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We live in a digital world, and digital abuse persists in this world. Digital connectivity is an important part of our lives, and undoubtedly it brings multiple benefits and opens doors of opportunities; but there is a darker side to it—digital abuse.

It won’t be wrong to say, digital abuse is common; online harassment, cyberbullying, and stalking encompass a range of harmful behaviors. Our lives are somehow dependent on the internet, and it offers a source of connection and communication. But, interconnectedness comes with a set of challenges; and one of them is the rise of digital abuse, cyberbullying, and privacy infringement.

Doxxing and stalking on the internet are quite common, and it is better to identify the warning signs and take proactive steps to create a safe online environment. The dangers behind our screens must be taken as a warning. Keep on reading to learn more.

Understanding Digital Abuse:

Even though we spend hours before our phone screens or computers, we still lack awareness about digital abuse. This partly stems from its entanglement with other forms of abuse we may have heard about, such as physical violence, sexual coercion, emotional and psychological torment, financial violations, or even verbal abuse. However, it is very unlikely that any digital abuse will happen without the offender also using another form of attack. Still very serious even in itself, digital abuse can be profoundly detrimental to a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

First things first. There is a lack of awareness about digital abuse, and it can take various forms. What comes under digital abuse?

1. Cyber-Bullying:

This is the most common form of cyberbullying, and people all over the globe have somewhere faced cyber-bullying. Deliberate and repeated online harassment that ultimately leads to emotional distress defines cyberbullying. At times, we individuals share our pictures over social media—bullying comments, marks, sharing the pictures with inappropriate captions; all of this is cyber-bullying.

2. Online Harassment:

Online Harassment is as serious as harassment at any other place. Unwanted messages, threatening, harmful behaviour directed at an individual or a group of people. Online harassment also includes sending inappropriate pictures, videos, etc.

3. Doxxing:

Doxxing is the act of revealing the personal information of an individual online. It is also considered online harassment, as the real name, address, job, and other details are publicly exposed without the consent of the victim. Doxxing aims to humiliate, bully, or harass someone. It originates from the term, “documents ‘, then shortened to docs, dox, and then doxxing. It can be due to revenge, or just to bully someone.

4. Stalking:

Online stalking is also quite common. Persistent and unwanted online monitoring, following often leading to offline threats. Stalking is done online as well, as the stalkers keep an eye on every move.

Signs of Digital Abuse:

We live in the era of digitalization, and not using social media or the internet is out of the question. Therefore, let’s explore the digital abuse signs.

  • Bullying and harassment: Serial texting, social media messaging, or posting of allegedly insulting/threatening content relating to a specific person; malicious Facebook posts about an individual; tagging hurtful images and Instagram texts in the name are all forms of cyberbullying.
  • Monitoring and stalking: Stealing or requiring passwords; examining phones and computers without any consent; using location tagging, and spyware to monitor: pretending on the web.
  • Sexual coercion: Requesting to share or send nude pictures and videos that make the victim feel uncomfortable; delivering explicit images without your permission; sharing visual content with others, when it has been sent by mistake.
  • Possessiveness and control: Determining online acquaintances; restricting the speed of communicating with them by controlling access to text and message in fields other than messaging one directly through technology design that makes the victim feel threatened if not responded immediately.

How to Combat Digital Abuse:

If you are facing digital abuse, it is a sign to combat it. Explore the tips below on how to combat digital abuse.

1. Protect your social media and Email Accounts:

Email is not a confidential communication. An abuser can simply monitor or intercept your emails using the spyware and then they will have access to the password. Change all the passwords of your online accounts to something that cannot be guessed by an ex and also not by a pet or date of birth name. In addition, it should be different for each account in case one is breached then the others are also protected too. Longer passwords are much better. The ideal passwords are from 12 to 15 characters. For example, think of your password as a short sentence, rather than random numbers or symbols.

Enable two-factor authentication for logging into the accounts, which means that apart from your passcode you must enter a code sent to the phone by an SMS. Set account limitations through your settings and if you have a public profile, make sure it limits who can post on one’s wall to identify the information that is available to another user To avoid such a negative situation, sign up for Google Alert with your name so that when there are any revenge porn activities online using it you will get the alert.

Inform those you know not to post any personal information about yourself or anyone else without your consent. Tell them that this may compromise their safety. Carefully prepare the secret questions and also associated responses to any login information. It is of course the easiest to guess the answers to such “security” questions by someone who knows you (the abuser). Answer in a way that will not be predicted by an abusive person.

2. Protect your electronic devices.

Install the antivirus software on your devices and run the scanner to check for any installed spyware. If your partner could previously reach the device, consider having a professional inspect it for any installed spyware. Frequently change the passwords and set up a passcode for your phone. Switch off the location-sharing setting of your device so that the abuser can pinpoint you well.

If you are currently living in the residence change the Wi-Fi SSID and user as well as administrator passwords. Reset the home surveillance camera if you are still living in that place and have a setup of such a device, before setting it up make sure only one user has access to the feed. Check all the settings of your mobile device to ensure that it does not connect with other devices or accounts. Ensure the device-to-device access, such as Bluetooth is always switched off when not in use. However, you may also want to purchase an entirely new device that the abuser doesn’t have access to such as a pay-as-you-go phone, and avoid linking it to old accounts including iCloud or Google if there is a possibility of abuse controlling your account. It may also be wise to preserve the old device so that abusers believe you are still using it and will not make any attempts to get access to the new one as well.

3. Document incidents of Digital Abuse:

In case you document the instances of online abuse, this will give an account of what exactly is taking place and thus help in monitoring if there are any patterns or increases in harassment. Taking a screenshot (for an iPhone: the timestamps of the abusive text messages and contact screenshot (the page where the abuse is linked to this person’s phone number) can serve as proof and provide evidence for law enforcement agencies.

When technology facilitates abuse, victims naturally react by getting rid of the device or closing down an account as if it were possible to simply defeat the trauma itself. As some abusers escalate their violence when they sense or perceive any neglect toward them by a victim, it is good to think about the likely response. · Trust your instincts. They have enabled you to survive and will also ensure that your security is maintained.

Conclusion:

Digital abuse domestic violence, online harassment, online bullying, stalking—all of the above are quite common. We live in a digital world, and it is not a solution to stop using digital devices altogether. However, you need to recognize the signs of digital abuse. Moreover, you must not stay quiet, instead, collect the evidence and report it to law enforcement agencies. Not to mention, change the passwords of all your accounts; as the abuser will try to hack your accounts.

Lisa Clontz

Author Lisa Clontz

Lisa Clontz is an experienced Executive Director at Shelter Home of Caldwell County, specializing in providing shelter and support services to victims of domestic violence, child support, rape, and sexual assault. With her years of expertise, Lisa passionately assists women and children, helping them access the necessary resources and care they need. Her unwavering commitment to creating a safe environment and empowering survivors has made her an invaluable advocate in the community.

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