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Image by Skyler Gerald

How to document domestic violence

Documenting abuse can be a step in getting yourself to safety and out of an abusive situation. It can also help if you are planning on pressing charges against your abuser.

When documenting abuse, keep your safety as your number one priority. It is not uncommon for an abuser to hack into or monitor your phone, computer, email, and other online communications. This can make storing screenshots, pictures, and other messages challenging.


One suggestion is to open up a private email account on a computer at your local library and only access it there. That way your evidence is not compromised if your personal email address is being monitored. You can keep notes on each incident as well as pictures and screenshots.


When documenting abuse, keep these 5 questions in mind:

  • WHO?

  • WHAT?

  • WHEN?

  • WHERE?

  • HOW?

Answer these in as much detail as you can.


Consider things like threats, weapons, and objects used, witnesses, date, time, location, and exact quotes.


Use words like hit, pushed, smacked, struck with an object (name the object used), or scratched when writing down what happened. Is the furniture overturned, vehicles damaged, holes in the wall, or the house in disarray?


Write it all down in a safe, private email and send it to yourself through that same email address


Sharing how the incident made you feel shows the impact it had on you.


Take pictures of abuse right after is occurs as well as during the healing process. This shows proof of your injuries and can be used in court. Keep all photos in their original condition - no photoshopping or touching them up. Even touching them up for lighting needs to be avoided. Store them in your private email and delete originals from your phone.


All hospital records need to be stored as well.


Another item to keep track of is threatening texts. Do not respond to them. Screenshot and send these to your private email. If the abuser calls 40 times in a row, screenshot that as well.


If the abuser calls, let it go to voicemail so their words can be recorded. Download the voicemail and save it in your private email.


If possible, record verbal abuse on your phone while it is in your pocket. Only do this if you are sure the abuser will not be suspicious. Send all recordings to your private email and delete them from your phone.


If you want to share your evidence with someone, make sure you can trust them. Sharing with mutual friends and family is not a good idea at this point.


You might start feeling confident as you start collecting and documenting this evidence but avoid changing your behavior as it might arouse suspicion. Do not forget your goal. It is OK to take your time getting everything you need.


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