Unmasking Digital Dating Abuse

A TCI Blog By: Chenoa Candy, Youth Representative & DV Advocate Assistant

In the digital age, where love is just a swipe away and relationships blossom through screens, a darker side lurks beneath the surface: digital dating abuse. This type of abuse is often quiet and people don’t even know its an issue to address. This silence creates the space for digital dating abuse to continue

What is Digital Dating Abuse?

Digital dating abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. It can be observed with relentless texting and monitoring of social media activity, to invasive tracking of location, and sexting. Unlike physical abuse, the wounds inflicted by digital dating abuse are not visible bruises, which may make it harder to identify or acknowledge that it is happening around us. The damage inflicted by digital dating abuse can be seen across the lifespan from teenagers on social media, adults on dating sites, and older adults through age specific dating apps.

The Faces Behind the Screens

Every person may view digital dating abuse differently. Growing up, technology was always advancing around me and I thought that it was the best thing ever. In my early teen years, I used to love to play games on my phone, but as I grew up, that evolved to the use of more and more social media platforms. I realize now that when I was younger using these social media platforms, I started to see people for what their social media profile looked like, rather than as the actual human behind the screen. One of technology’s most dangerous traits is that it can take away the sense of humanity when communicating with peers. When this emptiness for humanity is normalized, it doesn't even feel like another human is on the other side of the screen, creating more space and less inhibition to harm others.

The Psychological Toll

The consequences of digital dating abuse extend far beyond the digital realm. Victims often experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The constant surveillance and invasion of privacy slowly chip away at their sense of security, leaving victims feeling trapped and powerless. Moreover, the advancement of technology tracking makes it challenging for victims to escape their tormentor's grasp, as the abuse follows them wherever they go.

Breaking the Silence

One of the most challenging aspects of addressing digital dating abuse is unfamiliarity with modern technology. Modern technology is constantly evolving and coming out with new features for users to benefit from but with that unfavorable events can follow. An example could be Snapchat maps. What is convenient for friends to see what their friends are up to could mean a survivor's perpetrator finding their safe place. Victims may also feel ashamed or embarrassed to speak out, fearing judgment or retaliation from their abuser. The digital nature of the abuse can make it difficult for others to recognize the signs or take action. It is imperative, therefore, to break the silence surrounding digital dating abuse and create safe spaces for victims to seek support and assistance.

Empowering Change

Education and awareness are crucial first steps in preventing digital dating violence. By advocating for conversations about healthy relationships, consent, and digital safety, we can empower individuals to recognize the signs of abuse and seek support when needed. AS a community, it’s our responsibility to create a safe environment for the children and teens living here and that includes creating safe digital spaces. Technology companies also have a role to play by implementing safeguards and features that promote safety and privacy in online interactions. As parents, you can utilize these tools to help protect our teens from the harm of digital dating abuse. 

Digital dating abuse may be invisible, but its effects are all too real. Together, let us strive to create a world where love is synonymous with respect, trust, and equality, both online and offline.