One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

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Domestic Violence is Also This - Technological Abuse

This is part seven of a series. It contains details of my own experiences and other potential ptsd triggers which may be disturbing to read.

The term “domestic violence” is in some ways misleading, the words themselves reinforcing the misconceptions and myths about this extremely common issue.  What do you think of when you hear the word “violence?” Probably the first word that came to your mind, as with most people - even many of those who have been abused  - is physical violence of some kind.  Hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, shooting, stabbing.  Something visibly violent.

But domestic violence does not start and end with physical violence, and many people have been victimized without having a hand laid upon them.  So many women (and men!) I have talked to have expressed the belief that they were in a “bad” relationship, but it wasn’t abusive because their abuser never hit them.  For this reason, I have come to prefer the term “domestic abuse,” which more easily is understood to include other abuses than just physical.  

It’s time that everyone understood that domestic violence, or domestic abuse if you prefer, is more than just physical violence.  It also includes financial, psychological, emotional, sexual, spiritual, and technological abuse.  For this October’s domestic violence awareness month, I will be discussing each one.  Most abusive relationships include a combination of several types of abuse; many of the types have overlapping characteristics.  Only one type is needed for a relationship to be called abusive, though; experiencing only one type is just as difficult and damaging as going through them all.

Technological Abuse, also called Digital Abuse

We all have heard news stories about cyber stalkers and online bullying.  But technological abuse is not just perpetrated by strangers, creeps, and schoolmates.  It can also happen in domestic violence.  This may take the form of:

* high-tech eavesdropping
* tampering with or reading personal emails
* listening to voicemails and reading texts
* monitoring a victim while she is in her home, or tracking her with phone gps
* looking at a victims internet and call history
* uses social media to keep constant tabs on the victim
* tells the victim who they can and can’t be friends with online
* sends negative, unwanted, explicit, insulting, or threatening messages in any digital format
* steals or insists on being given passwords and account access
* constantly texts or calls, and makes the victim afraid of being unable to reply immediately

My story

Technology did not play a very big part of my abusive relationship, however digital abuse certainly did happen to me.  These abuses didn’t occur until later in the abuse cycle, when I was otherwise more or less a prisoner in my own home.

I was “not allowed” to have my own social media account.  He had a facebook personal page as well as a business page, and would chat with people on messenger; I could not use his account.  One the rare instance that a customer wanted to discuss something with me instead of him, he would watch over my shoulder and interject what I should type, or just respond on my behalf.

I had my own email account, and also managed the business email. However, he had full access to both accounts.  When I left, he hijacked my personal email and sent out a message to all my contacts telling them lies about me, and then changed the password so I couldn’t access my account.

He installed security cameras all around the property.  I knew that he could and probably would keep an eye on me, such as if I tried to take the car to leave him.  I sometimes would attempt to get in front of a camera when he started hitting me so it would be proof against him, but he was too clever to allow that.

I could not make a phone call without his supervision.  If I did, I would be punished when he found out (and he would find out).  On the rare occasion that I made a personal call, such as to my parents, he would listen to my end of the conversation.  If he didn’t approve of what I said (and he never did), I would be punished.  I had to watch everything I said to them very carefully, and certainly could never ask for help while he was hovering nearby.  Those calls became fewer and fewer over time as it was not worth the stress involved. This was also a form of psychological abuse, by making me feel isolated from other people.

Any time I would try to leave him (and that happened numerous times over the years), he would text me in constantly until I responded; some of the texts were apologies and promises to change but others were threats and other hateful things.  Early on, when I still had most of my freedom he would text me at work or school, and expect an immediate response.  It was not yet a physically violent relationship, but I feared the emotional and verbal repercussions of not replying right away.

You might be wondering how I could still have a web presence as I do, without being afraid of continued digital abuse.  Without going into detail that could affect my online security, I do know the risks - some of which I try to minimize (such as with good account security) and some of which I simply must accept (for example, I know for a fact that he still monitors my social media and blog posts).  Because I need to connect with new people and raise public awareness with the Centauride, I cannot make my posts “private.”  This is a risk that I have to accept in order to accomplish my personal goals, and I will not let him continue to control my life - which would be the effect if I was to avoid all other risks of digital abuse.

How to get help

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, contact your local shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (visit their page here).  Support for survivors is also available. 

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