News 3 investigates how technology plays a role in domestic abuse

Posted at 10:38 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 23:18:52-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Domestic violence continues to plague homes throughout Hampton Roads, and abuse comes in many different forms.

News 3 is investigating the different aspects of abuse, such as how technology plays a role in the issue.

Experts say technology can play a huge role in how victims are manipulated and controlled.

“It was horrifying; every day was difficult,” said one woman who we are not identifying for safety reasons. She said in one day, she received 52 calls and about 30 emails from a person with whom she used to be in a relationship.

The woman said he would take her phone and block other males from her social media accounts and said at certain points in the relationship, things turned violent.

“He picked me up and slammed on the ground, and I hit my head on the concrete. It did knock me out. In 2017, it was the first time that it became physical,” she said.

The harassment online was unbearable, and now she is sharing her story.

The National Domestic Abuse Hotline defines digital abuse as when someone uses technology and the internet to bully, harass, stalk, intimidate or control a partner. They said this behavior is often a form of verbal or emotional abuse conducted online.

Neisha Himes is the founder of the G.R.O.W. Foundation, a non-profit that works to help survivors of domestic violence.

She said digital abuse can come in many different forms.

“Abusers are getting really crafty at tracking and keeping total control over their victims,” said Himes.

She noted warning signs such as your partner not wanting you to be friends with the opposite sex on social media, demanding your password to your social media accounts or posting private pictures of you online.

Himes said while technology and home video monitoring systems can be used to help protect victims, they are also used to keep a person trapped.

“There are victims who can’t leave their house because the partner can see whenever they step outside the door or when they’re coming back,” said Himes.

The woman who shared her story with News 3 said she was finally able to get away and stay at a shelter for a few months.

“It was by far the worst moments of my life, being in that relationship,” said the woman. “If it wasn’t for my family, my friends and advocates and people listening to my story, I wouldn’t have been able to make it.”

Here are warning signs of digital abuse from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline:

  • Telling you who you can or can’t follow, or be friends with on social media.
  • Sending you negative, insulting or threatening messages or emails.
  • Using social media to track your activities.
  • Insulting or humiliating you in their posts online, including posting unflattering photos or videos.
  • Sending, requesting, or pressuring you to send unwanted explicit photos or videos, sexts or otherwise compromising messages.
  • Stealing or insisting on being given your account passwords.
  • Constantly texting you or making you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you’ll anger them.
  • Looking through your phone or checking up on your pictures, texts and phone records.
  • Using any kind of technology (such as spyware or GPS in a car or phone) to monitor your activities.
  • Using smart home technology, smart speakers, or security cameras to track your movements, communications and activities.
  • Creating fake social media profiles in your name and image or using your phone or email to send messages to others pretending to be you as a way to embarrass or isolate you.

If you or someone you know needs help, here are two resources:

Click here for more News 3 investigations.