This month is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (#TDVAM). Our guest blogger this month is Alyse Shulimson. She is a high school senior and intern with the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (the organization that runs AWARE®) from September until January.
In today’s world, everything is connected. Even when we’re not with people, we’re still somehow communicating with them and hearing about their lives - whether it’s through text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the numerous other social media sites.
Being connected definitely has its benefits. We can keep in constant communication with friends who live thousands of miles away by simply pressing a few keys. We can see pictures from across the globe, without leaving our chair. We always have an abundance of ways to contact whoever we want within seconds.
However, being this intertwined in the lives of other people can provide many disadvantages, and can create opportunity for conflict, especially when it comes to dating. With the rise of social media, technology abuse has become a common method of abuse.
Excessive texting poses many problems for victims of domestic abuse. According to the New York Times, in extreme cases partners have sent around 200 to 300 texts a day, demanding to know the specific whereabouts and activities of their significant others. The texts typically get angry and threatening if the other partner doesn’t respond. According to Dr. Pollack, the director of the Center for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, nonstop text messages from one partner to another demonstrates an outlet for power and control, even while the two are not physically together.
Our interconnected society also provides many possible outlets for abuse even after a relationship has ended. A new phenomenon, “revenge porn,” is beginning to emerge. New social media sites allow people to anonymously post naked pictures of their former lovers. The picture is publicly posted for viewers to rate, and it can be traced back to personal information about the person, such as their name and address.
Revenge porn has been emotionally and socially catastrophic to people involved. Especially with apps such as Snapchat, it’s increasingly easier to keep a compromising picture of somebody else. Although the picture may appear to only last a couple of seconds, in reality, it can last forever if someone takes a screen shot of it.
In October, California passed a law making someone accused of revenge porn susceptible to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. However, this law only applies if the distributor also took the photograph. It does not protect an individual who took a nude picture of herself, and sent it to someone who later put it on a site. However, other states, such as New York and Maryland, are working on creating more efficient legislation against revenge porn.
It’s important to be aware of the dangers that can come from being part of a society that revolves around constant communication. It’s OK to disconnect for a while, to turn off the phone and spend time with family and friends. And, before sending a compromising picture to someone, think about the lasting impact it could have. While our world and ways of communication are rapidly changing (mostly for the better), we need to know how to approach it safely and responsibly, especially when it comes to relationships.
Remember that everybody has the ability to see anything that is publicly posted on the Internet. If you feel abused on Facebook or any other social media site, you can make an anonymous report, and they will take it down, or, in severe cases, contact the authorities. For more tips on how to safely navigate the web, check out Facebook’s safety guide, which can tell you what to if you encounter a threatening situation online.