Experts warn of growing 'digital domestic abuse'

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by KING 5 HealthLink

KREM.com

Posted on June 3, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Experts are warning of a growing form of domestic violence they call "digital abuse." It's when one partner uses technology to control and intimidate their significant other. Mental health professionals say it's such a new problem you could even be in a digitally abusive relationship and not realize it.  

​The constant calls, the threatening texts. Brittny says her ex-boyfriend's electronic communication was relentless.

"I was always fearful of not answering my phone when he called and not responding to his text messages," she said.

After months of high-tech harassment, Brittny says she realized she was a victim of digital domestic abuse.

"Now, sadly people are using digital technology to exert their power, their influence, control 24/7," said psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz.

Digital abuse goes beyond constant phone calls and text messages. At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, many callers report their partner's smartphone and social media surveillance is increasing.  

"Things that range from constantly checking to what they're posting on social media, asking for passwords, to more extreme cases as where partners create fake identifies on facebook to see if they can get their partner to engage with someone else, and then accusing them of cheating and flirting in appropriately," said Katie Ray-Jones, National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The surveillance can escalate to monitoring their partner's location through their phone's GPS or installing keylogging software that records what they type on a computer.

"No one needs to be a computer genius to install this software. This software is very, very easy to install," said Art Bowker.

Brittny says when her ex-boyfriend's digital abuse became physical, she ended the relationship. Now she warns others to reach out for help right away.

"When I was going through this, I felt like I was completely alone. I didn't tell anybody about what was happening," said Brittny.

The head of the National Domestic Violence Hotline says it's difficult to estimate exactly how many people are affected by digital abuse, because some victims dont even recognize it. If you feel your safety is in jeopardy, you should contact local police.

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