A Note on Language
In this toolkit, we will sometimes use the word woman/women and feminine pronouns for simplicity and to recognize the significant impact technology-facilitated violence has on women and girls. We recognize that TFGBV also impacts trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people. We hope that all people impacted by TFGBV will find these documents useful.
Breakups are a difficult time for any couple, but they can be an especially difficult and potentially dangerous time for teens in abusive relationships. Even if you’re able to end your relationship safely, your abusive partner can still cause harm from afar in a variety of ways. Technology and social media create new spaces where abuse can take place. This is called digital dating violence or digital abuse, and it is just as unacceptable as any other form of abuse.
Even if your former partner did not exhibit abusive behaviours during your relationship, there’s still a possibility that feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, loneliness, or loss of control could lead them to become abusive online after the relationship ends. They could hack into your email accounts or send unwanted emails, post unwanted messages or pictures on social media sites, or create fake profiles to harass you and people you know. If your ex is harassing you online, here are some ways to handle it:
- Create a safety plan. A safety plan helps you think through how to strategically use technology to enhance safety and take back some control if you are being harassed, threatened, stalked, or abused through a perpetrator’s misuse of technology. WSC’s safety planning toolkit provides suggestions and tips on how to create one.
- Clearly tell your ex to stop harassing you, if you feel safe doing so. It’s important to let your ex know that what they are doing is abusive, preferably in a way that lets you keep a record of your request either by saving the text or email you send, or by taking a screenshot or video screen recording of a message you send online. After you have told your ex to stop the harassment, do not respond to any future communications.
- Save everything. You might wish to delete the unwanted messages immediately but try to keep a record of any communications your ex sends. Save emails and chat logs and taking a screenshot or video screen recording of status updates, direct messages, comments, pictures, or websites. This can help you understand what is happening and identify patterns of abuse. Canada has criminal and civil laws against cyberstalking, and it could help to speak with a legal advocate about possible legal measures. If you choose to pursue legal recourse, a record of your ex’s abusive communications would be useful.
- Take steps to increase your online privacy. Check to make sure that the settings on any social media site you belong to are set to maximum privacy. Change your passwords, block or unfriend your ex, and don’t provide details of your social plans or whereabouts online. This includes avoiding “checking in” to places on Facebook or using location features on apps like Snap Map on Snapchat.
- If your ex is harassing you via email, create a separate email account with a hard-to-guess password to use only with people you trust. This way, you can communicate with friends and family via the new email address and you won’t have to see your ex’s emails every day. Again, save any abusive emails that your ex sends to you, but do not respond to them.
- Let people in your support system know that your ex is harassing you, if you feel comfortable doing so. Make them aware of your safety plan so they aren’t tagging you when they check in to places or otherwise mention your location online. It’s important not to go through this alone and for others to be aware of your ex’s behaviour. If your ex tries to contact people you know, ask them not to respond and to keep records of those communications as well.
If you are experiencing digital dating violence from a current or former partner, a good resource is the DIY Feminist Guide to Cybersecurity. If you believe you are in danger, at risk of danger, and/or if the harassment continues or escalates, reach out to the support services below to help you safety plan.
Digital Dating Violence is part of a continuum of violence that can be both online and in-person. If you or someone you know is experiencing digital dating violence, you are not alone. Encourage them to chat with a trusted adult, connect with the Kids Help Phone to create a safety plan, or you can use sheltersafe.ca to find a shelter/transition house near you to discuss options and create a safety plan. You don’t need to stay in a shelter to access free, confidential services and support.