Episode 150: "Why does my partner keep harassing me on social media?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about why someone might use social media to abuse their partner.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, Why does my partner keep harassing me on social media?”
One of the most common questions we get from teens is about social media. Often, they ask us about potential, current, or ex partners using digital abuse to harass them. First, this is not okay, even if it’s been normalized in our culture. Digital abuse is not normal.
Every partner has a right to set their own boundaries when it comes to the digital world and your technology. And just because you set boundaries around your partner, that doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or don’t want to spend time with them. Setting boundaries can actually be a mark of a strong and healthy relationship.
For example, some people in loving relationships have an agreement not to look at each other’s phones without permission. It’s a way of respecting privacy, because we all have lives outside of our relationship. It doesn’t mean that the other person is cheating or doing something bad, but asking permission can be a way to show respect.
So, to get back to the question – why do partners use social media to abuse? Just like other forms of abuse, this is about gaining and keeping power and control over their partner. They might be trying to isolate their partner or make them feel like they need only them, and not their friends and family or network. They might be trying to stop you from leaving as well. But remember that any person should be able to leave a romantic relationship for any reason.
We’ve heard teens justify abuse by saying that they have heavy trust issues from past relationships, or that they’ve been cheated on before. But you can’t justify abuse, because we all have choices about how we behave and treat our current partners. People need to be able to make decisions for themselves, give or take away consent, and set boundaries, no matter what.
So what can digital abuse look like? One important example of is surveillance, or keeping tabs on someone’s activity. This could look like monitoring your conversations, tracking who follows you and who you follow, or forcing you to share your location and monitoring that.
Surveillance can also include someone listening in on phone calls or monitoring a computer or phone without the other person’s knowledge by installing spyware or apps that spy on your phone. Some partners also check up on your phone itself, and all of your status updates, photos, posts, etc. and quiz you about what you’ve been up to.
Here are some more examples of social media abuse:
-Messaging a partner repeatedly and expecting constant responses
-Sending put downs or threats via social media
-Pressuring a partner to share naked or partially naked photos
-Sharing private photos with contacts or on the internet
-Sharing unasked for explicit videos or pictures with their partner
-Pressuring a partner to share passwords
-And sharing your private information without permission, or spreading rumors
Know that some of these actions are illegal depending on where you are, and what ages partners are. For example, sharing or having a naked or partially naked photo or video of a minor under 18 is illegal in New Jersey, even if two people are in a relationship and the pictures are consensual.
Abuse is never okay. So we recommend that all people keep their passwords private and change them often. It’s not your fault if your partner chooses to abuse you, but it can help to keep your passwords private. Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts, also your phone. Don’t share your GPS location with anyone, even a committed partner. In terms of private photos, we recommend not taking them at all. Once they are on a device, they are out of your control or can get out.
All in all, remember that if it does happen to you, it’s not your fault. It’s the responsibility of your partner. And you deserve a happy and safe relationship. So feel free to call or text Safe+Sound Somerset to speak with an advocate to get support.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.