UNDATED (WXOW) – It's new, it's increasing and it can be dangerous. Experts are warning of a growing form of domestic violence they call “digital abuse”. It's when one partner uses technology to control and intimidate their significant other.
Brittny said her ex-boyfriend would constantly call and text her. After months of high-tech harassment, Brittny said she realized she was a victim of digital domestic abuse.
Mental health professionals said it's such a new problem you could even be in a digitally abusive relationship and not realize it.
Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz said the problem goes beyond constant phone calls and text messages. At the National Domestic Violence hotline, many callers report their partner's smartphone and social media surveillance is increasing.
"Things that range from constantly checking to what they're posting on social media, asking for passwords, to more extreme cases as where partners create fake identifies on Facebook to see if they can get their partner to engage with someone else, and then accusing them of cheating and flirting in appropriately." said Katie Ray-Jones with the hotline.
Cyber Crime Specialist Art Bowker warns digital abusers can escalate their surveillance by using apps which monitor their partner's location through their phone's GPS. Also, they can install key-logging software that records what they type on a computer.
"No one needs to be a computer genius to install this software, “ said Bowker. “This software is very, very easy to install."
The head of the National Domestic Violence hotline said it's difficult to estimate exactly how many people digital abuse affects because some victims don't even recognize it.
Experts said in some cases it's a relationship red flag that can be fixed if you work through it, but in others it can rise to the level of stalking or harassment. If you feel your safety is in jeopardy you should immediately contact police.
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