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Domestic Violence Intervention in the Social Digital Age

Published in Women's Services, Men's Health, For the Health of It Author: Rena Sespene-Hinz, MSW, LISW, ACMSW, St. Cloud Hospital NICU/Pediatric/FBC Social Worker – Inpatient Care Management

Read how the use of technology, including phones, tablets, computers and social networking websites, has now become a common means for abusers to stay connected to their partners in intimate partner violence in the first part of this blog.

You deserve to be in a safe and healthy relationship, both in person and online. If your partner is digitally abusive, know his/her behavior is not acceptable and could be illegal. Check out the tips from loveisrespect for staying safe on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others.

  • Only post things you want the public to see or know. Once it’s online, it’s no longer under your control.
  • Be protective of your personal information. Your phone numbers and addresses enable people to contact you directly, and things like your birth date, the schools you attended, your employer and photos with landmarks may make it easier for someone to find where you live, hang out or go to school.
  • Set boundaries and limits. Tell people not to post personal information, negative comments or check-ins about you on social media. Ask people not to post or tag pictures if you’re not comfortable with it.
  • You can keep your passwords private — sharing passwords is not a requirement of being in a relationship.
  • Don’t do or say anything online you wouldn’t in person. It may seem easier to express yourself when you are not face-to-face, but online communication can have real-life negative consequences.

What to do if you are experiencing online abuse or harassment:

  • Don’t respond to harassing, abusive or inappropriate comments. It won’t make the person stop and it could get you in trouble or even put you in danger.
  • Keep a record of all harassing messages, posts and comments in case you decide to tell the police or get a restraining order.
  • Always report inappropriate behavior to the site administrators.

If you are leaving an unhealthy relationship:

  • Start by blocking your ex on Facebook and other social networking pages. We recommend you don’t check-in on Foursquare or other location-based sites or apps — you don’t want your ex or their friends tracking your movements.
  • Adjust your privacy settings to reduce the amount of information that particular people can see on your page. Privacy settings on sites like Facebook allow the user to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. Remember, registering for some apps require you to change your privacy settings.
  • Avoid posting private details on your friends’ pages. They may not have appropriate settings and doing so may allow someone to see your movements and location. The same goes for tagging yourself in pictures.
  • Consider what is called a “super-logoff” — deactivating your Facebook account every time you log off and reactivating it every time you log back on. This way, no one can post on your wall, tag you or see your content when you’re offline, but you still have all of your friends, wall posts, photos, etc., when you log back on.
  • While it is inconvenient and may seem extreme, disabling your social networking page entirely may be your best option to stop continued abuse or harassment.

If you are experiencing digital abuse, talk to family or a trusted individual who can help you make a safety plan.

If a friend is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, be careful what you post about them. Pictures, locations, check-ins and even simple statements can be used to control or hurt them. If you’re unsure of what’s OK to post, get your friend’s permission before you click “Share.”