Here’s How to Protect Yourself from Digital Abuse
At Bumble, our priority is helping our community create safe, respectful, and equitable relationships. Sometimes, finding a healthy relationship means understanding what an unhealthy relationship looks like.
We’re working with Love is Respect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, to highlight all kinds of abuse within relationships — including digital abuse. Bumble talked to Love Is Respect’s director Angela M. Lee to learn how to recognize the signs of digital abuse, what it might look like on a dating app, and how to take action against it.
What Is Digital Abuse?
Even though many of us spend a lot of time on our phones and computers, digital abuse isn’t as widely-known as it should be. Part of the reason for that is because it’s so interwoven with the other kinds of abuse that you might have heard about — like physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and verbal — that it’s not often singled out. It’s unlikely that someone will experience digital abuse without also experiencing another kind of abuse, but digital abuse itself is very serious and can be detrimental to a person’s wellbeing.
According to Love is Respect, “Digital dating abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online.” In other words, it’s anything technology-related that’s weaponized against a victim.
“The main forms of digital abuse are having to show a partner your phone or emails, having to give a partner passwords, and a partner using your social media to track you,” says Angela. “Sometimes the signs don’t show up as digital abuse at first. It may show up as controlling or manipulative tactics, like not wanting you to hang out with friends, or come later in a relationship. That’s why it’s hard to recognize.”
What Are the Signs of Digital Abuse?
Even though the concept of digital abuse might sound abstract, the actual signs are not. The Love is Respect website outlines some of the signs of digital abuse, including:
- a partner telling you who you can or can’t be friends with on social media platforms;
- a partner pressuring you to send explicit video or sexts;
- a partner looking through your phone frequently to check on your activity;
- a partner using any type of technology or social media to monitor or keep constant tabs on you;
- a partner constantly texting you and making you feel as though you can’t be separate from your phone for fear you’ll be punished.
The bottom line is that you should be able to control all parts of your life, including your social media accounts, your email, and your phone. If a partner makes you feel otherwise, that’s a red flag that a relationship could turn abusive or unhealthy.
“The main thing is trusting your gut,” says Angela. “Especially if something doesn’t feel right, or when a partner pressures you to do something that you wouldn’t normally want to do.”
What Might Digital Abuse Look Like on Bumble?
Part of why people get into abusive relationships is because abusers usually start off being charming and charismatic. And because Bumble is generally used at the beginning of a relationship, it’s not very likely that you’ll experience digital abuse through the app. Still, it’s important to look out for red flags — and, again, to trust your gut.
“Whether in person, online, or by phone, it is never okay for someone to do or say anything that makes you feel bad, makes you feel belittled, lowers your self-esteem, or manipulates you,” says Angela. “You should be able to be who you are, whether you’re presenting yourself in digital form or face-to-face.”
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable on Bumble, you can always unmatch that person. If someone bullies, insults, or harasses you, please use our Block and Report feature. Bumble has a zero tolerance policy against harassment, sexual abuse, and violence, and all reports are kept completely anonymous, so a reported user will never know who flagged their account.
How Can Someone Take Action Against Digital Abuse When They See It?
Whether you’re the victim of digital abuse or suspect that a friend or family member is, don’t hesitate to contact the Love is Respect hotline if you have questions or just want to talk.
“There is no crazy question,” says Angela. “It’s important to trust your gut and reach out to the experts so that you can get the validation, resources, and education that you need, as well as tools to be able to approach the situation. Our trained experts aren’t going to tell you what to do; they’re here to provide you with the information so you can make a sound decision for your life.”
Angela notes that while the safety tips may differ, some general pointers for keeping safe include making sure your location isn’t on when you use social media, checking your devices for spyware, and not sending any photos, videos, or messages that you’re not comfortable with or wouldn’t want to get into other people’s hands. “I’m not saying it’s fair that you have to do all these different things, but unfortunately, to keep you safe, these are the things we suggest,” she says.
You deserve a healthy, safe, and respectful relationship. Don’t forget that Bumble is always here to help our community. We’re dedicated to keeping our app safe, whether you’re dating, making friends, or networking. Please contact our support team at any time directly within the app through the Contact & FAQ button or by email.
Love is Respect’s hotline is also open 24/7. Call 866-331-9474, text LOVEIS to 22522, or visit LoveIsRespect.org and click ‘Chat Now’ at any time.