When abuse is discussed, people tend to overlook digital abuse. This is form of abuse that is becoming even more prevalent in this technological age. Digital abuse involves using the Internet and/or social media to threaten or monitor a significant other in order to maintain control within the relationship.
Digital abuse can be perpetrated on its own or in combination with other forms of abuse such as physical, emotional or verbal abuse. It is actually sometimes categorized as a form of emotional or verbal abuse.
According to research done by Women’s Aid, about 85% of people who received some type of online abuse from their significant other (or ex) also reported was part of other abuse they received offline. Such abusers will often make accusations of cheating, the significant other wanting to leave, etc. Examples of digital abuse include:
- Installing spyware onto computers or phones.
- Reading personal emails or messages without permission.
- Spreading rumours or posting negative or threatening messages on social media platforms.
- Constantly calling or texting to establish whereabouts.
- Monitoring browser history or social media posts, sometimes under fake usernames.
- Posting – or threatening to post – demeaning and/or intimate pictures or videos or pressuring you to send such material.
- Stealing – or pressuring you to give – your passwords.
- Impersonating you online.
- Trying to control who you contact online.
If you believe that you are in a relationship with patterns of digital abuse, the following tips might help improve your digital safety:
- Block the person from your social media accounts.
- Private your social media accounts and only accept requests from people you know. Abusers will often create fake accounts in order to continue their abuse or monitoring.
- Disable your location on social media accounts. This will make it more difficult for the abuser to track your movements.
- Do not send any material you are uncomfortable sharing. You cannot control what they do with that material.
- Report threatening and inappropriate behaviour to site administrators.
It is important that you use your discretion when dealing with these situations. Some of these tips might not be advisable when dealing with a situation when there is the threat of violence, especially from a current partner. Be wary when making online contact with the abusive individual (e.g. tweeting, messaging, etc.) as the situation can quickly get out of hand. Contact your family and friends or organisations who might be able to provide you with a safe haven should you feel that your safety is at risk. And always remember, you are never to blame for your abuse.
Organisations with Online Resources:
Love is Respect (www.loveisrespect.org) (directed at teen/young women)
Women’s Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk)
Women’s Freedom Center (www.womensfreedomcenter.net)