By digital abuse we mean that your partner monitors, harasses or controls you, for example with the help of your mobile phone or on social media.
Examples of digital abuse:
Secretly reading your messages or email.
Finding out your passwords, or demanding to have the passwords as proof of your love/honesty.
Logging in to your social media, email and other accounts.
Deciding who you can be friends with or follow on social media, or who you should delete/block.
Writing and posting things from your accounts or your mobile phone without your permission, e.g. pretending to be you.
Spreading a private/sexual image or film of you to friends or strangers, or on a porn site.
Spreading rumours or private information about you digitally.
Downloading an app to your mobile phone that allows them to see where you are.
Checking up on you by constantly checking what you’re doing on social media.
Sending you threatening or nasty messages.
Continuing to send texts and other messages when you’ve asked them to stop.
Sending you an excessive number of texts and messages can be a way of controlling you.
Do you feel you always have to stop what you’re doing to answer? Are you afraid you’ll be punished or made to feel guilty if you don’t answer straight away? Do you feel stressed and limited by constantly checking your phone in order to respond quickly? If the answer is yes, then texting may be a form of digital abuse.
Sexual abuse can be anything from groping to rape. It’s when someone says or does something sexual to you when you don’t want them to; in other words, it’s all kinds of harassment and assault that have anything to do with sex or that are directed at your sexuality.
Sex is a common, and most often a good, part of a relationship, but being together doesn’t mean you have the right to each other sexually. Sometimes there is an uncertainty about exactly when sexual activities become what we call sexual abuse. Where the line goes is up to the individual, and is about your own experience of feeling exploited and that you are no longer doing something because you want to. If you think the person you’re with is doing sexual acts without caring if you agree or not, then it is an assault and sexual abuse.
It’s important to remember that different people react very differently to sexual abuse. Some people “freeze”, in other words they shut themselves off or disconnect during the assault. As well as this, the body can still become aroused, for example by becoming wet or having an erection during an assault. In a relationship where you are repeatedly being abused you might end up just wanting the “assault to be over”. One strategy might be to “get it out of the way” because you know it’s going to happen anyway sooner or later, and if you can at least take control over when it happens then you don’t have to be afraid while you’re waiting for it to happen.
Examples of sexual abuse:
Touching you with their lips, fingers or sex, even when you say, or show in some other way, that it doesn’t feel right.
Forcing you to touch them with your lips, fingers or genitals, even though you say or show that it doesn’t feel right.
Doing something sexual to you while you’re drunk, under the influence of drugs or asleep.
Exposing you to risk by refusing to use a condom or other protection against sexually transmittable diseases or pregnancy, maybe even tricking you into believing you’re having safe sex.
Taking sexual or intimate photos or films of you when you’re not totally happy about it.
Spreading or showing a sexual or intimate image or film of you to friends or strangers, or posting them on a porn site. Even if you didn’t have any objection to the image or film at the time.
Putting pressure on you, or forcing you to watch porn when you don’t want to.
Feeling forced into “going along with” sex, maybe to calm down someone who is aggressive and intimidating or violent. It might also be having sex with someone who won’t take no for answer.
Physical abuse is often called “assault”, and is when someone does something to your body that causes you pain or makes you feel uneasy. It can lead to marks on your body or to injury. Physical abuse is never acceptable, no matter what happened before.
Examples of physical abuse:
Holding you hard, squeezing, pinching or scratching you.
Pushing or standing on you.
Hitting or kicking you.
Pulling your hair or clothes.
Holding a knife or other weapon against you.
Throwing something at you.
Grabbing your face and forcing you to look them in the eye.
Holding you down with the weight of their body so you can’t move.
Hiding your wheelchair, crutches, medication or other aids you might need to move around and for your health.
Emotional abuse is whenwords and aggressive behaviour are used to intimidate you and limit your life. It can make you feel afraid, powerless and worthless.
Examples of emotional abuse:
Intimidation is when the person you’re with threatens to harm you or themselves if you act in a certain way, for example if you leave. Threats can be used to put pressure on you to do things you don’t want to do.
Saying they will spread sexual or private images or that they will take their own life if the relationship ends is a common threat. A threat can also be directed at someone who means a lot to you, such as a member of your family or a pet. If you are LGBTQI+ but haven’t yet come out your partner may threaten to out you. If you have a controlling family with strong beliefs and/or a strong honour base your partner may threaten to tell them things about you that they know your family won’t accept. Intimidation is about controlling and scaring someone. Changing the way you live because of the threats is often a strategy used to protect yourself and those close to you, and can lead to you becoming more and more limited in the way you live your life.
If your partner is making threats you may need support and help to leave them. We are here for you, we will listen and we believe you.
Does the person you’re with always want to know what you’re doing? Do they check your phone and social media or have opinions about what you share with other people? Does it feel as though they see your friends as a threat to your relationship? Do they want to control what clothes you wear, your style or what you do in your free time?
All this is controlling behaviour. In the end they may forbid certain things in your life. You may become increasingly isolated as a way to avoid suspicion, accusations and jealousy. Our society, through films, TV series and music, often portrays jealousy as a sign of interest and love. There is also a belief that you should share everything with the person you love. But you have the right to keep things to yourself, like the passwords for your email and social media accounts. It is never acceptable for someone you are with to isolate you or limit your freedom.
Manipulation and degrading language
It is common for the abuser to make derogatory and insulting comments. They may do this when it is just the two of you or so that other people can hear, for example they might say that you are ugly, worthless or something else hurtful. Saying things to diminish you, such as that you are sensitive, childish or over-reacting is also common. They may say that it’s all your fault, that you’ve only yourself to blame for the abuse.
Hearing things like this from the person you’re in a relationship with can make you feel insecure and ashamed. Making your partner feel like that is the opposite of love and respect. It is never your fault that you are subjected to abuse.