Abuse in an intimate partner relationship comes in many forms. We often think of domestic abuse or violence as leaving marks, bruises and broken bones. This certainly happens, but abuse can involve so much more. Abuse is a matter of power imbalances and controlling the behaviour of another person. Verbal abuse, such as name calling, and putdowns, emotional, sexual and financial abuse also cause great damage to both the woman and her children. Behind these forms of abuse is the desire to control the behaviour of another person. Controlling behaviour can escalate into more drastic abuse, even to the point of killing the woman. Domestic abuse and violence happens in every culture, religion and socio economic group. Many women thought it could never happen to them.
We know that the risk of domestic violence increases dramatically at the point of separation. The partner will feel a loss of control and may feel desperate to regain some of that control. With the boom in technology and social media, and the ready access to it, people who behave abusively have more ways in which to intimidate and control their partners.
Texting can become of form of control for some abusive partners. They will text their girlfriend constantly and expect immediate replies. They will demand to know where they are, with whom and to whom they are talking. There may be repercussions for the woman if she does not comply. Threats to take nude pictures and then to post them are also used. Partners may be able to track the woman through GPS on her cell phone. He may demand that she tell him her passwords.
While social media is thought to connect people, it can be used to further isolate a woman, if a partner has control of her social media. Isolation of the woman from her friends and family is often a sign of an abusive relationship. The partner who behaves abusively wants her “all to himself”. For women in new relationships, this may at first be interpreted as loving attention, being valued and needed. However, the Prince Charming, who has swept her off her feet, becomes Prince Harming.
We need to teach our children, grandchildren, friends and neighbours that a healthy relationship means there is mutual respect and care, that there is trust and independence as well as time spent together. We need to teach young women that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We need to teach and model healthy boundaries, how she can keep herself both physically safe and safe in social media and on line.
At Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, we are trying to get the message out, that social media can be used as a form of control in a relationship. To view videos on this topic go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMeLPYPMtxg Share these with the women you care about.
Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo region has two shelters for abused women and their children, AnseIma House in Kitchener and Haven House in Cambridge. We also have a region wide Outreach program, to help women who do not want or need shelter, but need support to move beyond an abusive relationship. If you need help or want to talk about a situation that concerns you, call the crisis line at Women’s Crisis Services. 519 742 5894 or 519 653 2422. This is available around the clock, every day of the year.