizing an app similar to my Household Wizard may very well be a greater and safer different. Nevertheless, you will need to get recommendation from a lawyer or a home abuse charity earlier than blocking all communications, as this may trigger different behaviours to escalate.

Ahead planning

Holding a log detailing the date and time of all messages is essential. The place taking a screenshot and storing the unique message is inappropriate, contemplate forwarding the messages instantly to your lawyer, pal, or member of the family, to allow them to retailer in your behalf permitting you to delete the message.

WhatsApp Privateness Checkup

It is usually advisable, once more when secure to take action, to disable ‘Learn Receipts’ on WhatsApp, giving survivors the prospect to ahead the message earlier than the perpetrator realises the message has been acquired, and deletes them.

You may also change the standing of the ‘final seen’ characteristic, which tells contacts whenever you had been final on-line, in order that no one can see this info.

Different helpful instruments to stay safe on WhatsApp embody limiting who can add you to teams, who can see your ‘About’ info, ‘Standing’, and ‘Profile Photograph’. Test that you simply’re not sharing your ‘Reside Location’ with any teams or contacts.

These options will be present in Settings > Privateness. WhatsApp have additionally launched a helpful Privateness Checkup, that can assist you to tailor the settings to your precise wants.

Report abusive communication to the Police

If survivors obtain abusive communications through social media, a name, a message, a letter or anything, it must be reported to the police with info concerning the abuse, their data of who has despatched the abusive communications together with offering any proof that helps the allegations. It will then create a file on the police database, which may then be used as proof inside household legislation proceedings. Sometimes, it carries extra weight when an individual studies an incident to the police on the time that the incident/occasion takes place because it additional helps the allegations made.

It’s important that household attorneys, the courts, judges, and different professionals perceive these adjustments, in order that they perceive gaps in message trails, and why communications can look completely different and be inconsistent. 

Know-how assisted abuse is on the rise, and figures from Refuge report a rise of 97% because the COVID-19 pandemic. The know-how created to make our lives higher, simpler, and extra environment friendly can sadly all too simply grow to be a method for perpetrators to abuse, stalk, isolate and management their victims and their youngsters.

For additional info on know-how facilitated abuse, please go to the Refuge Tech Safety website

Extra helpful hyperlinks

What’s Tech Abuse?

Stowe talks podcast – Understanding and dealing with Tech Abuse

Refuge – Guide to securing your WhatsApp account