Defining Dating Abuse: Digital Abuse

August 30, 2022

Understanding common types of abuse will better prepare you to identify them when you see them, whether it be in a relationship that you are in or one that you are observing.  Here are some of the common types of abuse that can take place in a dating relationship: physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, digital abuse, and stalking.  This is the fifth week of our series: Defining Dating Abuse, which will cover each type of abuse that is listed above.  In the first week, we covered the topic of physical abuse, in the second week we covered the topic of verbal and emotional abuse, in the third week we covered the topic of sexual abuse, and in the fourth week, we covered the topic of financial abuse.  Today, we will cover the topic of digital abuse.

Digital dating abuse is the use of technologies like texting and social media to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner.  This behavior is often a form of verbal or emotional abuse, conducted online.  All communication in a healthy relationship is respectful, whether in person, online, or over the phone. It’s never okay for your partner to use words or actions to harm you, lower your self-esteem, or manipulate you.

Examples of digital abuse include:

  • 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.
  • Sending, requesting, or pressuring you to send unwanted explicit photos or videos, sexts, or otherwise compromising messages.
  • Stealing or pressuring your to share your account passwords.
  • Constantly texting you or making you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone.
  • Looking through your phone or checking up on your pictures, texts, and phone records without your consent.
  • Using any kind of technology (such as spyware or GPS in a car or phone) to monitor your activities.


You never deserve to be mistreated, online or in person.  If you’ve experienced digital dating abuse, we encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend or family member.  Here is a list of things you can do right now to ensure your digital safety:

  • Set clear digital boundaries with your partner.
  • Do not share your passwords with anyone.
  • Do not send any explicit pictures, videos, or messages that you’re uncomfortable sending (“sexting”). (Note: Sexting can have legal consequences: nude photos or videos of someone under the age of 18 could be considered child pornography, which is illegal to own or distribute.)
  • It’s okay to turn off your phone or not respond to messages right away. You have the right to your own privacy and to spend time with other people without your partner getting angry. Just be sure that the people who might need to reach you in an emergency still have a way to.
  • Save or document threatening messages, photos, videos, or voicemails as evidence of abuse.
  • Don’t answer calls from unknown or blocked numbers; your abuser may try calling you from another line if they suspect that you’re avoiding them.
  • Once you share a post or message, it’s no longer under your control. Abusive partners may save or forward anything you share, so be careful sending content you wouldn’t want others to see.
  • Know and understand your privacy settings. Social media platforms allow users to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. These settings are often customizable and may be found in the privacy section of the website. Keep in mind that some apps may require you to change your privacy settings in order to use them.
  • Be mindful when checking in places online, either by sharing your location in a post or by posting a photo with distinguishable backgrounds.
  • Ask your friends to always seek permission from you before posting content that could compromise your privacy. Do the same for them.
  • Avoid contact with your abuser in any capacity, through any technology, online or in person. Consider changing your phone number if the abuse and harassment don’t stop.


Remember that you deserve to be in a healthy relationship where you are safe and respected and that abuse is never your fault.  If you find yourself in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, there is help out there for you.  Please reach out to STAND! or call their crisis line at (888) 215-5555. If you need help defining your relationship, please reach out to by calling their National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at (866)331-9474 or text “LOVEIS” to 22522.

Options Health is a safe place where you can confidentially come and discuss sexual health, pregnancy, and relationship issues with one of our patient advocates.  Feel free to contact us today to take advantage of our free services, including pregnancy testing, ultrasound, pregnancy options consultation, STD testing, and abortion aftercareCall us or text us to schedule an appointment. We are here for you and ready to listen!