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What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behaviors that is used to gain or maintain power and controlover an intimate partner. There are several types of abuse (all of which hinge on POWER AND CONTROL): physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological. These include any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, isolate, or wound someone. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, culture, gender, or socioeconomic background. It can happen to couples who are married, living together, or who are dating.Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

What is Digital Abuse?

Digital dating abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online. In a healthy relationship, all communication is respectful whether in person, online, or by phone. It is never ok for someone to do or say anything that makes you feel bad, lowers your self-esteem, or manipulates you. You may be experiencing digital abuse if your partner:
  • * Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
  • * Sends you negative, insulting, or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, IMs, or other messages online.
  • * Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, and others to keep constant tabs on you.
  • * Puts you down in their status updates.
  • * Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and demands you send some in return.
  • * Pressures you to send explicit video.
  • * Steals or insists to be given your passwords.
  • * Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
  • * Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts, and outgoing calls.

You never deserve to be mistreated, online or off. If you're experiencing digital dating abuse, we encourage you to chat with a peer advocate. Remember: 
  • * Your partner should respect your relationship boundaries.
  • * It is ok to turn off your phone. You have the right to be alone and spend time with friends and family without your partner getting angry.
  • * You do not have to text any pictures or statements that you are uncomfortable sending, especially nude or partially nude photos, known as "sexting."
  • * You lose control of any electronic message once your partner receives it. They may forward it, so don’t send anything you fear could be seen by others.
  • * You do not have to share your passwords with anyone.
  • * Know your privacy settings. Social networks such as Facebook allow the user to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. These are often customizable and are found in the privacy section of the site. Remember, registering for some applications (apps) require you to change your privacy settings.
  • * Be mindful when using check-ins like Facebook Places and foursquare. Letting an abusive partner know where you are could be dangerous. Also, always ask your friends if it’s ok for you to check them in. You never know if they are trying to keep their location secret.

Social Networking Safety
You deserve to be in a safe and healthy relationship, whether in person or online. If your partner is digitally abusive, their behavior is not acceptable and could be illegal. Check out our tips below 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 do or say 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.

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 arestraining order.
  • * Always report inappropriate behavior to the site administrators.

Leaving an Abusive Relationship
  • * 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 may 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 you social networking page entirely may be your best option to stop continued abuse or harassment.

Your Friends’ Safety
If your friend is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, be careful what you post about them. Pictures, locations, check-ins -- 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.”

Texting and Sexting
Next to talking one-on-one, texting is currently one of the most instant forms of communication. While texting might be the perfect platform to say a quick "hi," there are some things to watch out for in a textual relationship with your partner.

Texting Too Much
If your partner texts too much, it's not only irritating, but unnecessary. Keeping in touch with your significant other throughout the day can be thoughtful, but constant contact is probably over-doing it. Consider talking to your partner about giving you a little bit of space. Remember, if they’re using texting messaging to monitor everywhere you go, that is a warning sign of abuse.

Does your partner ask for inappropriate pictures of you? Or send them to you? Even if you trust that your partner will be the only one to ever see the pictures, you can never guarantee that they won’t end up on someone else’s phone or online. Seriously consider playing it safe and making a policy of not sending and instantly deleting inappropriate photos. The same goes for webcams and instant messaging, too. Remember you never have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, no matter how much your partner pressures you. Sexting can also have legal consequences. Any nude photos or videos of someone under 18 could be considered child pornography, which is always illegal. Even if whoever sent the image did so willingly, the sender and the recipient can still get in a lot of trouble. 

Reading Someone Else’s Texts
Does your partner ask to read your texts? Or read them behind your back? Healthy relationships are built on trust, not jealousy. You have the right to privacy and the ability to talk to whomever you like. You may want to explain to your partner that you have nothing to hide, but you don’t like them going through your phone or deciding who your friends are. If your partner refuses to change, you could be in an unhealthy relationship. 

Threats over Text
Threats over text should be taken seriously -- try not to write them off as angry venting. Keep track of threatening texts and think about talking to someone you trust about what is happening. Being in a violent relationship is dangerous -- don't go through it alone.

What Can I Do?
Whether you feel like your partner is already using their cell phone in an abusive way or you're trying to prevent it, here are tips to keep you safe and healthy:
  • * Remember, it’s ok to turn off your phone. Just be sure your parent or guardian knows how to contact you in an emergency.
  • * Don’t answer calls from unknown or blocked numbers. Your abuser can easily call you from another line if they suspect you are avoiding them.
  • * Don’t respond to hostile, harassing, abusive, or inappropriate texts or messages. Responding can encourage the person who sent the message and won’t get them to stop. Your messages might also get you in trouble and make it harder to get a restraining order or to file a criminal report.
  • * Save or document troublesome texts as you may need them later for evidence in case you file a criminal report or ask for a restraining order.
  • * Many phone companies can block up to ten numbers from texting or calling you. Contact your phone company or check their website to see if you can do this on your phone.
  • * If you are coming out of a dangerous relationship, avoid using any form of technology to contact your abuser. It can be dangerous and may be used against you in the future.
  • * It may seem extreme, but if the abuse and harassment don't stop, changing your phone number may be your best option.

If you are feeling threatened or suffocated by your partner’s constant calls or texts, it may be a sign that you are in an unhealthy and potentially abusive relationship. When your partner says or does things that make you afraid, lowers your self-esteem, or manipulates you, it is called verbal or emotional abuse. 

You have the right to be in a safe and healthy relationship free from all types of abuse!

There are many situations where it’s not only fun but practical to check-in with Gowalla, foursquare, Facebook, etc. As useful as this technology is, did you ever stop to wonder, "Is it safe?" For someone in or getting out of an abusive relationship, the answer is often no. It can be dangerous if your abusive partner only has to log-in to foursquare or Facebook to see where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with. So try to be mindful of how to use check-ins -- whether you’re in a healthy relationship or not. If you or a friend are in an unhealthy relationship, consider the following before checking in:

Always Ask
Always ask everyone if it's alright to check them in, even if you are sure it was ok a week ago. If anyone in your group says no, consider playing is safe and not checking in at all. You don’t want an abusive partner figuring out who else is there based on the group you posted.

Update Your Privacy Settings
Facebook, foursquare, and Gowalla all let you control who sees your check-ins, but they default to making your account public. Consider adjusting your settings so only your friends, not the general public, can see your check-ins. Remember, though, that abusive partners may find a way around your settings.

Know Your Networks
Just because you’re not friends with the abusive person doesn’t mean you’re not friends with their friends. If you think sensitive information could be accessed by your contacts a few friends away, just side with caution and don’t post.

Pay Attention to Statuses and Tweets Too
Be aware that tagging someone in a status or tweet could create problems for them too, especially if you give away their location. Learn more about social networking safety.

Wait Until After the Event
If you’re posting about a one-time event that you really want to celebrate online, give it a day or two until you mention it. That way, the abusive person is less likely to use the information against you and your friends.

What is Emotional, Verbal, and Psychological Abuse?

Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking.   There are many behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse:
  • * Calling you names and putting you down
  • * Yelling and screaming at you
  • * Intentionally embarrassing you in public
  • * Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family
  • * Telling you what to do and wear
  • * Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate, or humiliate you
  • * Blaming you for their abusive or unhealthy behaviors
  • * Stalking you
  • * Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them
  • * Threatening to harm you, your pet, or people you care about
  • * Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity
  • * Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status
  • * Starting rumors about you
  • * Threatening to have your children taken away

Is Emotional, Verbal, and Psychological Abuse Really Abuse?
A relationship can be unhealthy or abusive even without physical violence.
 Verbal abuse may not cause physical damage, but it does cause emotional pain and scarring. It can also lead to physical violence if the relationship continues on an unhealthy path.

Sometimes verbal abuse is so bad that you actually start believing what your partner says. You begin to think you’re stupid, ugly, or fat. You agree that nobody else would ever want to be in a relationship with you. Constantly being criticized and told you aren’t good enough causes you to lose self confidence and lowers your self esteem. As a result, you may start to blame yourself for your partner’s abusive behavior.

Remember -- emotional abuse is never your fault. In fact, your partner may just be trying to control or manipulate you into staying in the relationship. Talk to someone you trust (such as a parent, adult friend, or teacher) about the situation and make a safety plan.

What is Physical Abuse?

Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it's still unhealthy. Examples of physical abuse are:
  • * Scratching, punching, biting, strangling, or kicking
  • * Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe, or plate
  • * Pulling your hair
  • * Pushing or pulling you
  • * Grabbing your clothing
  • * Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace, or other weapon
  • * Smacking your bottom
  • * Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act
  • * Grabbing your face to make you look at them
  • * Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere

Escaping Physical Abuse
Start by learning that you are not alone. More than one in 10 high school students have already experienced some form of physical aggression from a dating partner, and many of these teens did not know what to do when it happened. If you are in a similar situation:
  • * Realize this behavior is wrong.
  • * Talk to an adult, friend, or family member who you trust.
  • * Create a safety plan.
  • * Consider getting a restraining order.
  • * Do not accept or make excuses for your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • * Remember that physical abuse is never your fault.

Protecting Yourself from Physical Abuse
Unhealthy or abusive relationships usually get worse. It is important to know the warning signs to prevent more serious harm. If you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, consider making a safety plan.

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don't want to do. It can also refer to behavior that impacts a person's ability to consent to sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs. Some examples of sexual assault and abuse are:
  • * Unwanted kissing or touching
  • * Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
  • * Rape or attempted rape
  • * Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control
  • * Keeping someone from protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • * Sexual contact with someone who is very drunk, drugged, unconscious, or otherwise unable to give a clear and informed “yes” or “no”
  • * Threatening or pressuring someone into unwanted sexual activity

Keep in Mind
  • * Everyone has the right to decide what they do or don’t want to do sexually. Not all sexual assaults are violent “attacks.”
  • * Most victims of sexual assault know the assailant.
  • * Both men and women can be victims of sexual abuse.
  • * Both men and women can be perpetrators of sexual abuse.
  • * Sexual abuse can occur in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.
  • * Sexual abuse can occur between two people who have had prior consensual sexual activity, including people who are married or dating.

What to Do
If you have been sexually assaulted, first get to a safe place away from the attacker. You may be scared, angry, and confused, but remember the abuse was in no way your fault. You have options. You can:
  • * Contact Someone You Trust.  Many people feel fear, guilt, anger, shame, and/or shock after they have been sexually assaulted. Having someone there to support you as you deal with these emotions can make a big difference. It may be helpful to speak with a counselor, someone at a sexual assault hotline, or a support group.
  • * Report What Happened to the Police.  If you do decide to report what happened, you will have a stronger case if you do not alter or destroy any evidence. This means don’t shower, wash your hair or body, comb your hair, or change your clothes- even though it may be difficult to keep from doing these things. If you are nervous about going to the police station, it may help to bring a friend with you. There may also be sexual assault advocates in your area who can assist you and answer your questions.
  • * Go to an Emergency Room or Health Clinic.  It is very important for you to seek health care as soon as you can after being assaulted. Evidence will be gathered, and you will be treated for any injuries and offered medications to help prevent pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

What is Stalking?

You are being stalked when a person repeatedly watches, follows, or harasses you, making you feel afraid or unsafe. A stalker can be someone you know, a past boyfriend or girlfriend, or a stranger. While the actual legal definition varies from one state to another, here are some examples of what stalkers may do:
  • * Show up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited
  • * Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails, and voicemails
  • * Leave unwanted items, gifts, or flowers
  • * Constantly call you and hang up
  • * Use social networking sites and technology to track you
  • * Spread rumors about you online or by word of mouth
  • * Make unwanted phone calls to you
  • * Call your employer or professor
  • * Wait at places you hang out
  • * Damage your home, car, or other property

What if I'm Being Stalked?
If you're being stalked, you may be feeling stressed, vulnerable, or anxious. You may also have trouble sleeping or concentrating at work or school. Remember, you are not alone. Every year in the United States, 3.4 million people are stalked, and youth between the ages of 18-24 experience the highest rates of stalking. Most people assume that stalkers are strangers, but actually three in four victims are harassed by someone they know.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and report everything that’s happened to the police. Get additional support by obtaining a protective order that makes it illegal for the stalker to come near you or contact you.

Remember to save important evidence such as:
  • * Text messages
  • * Voicemails
  • * Videos
  • * Letters, photos, and cards
  • * Unwanted items or gifts
  • * Social media friend requests
  • * Emails

You should also write down the times, places, and dates all incidents occurred. Include the names and contact information of people who witnessed what happened.

Stalking is traumatic. You may experience nightmares, lose sleep, become depressed, or feel like you’re no longer in control of your life. These reactions are normal. It can help to tell your friends and family about the stalking.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse can be very subtle -- telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts. At no point does someone you are dating have the right to use money or how you spend it to control you.

Here are some examples of financially abusive behavior:
  • * Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy
  • * Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it
  • * Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records
  • * Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours you work
  • * Preventing you from going to work by taking your car or keys
  • * Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job
  • * Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or outside financial support
  • * Using your social security number to obtain credit without your permission
  • * Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission
  • * Maxing out your credit cards without your permission
  • * Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing
  • * Causing visible bruises and scars so that you are too embarrassed to go to work
  • * Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge
  • * Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same

What is Isolation?

Examples of isolation include:
  • * Controlling what you do, who you see, who you talk to, what you read, where you go
  • * Limiting your outside involvement

Repurposed from www.loveisrespect.org