Understanding Digital Abuse And How To Protect Yourself
The Center for Innovative Public Health Research and the Data and Society Research Institute carried out a survey that found that 12% of people age 15 and older who have been in a romantic relationship have been the victim of digital abuse by their current or past partner. Digital abuse can happen to anyone and comes in many forms, from online stalking by a stranger to your partner tracking your movements via your phone.
What is digital abuse?
Digital abuse is when someone uses technology, such as texting or social media, to bully, harass, intimidate or stalk someone. Some examples of this include being told who you can or can’t connect with on social media, being sent controlling, insulting or threatening messages, your movements and activities being stalked via your social media or phone’s GPS, being sent unwanted photos and being pressured to send explicit photos in return, being pressured for your passwords, regularly having your phone checked with or without your permission, and receiving constant messages that make you feel like you have to reply, particularly within a short timeframe or it may lead to an argument or punishment in some way.
Ways to protect yourself
There are lots of little things you can do to protect yourself by making it difficult for your abuser to contact you. This includes changing passwords to accounts that they may have access to, changing your phone number and putting your social media settings to private, as well as being selective about who you connect with online. Avoid any links or downloads that your abuser sends you as they can install spyware on your phone or computer. Turn your phone’s GPS off and consider using virtual private networks when using public WiFi as they may be able to hack into your phone otherwise. However, the biggest thing you can do is tell someone you’re being abused and let the police deal with the situation.
Getting past digital abuse
Once the abuse ends you may find that you’ve been avoiding things without realizing as a way of protecting yourself. This can have detrimental effects, such as limiting your social circle out of fear someone may pass on information about you, intentionally or not, to your abuser. This can lead to social isolation. It’s important to try to reconnect with friends and family or find new people to socialize with. People from support groups who have experienced similar situations can be beneficial to talk to. It’s okay to give yourself time to heal and you may find it helpful to speak with a professional to help you process your feelings and help you to move on.
Digital abuse can be easily hidden which can make you even more vulnerable. It can last for years before you have finally had enough and find the strength to say something, get help, and end the cycle of abuse. Help is available for victims of digital abuse, which can be beneficial to help you move on with your life.