Online Abuse in a Relationship
Regardless of your age, the school you attend, or where you live, it’s highly likely the internet is a major part of your life. Whether you’re working on school projects using Google Docs, or Snapchatting with your friends, your day wouldn’t be the same without access to your phone, tablet, or computer. As easy as it is to connect to everyone in your life with these apps and websites, it puts a lot of information out there for other people to see. Anyone you’re friends with can find out who your Facebook & Instagram friends are, what you’re posting on Tumblr, and what you’re putting on your Snapchat story.
This all seems harmless until you enter a relationship. Oftentimes, things that we’ve never had to think about before become topics of fights and arguments. Do you know how many guys comment and like your Instagram pictures? No? Well, I bet your boyfriend does…if he wants to use the internet as a way to control you. If your girlfriend wants to check your phone every time you’re together to make sure you’re not texting with anyone she’s suspicious of, this might be a time to think about these red flags as gateways into a relationship controlled with internet and social media.
Other concerns while in a relationship, aside from a regular invasion of privacy, include having a partner that uses the internet to impersonate someone else, to try and bait you into saying something that they can later fault you for. Or, they may be able to use various social media outlets to stalk you and figure out where you are, where you’ve checked in, and who you’re with. Many people have experienced this already and think that this is normal behavior. Or feel that because we all choose to make social media such a regular part of our lives, that this is just a ‘price to pay’ for having an online presence. It’s not.
Some of the more frightening abuses of the internet and social media in teen relationships that we’ve seen tend to come after a breakup. These can include things like spreading rumors, threats (either to hurt/harm/embarrass you or your new partner, or maybe outing you to friends and family if you’re not currently open about your sexuality), or cyber-bullying.
A trend we’re seeing more and more is non-consensual pornography, or when a partner or former partner sends nudes of you around school or to their friends without your consent. It doesn’t matter if these nude photos were sent by you intentionally at one point, it does not give someone permission to pass them on to another person. However, it should be known that sending nude pictures of yourself to someone when you’re under 18 is a crime in Massachusetts, as well as sending that material to others.
If you’re having problems with your partner stalking you, hacking your accounts, or posting and spreading material about you around school, please tell an adult so they can help you. These are reportable crimes that can often be stopped at the school level, but involving the police may help prevent more abuse and harassment from happening in the future. At Independence House, we can offer you a safe space to talk about what’s happened, and some advice on removing and reporting photos or images that end up on the internet. The internet and social media is an easy place for an abusive relationship to bloom; just remember that you deserve privacy, respect, and trust in any relationship you’re in.
–IH Teen Counselor