SPECIAL REPORT: Digital Domestic Abuse - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

SPECIAL REPORT: Digital Domestic Abuse

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

It's new, it's increasing and it can be dangerous. Experts are warning of a growing form of domestic violence they call "digital abuse." It's when one partner uses technology to control and intimidate their significant other.

Mental health professionals say it's such a new problem, that you could even be in a digitally abusive relationship and not realize it.

From constant phone calls to threatening text messages, Brittny says her ex-boyfriend's electronic communications was relentless.

"I was always fearful of not answering my phone when he called and not responding to his text messages," Brittny said.

After months of high-tech harassment, Brittny says she realized she was a victim of digital domestic abuse, a new problem psychiatrist Gail Saltz says is growing.

"Now, sadly people are using digital technology to exert their power, their influence, control 24/7," said Saltz.

Digital abuse is just starting to be recognized by experts and goes beyond constant phone calls and text messages.

At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, many callers report their partner's smart phone and social media surveillance is increasing.

"Things that range from constantly checking to what they're posting on social media, asking for passwords, to more extreme cases as where partners create fake identifies on Facebook to see if they can get their partner to engage with someone else, and then accusing them of cheating and flirting in appropriately," said Katie Ray-Jones, who works with the hotline.

And the popularity of being constantly connected can make recognizing a problem difficult.

You may be wondering, isn't this what everybody does? Everybody is on social networking, everybody is texting, isn't that just normal behavior?

But the President of the National Domestic Violence hotline says that normal behavior can turn to obsession. It's important to recognize the warning signs which include extreme jealousy, monitoring, and isolation.

One cyber crime specialist warns digital abusers can escalate their surveillance by using apps which monitor their partner's location through their phone's GPS. Or, installing keylogging software that records what they type on a computer.

"No one needs to be a computer genius to install this software. This software is very, very easy to install," says specialist Art Bowker.

Doctor Saltz says what's even more troubling is that digital abuse can turn dangerous.

"People of all ages are vulnerable to the use of digital technology to basically be abusive, and that abuse that starts in that way can often lead to, directly to physical abuse," she says.

Brittny says when her ex-boyfriend's digital abuse became physical, she ended the relationship. Now she warns others who think their digital boundaries may be violated to reach out for help right away.   

"When I was going through this, I felt like I was completely alone. I didn't tell anybody about what was happening," Brittny said.

The head of the National Domestic Violence Hotline says it's difficult to estimate exactly how many people digital abuse affects, because some victims don't even recognize it.

Experts say in some cases it's a relationship red flag that can be fixed if you work through it, but in others it can rise to the level of stalking or harassment. 

Visit loveisrespect.org to find out if you are in a digitally abusive relationship.

If you ever feel your safety is in jeopardy, you should immediately contact local police.

Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved.

  • NewsMore>>

  • The Latest: Trump says Korea talks "going along very well'

    The Latest: Trump says Korea talks "going along very well'

    Saturday, May 26 2018 7:23 AM EDT2018-05-26 11:23:24 GMT
    Sunday, May 27 2018 8:08 AM EDT2018-05-27 12:08:19 GMT
    (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon). Protesters hold candle lights during a rally to denounce the United States' policies against North Korea near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 25, 2018. North Korea said Friday that it's still willing to si...(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon). Protesters hold candle lights during a rally to denounce the United States' policies against North Korea near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 25, 2018. North Korea said Friday that it's still willing to si...

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have met for the second time in a month to discuss peace commitments they reached in their first summit and Kim's potential meeting with...

    More >>

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have met for the second time in a month to discuss peace commitments they reached in their first summit and Kim's potential meeting with President Donald Trump.

    More >>
  • Amid anti-immigrant sentiment, some Spanish speakers wary

    Amid anti-immigrant sentiment, some Spanish speakers wary

    Saturday, May 26 2018 2:14 PM EDT2018-05-26 18:14:01 GMT
    Sunday, May 27 2018 8:08 AM EDT2018-05-27 12:08:12 GMT
    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson). Lilly Mucarsel, a native of Ecuador, poses for a picture in her office Friday, May 25, 2018, in Tustin, Calif. Mucarsel, 62, of Southern California finds herself reverting to English when she attends a baseball game or goes to...(AP Photo/Chris Carlson). Lilly Mucarsel, a native of Ecuador, poses for a picture in her office Friday, May 25, 2018, in Tustin, Calif. Mucarsel, 62, of Southern California finds herself reverting to English when she attends a baseball game or goes to...

    The Trump administration's harsh rhetoric and tougher policies toward immigrants have made some Spanish speakers self-conscious about speaking other languages in public.

    More >>

    The Trump administration's harsh rhetoric and tougher policies toward immigrants have made some Spanish speakers self-conscious about speaking other languages in public.

    More >>
  • More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

    More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

    Saturday, May 26 2018 9:33 AM EDT2018-05-26 13:33:35 GMT
    Sunday, May 27 2018 8:07 AM EDT2018-05-27 12:07:55 GMT
    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2017, file photo, the Supreme Court in Washington is seen at sunset. A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through the courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the...(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2017, file photo, the Supreme Court in Washington is seen at sunset. A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through the courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the...

    A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and that'll continue, no matter what the Supreme Court decides in the case of a baker who wouldn't create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

    More >>

    A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and that'll continue, no matter what the Supreme Court decides in the case of a baker who wouldn't create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly