A Note on Language
In this toolkit, we will sometimes use the word woman/women and feminine pronouns for simplicity and to recognize the significant impact technology-facilitated violence has on women and girls. We recognize that TFGBV also impacts trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people. We hope that all people impacted by TFGBV will find these documents useful.
When technology-facilitated gender-based violence occurs (TFGBV), maintaining a record of events is important for criminal and civil legal matters. You may want to preserve video evidence as a way to support your case, as a video may illustrate relationship dynamics or domestic violence. Harassment, intimidation, and threats can be found in video recordings that have been taken during a conversation, as well as those sent by a perpetrator. Evidence of violence can also be found in videos posted online on websites and social media platforms. This document provides information on how to preserve videos as evidence in these circumstances.
It can be helpful to document an abusive or harassing video as it will:
- Provide a record of what is happening, which may be helpful if you want to pursue legal actions or in case the video is deleted.
- Alert you to any escalation in monitoring and control, which may indicate that the danger is increasing.
- Help you and the court see patterns of violence.
Preserving and Storing Evidence of TFGBV: Best Practices and the BC Society of Transition Houses’ Sample Technology-Facilitated Violence Log can guide you through what is important to write down and preserve.
You should consider the following when deciding whether this method of evidence preservation is appropriate for you:
- If you plan to rely on video recordings as evidence in a court proceeding, it is important to check with the Court Registry where your case is being heard to determine whether the necessary technology to play these recordings will be available. You will either have to request equipment from the court or ask for permission to bring your own device, such as a laptop, to play the video recording in court. You will most likely not be allowed to play a recording on your phone in court unless the court approves. You may need to transfer the video recordings onto DVDs or consider other ways of presenting the videos.
- If you plan to use video evidence in a court proceeding, you will need to authenticate your evidence in court. For more information about digital evidence and authentication, see Authentication of Digital Evidence.
Before you decide whether to make or preserve video recordings as evidence of abuse, you need to consider potential risks to your safety. Filming abusive behaviour on the part of the perpetrator could lead to an immediate escalation in violence. If you are saving video evidence to your smartphone or computer, there may be a risk that the perpetrator is monitoring the activities on your device. This could be happening in several ways. Your smartphone could be monitored if the perpetrator has physical access to your device, such as if you share a home, or if you share your passwords with them. If the perpetrator knows your cloud storage (e.g. iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox) ID and password, they will have access to some of your files, photos, and videos. It is also possible for the perpetrator to be monitoring your smartphone or computer via mobile spyware, such as stalkerware. If the perpetrator is monitoring your device in these ways, recording and saving videos could alert them to the fact you are collecting evidence.
If you suspect that the perpetrator has access to your devices, accounts, or files, you will need to make a plan for how to avoid detection when collecting evidence. This is both to protect you from additional abuse and to avoid the risk of the perpetrator deleting important evidence. For more information, see Safety Considerations for Preserving Digital Evidence and consider speaking to an anti-violence organization (See Technology Safety and Victim/Survivor Resources).
Videos You’ve Taken
In some circumstances, you may have recorded a video where a perpetrator is harassing or threatening you. The recording device you used may have the ability to save and store a video recording that you have taken. On an Apple iPhone, the video you recorded will be saved in your Photos app as a video. On an Android, the video will be saved in your Gallery as a video. For laptops and desktops, the videos become files in your systems.
It is important to note that courts prefer to view the recording in its entirety. This means you should not edit the video recording in any way. Be prepared to establish the circumstances in which the recording was made (i.e. when the video was made, who filmed it, what device was used to film it), that its integrity has not been compromised, and that it has not been edited. It is important to preserve the metadata of the electronic file by keeping a copy of the original recording. The metadata can often confirm your story about the video, such as when it was taken, because it contains the time and date the video was taken.
For safety and security reasons, if the perpetrator has access to your cloud account, you may choose to back up your video evidence in another location and keep the recording on your device. You can transfer the file onto a USB memory stick, CD, or DVD.
* Note: If a harassing or threatening video was sent to you by the perpetrator, you may be able to save that video on your device to your Photos app or Gallery.
Videos Posted Online
Video Screen Recording
Most modern phones have an option to video screen record. If your phone doesn’t have this feature, you can capture the content with another device that can record or take photos. If you are using an Android phone, be sure to check the audio features and to turn the audio function “on” before you record. See Preserving Digital Evidence via Video Screen Recording for more information.
You may want to preserve videos that are posted online immediately because they can be removed quickly. If you are not able to video screen record, there are many apps and websites that can be used to preserve online video evidence. Please note that some of these options may not be legal, depending on the type of content you wish to download, and might raise their own concerns regarding your data privacy. While it is always recommended that you video screen record using your own device, if this is not possible then one of these third-party options may be the only way for you to preserve this important evidence.
It is recommended that you or someone else make a transcript of the video recording. It can be helpful for the court to be able to read what was said in the recording, as it saves time and may be clearer than listening to the recording’s audio. Additionally, there may be situations where you are not allowed to play a video recording in court. In these situations, a transcript may be allowed as evidence instead. For example, if there is a lot of irrelevant background noise or interruptions in your recording, a judge may prefer the transcript to the recording.
If the perpetrator isn’t monitoring your device, there are helpful online transcription tools such as www.descript.com or Google Voice Transcription through Google Docs. If you use a secondary transcription service, you will want to double-check all transcriptions to ensure that the transcript is correct by reading it and listening to the audio recording. You can correct any mistakes so the transcript is accurate.
Documenting Time and Date
Document the time and date of the recording and who can be heard on the recording.
Presenting in Court
To present the video recording in court, you will need the following information:
- The video in a format the court can accept (call the court in advance to confirm the best way to display the video).
- How to access equipment needed to play the recording. You may be able to request certain equipment from the court using an Equipment Request Form. However, courts may not always have the equipment you need (e.g. a laptop). If this is the case, you may be able to bring your own equipment.
- You should also be aware that a court may not accept secretly recorded video as evidence. In some situations, trying to use a secret recording in court may even result in the judge having an unfavourable impression of you. This is a common occurrence in family law matters, especially in matters involving children. Secret recordings can erode the trust between family members. It can be emotionally damaging for children to be caught in the middle of a disagreement between adults and you need to balance that potential harm with the need for the recorded evidence. If you choose to record, make sure that you are not leading the person you are recording to say things or purposely trying to make the opposing party look bad. The recording could end up being detrimental to your credibility and case if the court finds you were manipulating the presentation of evidence.
It is best to transfer the video file as few times as possible to minimize questions about the authenticity of your recording.
If the authenticity of your recording is contested, then you will have to authenticate your recordings. See Authentication of Digital Evidence for more information. Although this document focuses on text messages and emails, the same concepts are applicable to video recordings.
Identifying the Other Party
You might have to prove the identity of the person being recorded. Sometimes an individual may deny that they are the individual depicted in the video. If you record a conversation between yourself and another individual, you will need to testify to the other individual’s identity. Additionally, if the individual reveals personal information about themselves during the recording, it can be used to prove their identity.
Safeguarding Video Evidence
Keep any saved videos you plan to rely on as evidence in a safe place. Remember to back up a copy of the file on a secondary device or storage space. File storage options will depend on your circumstances. For more information, see Preserving and Storing Evidence of TFGBV: Best Practices and Safety Considerations for Preserving Digital Evidence.
Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) is part of a continuum of violence that can be both online and in-person. If you or someone you know is experiencing TFGBV, you are not alone. You can use sheltersafe.ca to find a shelter/transition house near you or call/text the Kids Help Phone to discuss options and create a safety plan. You don’t need to stay in a shelter to access free, confidential services and support.
We gratefully acknowledge Moira Aikenhead for providing expertise to update this toolkit.
Adapted with permission from BCSTH’s Technology Safety project, based on their resource How to Preserve Videos as Evidence. Adapted for Canada with permission from NNEDV’s Safety Net project, based on their resource Legal Systems Toolkit.