Do teenagers suffer from digital intimate partner violence?

Add to my custom PDF

Teenagers’ personal accounts of experiences with digital intimate partner violence and abuse

For better or worse, young people’s abundant use of digital media also includes in their love lives. Digital partner violence opens the door to new forms of abuse, such as monitoring and cyber harassment, while exacerbating pre-existing problematic behaviours, such as stalking and harassment.

Hellevik’s exploratory study gauges adolescents’ experiences with digital intimate partner violence and abuse. Interviews were analysed to assess how technology-facilitated abuse affected participants, and how it related to other forms of dating violence.

Transcripts were retrieved from “Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Relationships”, a study of the European Union held in five countries. Twenty-one of the one hundred interviewed participants were from Norway. This study’s sample is the forteen Norwegian subjects who declared having suffered digital partner abuse. Aged from fifteen to eighteen; including twelve females and two males. Interviews were thematically analysed to classify the subjects’ experiences. This revealed four categories of digital partner victimization, harrassment, control, monitoring and sexual coercion. Harassment often took the form of humiliation, barraging, scaring, and berating of the victim. Control was exerted by restricting their social contacts, social media expression, and general autonomy. Monitoring aimed to gain knowledge of a partner’s whereabouts, contacts, and activities. Sexual coercion was the pressuring, humiliation, or threatening of a victim to gain favors, threaten sexual violence, or non-consensually distribute intimate images.

Victims related suffering from being the target of constant abusive calls and messages. In some cases text messages enhanced the severity of the harassment, perhaps due to lack of emotional cues in text or the victim re-reading abusive messages on their phone. Abusive partners would also involve the victim’s social network in the abuse, both to make public private abuses and as a form of surveillance or by taking control of their accounts, deleting posts/comments, blocking users, etc. This impacted the victim’s behavior as they became terrified that friends would innocently mention or tag them in a photo or a post, revealing their activities to the abuser.

Teenagers are not immune from the digital aspects of intimate partner violence, suffering abusein the forms of harassment, control, monitoring and sexual coercion.