How to Deal with Digital Abuse After Breaking Up
Digital abuse occurs when someone harasses you, stalks you, spies on you, or threatens you through social media, digital communication, or text messages. This type of abuse is becoming more common due to people’s dependence on technology. Digital abuse often occurs after breakups when people threaten or harass their exes via text or social media. To deal with digital abuse from your ex, cut off all communication with your ex, block their number and social media accounts, keep records of threatening messages, and seek help if you feel threatened.
Separating Yourself From Your Ex
Stop all communication.If your ex is digitally abusing you, you should stop all communication with them. Don’t respond to their texts, their messages, e-mails, or calls. By not reacting or responding to them, you help lessen their power over you.
- Ignore all calls, texts, posts, and messages. Don’t answer the phone or respond.
- If your ex sends you an email, read the email and save a copy, but don't respond to it.
Block your ex.If your ex is digitally abusive after a breakup, delete and block them from contacting you in any way. Block their number and remove it from your phone. You can also from your social media accounts, like .
- Get a new e-mail address or social media account name if they won’t leave you alone.
Avoid posting where you are on social media.When you are dealing with digital abuse, you shouldn't post about where you are on your social media accounts. This can let your ex know where you are and may put you in danger. If you want to post about something you have done, do it afterwards when you are no longer there.
- Ask your friends not to post that they are with you on social media. Ask them not to post photos of you or tag you in posts while you are out. Check your social media notifications and feeds occasionally to make sure that request is honored.
Make all of your social media accounts private.To help protect you from your ex, you should make . Most social media, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, allow you to lock your account so only people you approve can see your content.
Avoid responding to them on social media.One form of digital abuse your ex might engage in is publically bashing you or talking about you on social media. If this happens, don’t engage with them. Instead, as hard as it may be, ignore them.
- When you respond to your ex, you are giving them the attention they want and showing them that they are getting to you. This just encourages them to keep harassing you.
Take a break from social media.One way to help put an end to digital abuse is to take a social media break. This takes away your ex's outlet for attacking you, and you can take a step away from the situation.
- During your social media break, focus on yourself. Going through a breakup is hard, and it's even harder when you experience abuse. Do things for yourself to make yourself feel good.
- Spend time with family and friends so you won't be alone and you can take your mind off the situation.
Keep records of abusive messages.Though you may want to delete everything your ex has sent you, you should save the abusive texts, e-mails, and other communications. Take a screenshot of things that may be deleted, like social media status updates, chats, pictures, or comments to other people.
- When taking a screenshot, note the date and time of the message for your records.
- These records can serve as evidence of their abusive behavior if they deny everything or try to lie about you.
- Contact the police department and ask them about the types of information you should keep in order to prove the harassment.
Let others know about your ex’s behavior.Make sure you let the people you trust know about your ex’s behavior. This may include family, friends, or colleagues.It’s important that they know to be careful about how they interact with you digitally. They also may be able to offer you help, support, and advice.
- Tell your friends and family, "My ex has been digitally abusing me. This is very serious, and I would appreciate you not interacting with them online or posting about me when we are out. This is for my safety."
- Tell your friends and family not to respond to your ex if they contact them. If your ex sends them threatening messages, tell them to save a record of them.
Report your ex to the social media site.Most social media sites have terms of service that cover abusive content online. If your ex is posting abusive content about you, report the abuse to the site. You will have to attach a link or an image of the abusive content.
- For example, Facebook has guidelines against people threatening, bullying, or harassing members. If your ex sends you threats, compromises your privacy, blackmails you, or harasses you by sending you too many messages, you can report that to Facebook.
- The website may not remove your ex, but they will be aware of the abusive behavior in case it happens again.
Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect.When your ex is digitally abusing you, you may start to believe things that they are saying. You may feel like you are a bad person or that you deserve the abuse. This is not true. You have the right to break up with someone and move on with your life. You also have the right to be treated with respect no matter what.
- Tell yourself, “I do not deserve this treatment. I deserve to feel safe and be treated like I matter.”
- Think about the positive relationships in your life instead of focusing on where this one went wrong.
Recognize mental health concerns related to abuse.Any type of abuse can have a negative impact on someone emotionally and psychologically. Victims often report feelings of shame, terror, depression, guilt, and hopelessness. Many times the victim will blame themselves for the abuse. Some of the mental health concerns abuse can evoke include:
- Post Traumatic Stress—This can be expressed through increased anxiety and depression. There could be nightmares or intense memories of the abuse. Various triggers can cause the victim to become disoriented with their current situation and immediate surroundings.
- Depression—Usually causes feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, shame, and worthlessness. Depression can range from mild symptoms to more intense symptoms that are debilitating.
- Anxiety—People with anxiety may have agoraphobia, panic attacks, physical anxiety, or chronic fear of the abuser and anyone who may have characteristics of the abuser.
Talk to someone.If you are being abused, you may feel scared, hurt, or even guilty. The fact that your ex is abusing you may make you feel even worse since you probably cared about the person or may still care about them. Reach out to someone you trust to talk to them.
- You can talk to a family member, friend, colleague, teacher, therapist, abuse counselor, or religious leader.
- You may want to reach out to a mental health professional, especially if the abuse is causing severe emotional problems for you.
Contact the police if you feel threatened.If you think your life may be in danger or if the abuse becomes too much, consider getting help. You may consider contacting the police. Most police stations have people who deal with cyberstalking or cyber crimes. You may be able to file a restraining order or take other action against your ex.
- When you contact the police, you should expect to answer a lot of questions about what has been happening between you and your ex. Bring all your records with you that gives evidence of harassment and threats.
Speak with a lawyer.There are laws against cyberstalking, and you can get legal protection if you need to. A lawyer can advise you on your rights and what you can do in the situation. You may be able to take legal action against your ex.
- You can google legal advocates for digital abuse or cyberstalking in your area.
Care for your own well-being.Be sure to exercise daily, eat healthy, and get enough rest. Spend time doing things you enjoy, like reading, playing video games, painting, or swimming. Hang out with friends and family members that you can trust and that support you. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope.
QuestionI have not spoken to my ex for 1 and 1/2 years and he still is in all my digital business. I called the police many times and they respond with "can I prove it was him and where he was when he did it?" What should I do?
Licensed Master Social WorkerLicensed Master Social WorkerExpert AnswerYou should have control over your digital life. Delete him from all of your social media accounts, and change your phone number and your email address. Save all text and email messages from the abuser for proof. Do not respond to his abuse as this keeps the door open for more abuse. If you feel unsafe call 911, or contact your local abuse shelter as they will be able to provide you with resources in your area of who you can go to for help.Thanks!
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