How domestic violence spreads online: ‘I felt like he was watching me’
Lucy left her violent ex-partner but found the internet meant he could still harass her – and police were not interested
After a decade of abuse at the hands of her violent ex-partner, Lucy thought she had finally escaped and hoped she and her five-year-old daughter could once again be happy. But having built up the strength and confidence to escape to a refuge and leave her ex-partner, she discovered escaping him online was even more difficult.
“He found ways to contact me online, and I still felt like he was watching me, that he had some control over me,” she says. Lucy has now moved out of the area where she lived with her abuser and has remarried, but as recently as a few months ago her ex-partner was sending messages via other people to her new husband and setting up anonymous online accounts to contact her. “It’s like a playground bullying game. He would contact my mother and say he knew what I’d been doing because he had seen it on Facebook – even though I had privacy settings as high as they could go,” she said. “It shows you who you can trust – and now I just don’t trust anybody.”
Lucy said that despite being told to leave social networks, she felt that would be “giving in” to her partner. “He controlled my life for 10 years and now it’s like he’s saying: ‘I’m still in your life, you can never get rid of me.’ It’s frustrating because you can’t be free to have a normal life.” When Lucy told the police about the attempts to contact and abuse her online she received little support, she said. “When it comes to Facebook the police just don’t want to know.”
Lucy reviews her privacy settings weekly, and when she feels threatened, shuts down her account. “When you leave you think you have a chance of a new life without them, but when they contact you online it’s like they are in the room,” she said. “Being bullied online brings it all back – you can heal from a punch in the face, but the mental torture never goes away.”
[Image: Young woman with computer worried about work done. Portrait of businesswoman with scared expression sitting in the office via Shutterstock.com]