It’s a worrying reality that almost three in 10 women and people from marginalised genders have had a partner control or try to control their digital interactions.
That’s according to a report released by social wellbeing platform Communia, which also revealed one in nine respondents said a partner had actually taken control of their digital interactions, while almost a fifth (18%) said they’d had a partner who tried.
And the issue seems to be more prevalent among younger generations – just over two in five (41%) respondents aged 16-24 have had a partner control or try to control their digital interactions, compared to 8% of respondents aged 55+.
Digital domestic abuse is more common than you’d think
It’s not OK for partners to control your social media presence or interactions – in fact, this is a form of abuse. And it’s on the rise as technology and our lives become increasingly intertwined.
Women’s Aid suggests online platforms are being increasingly used to perpetrate domestic abuse. The charity also suggests it can happen over long periods and tends to escalate over time.
According to Communia, signs of digital domestic abuse can include asking for passwords to social media, telling you what you can and can’t post, or isolating you from friends and family by blocking or restricting communications.
However, experts at Thames Valley Police suggest it can go even further than that and the examples of digital abuse they urge people to look out for are:
- Using your social media accounts without your permission
- Posting information about you online or by text/messenger
- Creating a profile page without your permission
- Sending you threatening messages
- Sending threatening messages to other people whilst pretending to be you
- Posting photos of you without your consent (also known as revenge porn)
- Using spyware on your devices to track you
- Taking away your control of smart home devices such as cameras, lights, thermostats
- Controlling your bank accounts.
How to protect yourself from digital abuse
First, know that this is not your fault nor is it due to anything that you have done. You have a right to privacy both on and offline, regardless of what your partner tells you.
Thames Valley Police recommends taking the following steps to prevent digital abuse:
- Use strong passwords.
- Check social media privacy settings for all of your accounts. The National Cyber Security Centre has advice on how to check your settings on all of the major social media platforms.
- Protect your phone, tablet, and PC by using a strong password, PIN, or both.
- Turn off location settings.
- If you don’t want somebody knowing which websites you’ve visited, you can find how to hide this visit from your web history here.
- Change your WiFi password from the default to a stronger password.
- If you’re worried about being locked out of your bank accounts or someone limiting access to your money, speak to someone at your bank. Some banks can flag an account that might be at risk.
Of course, if you feel safe and ready to, report the abuse that you’ve been subjected to. Citizens Advice has a wealth of information on who to contact for support and guidance, depending on who and where you are.
You can also go straight to the police by reporting online, by calling 101, or going directly to a police station.
Help and support:
If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact:
- The Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge: 0808 2000 247
- In Scotland, contact Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234
- In Northern Ireland, contact the 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414
- In Wales, contact the 24 hour Life Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
- National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
- Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
- Respect helpline (for anyone worried about their own behaviour): 0808 802 0321
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