Walking Away from Tech-Enabled Abuse: Michael’s Story

Michael was home from college for the holidays when he met Taylor. Michael hadn’t had a lot of dating experience, but he knew he wanted a relationship.  

After trying out some of the common dating sites like Bumble and Tinder and nothing panned out, he came across a channel on the social platform Discord. The channel was focused on one of his favorite video games, and he thought it would be great to meet someone with that common interest.   

Michael met Taylor in the group, and they quickly made their relationship official. While they never met in person, things felt right and good for a while. They spent a lot of time together online through Discord, texting, and phone calls.  

Somewhere along the way, though, Michael started to feel he and Taylor were too connected—spending too much time together.   

And while it was great that he and Taylor could easily access each other with the help of technology, it was that very same technology that Taylor used to abuse Michael.   

Taylor became unreasonable, expecting constant contact and discouraged Michael from connecting with family.  

Michael saw other issues in his relationship, too. It seemed like he was always to blame for all of their problems. And Taylor became increasingly controlling in frightening ways, threatening self-harm and even suicide if he didn’t do what she said.   

Michael realized his relationship was unhealthy, but he credits his parents with helping him find the courage to break things off. When they witnessed some his communications with Taylor, they recognized the abuse he was enduring. They talked to him about it and it helped him decide what to do.  

Unfortunately, when Michael blocked Taylor on Discord, Taylor created new profiles and kept reaching out. When Michael blocked her number, she called from a different one. In time, Taylor stopped trying to contact Michael.  

Michael shared that Discord allows users to create multiple profiles and blocks are not universal, so if you block an abusive person’s main profile, not all of their profiles or future profiles are automatically blocked, too. He thinks that if there’s one thing social platforms could do to help decrease digital abuse, it would be to make blocks universal and enforce it.  

*Names have been changed for privacy* 

3 Ways Abusive Partners Use Tech to Outsource Abuse

Advances in technology have helped a lot, but what do we do when they’re used to harm?  

Digital abuse is more common than one might assume. One study found that 50% of people aged 14-24 have experienced digitally abusive behavior. When it comes to digital dating abuse, 1 in 4 say their significant other has checked text messages on their phone without permission, and 1 in 10 have had a significant other demand passwords to their online accounts. 

How do we protect ourselves from tech-enabled abuse and what should we look out for? Here are 3 ways abusive partners use technology to outsource abuse, and some tips to help you protect yourself. 

#1 Blocking Your Calls to Keep You Isolated 

The call-blocking feature on cell phones helps with filtering out spam callers but can be misused in the hands of the wrong person. 

If passwords have been shared or a phone is left unlocked, an abusive person can further isolate their victim by blocking calls and texts in seconds. Messages from friends or family members hoping to check in will go unseen and unknown to the victim and their contact. 

One of the tactics abusive partners use to further perpetuate abuse is isolating their victims. They may use abusive language or physical violence to deter the victim from connecting with family or friends who could help. Unfortunately, technology and modern cell phones make this tactic easier to accomplish. 

Safety tip: Periodically check to make sure any regular contacts have not been blocked.  

#2 Monitoring Your Communications  

Tracking a victim’s communications to maintain control is a common abuse tactic. Cell phones connected to shared online accounts may reveal phone numbers from outgoing calls and texts, even if they are deleted from the phone itself. Even full text messages can be stored in the Cloud or monitored by installed applications if the victim doesn’t notice them or they are hidden. 

Safety tips: Check if your any of your applications are hidden on your iPhone or Android. If your texts are being stored anywhere online, change your password so that only you have access. 

#3 Tracking Your Location 

Location tracking was developed for a host of helpful reasons. Tracking our phones helps us find them when they’re lost, and parents sometimes install location tracking applications on their children’s phones in the event of an emergency. 

Unfortunately, these kinds of applications have added to the list of options stalkers can use to monitor, locate, and harm their victims. 

Safety tip: Turn off location sharing in your phone’s settings. 

More on Staying Safe 

There’s a lot we can do to stay safe from digital abuse, but it takes community support to break cycles of abuse. If you are experiencing intimate partner abuse, you can call CORA’s 24/7 emergency hotline for support at 800.300.1080.  

Do you have other tips for how to stay safe from digital dating abuse? Share in the comment section below.