Textual Harassment

An ex-boyfriend text messaged a 22-year-old Virginia woman night and day, sometimes 20 or 30 at a time. All told, he texted and called 758 times. He wanted her back.

This story is told by Donna St. George in a Washington Post report that delves into the increasing problem of “textual harassment.” As the article points out, nearly one in four people between the ages of 14 and 24 have partners who check in several times a day to see where they are or who they are with. One woman’s partner insisted she text him photos – in front of clocks — to prove her whereabouts. Another woman told of a friend who was constantly texted by a jealous boyfriend, “It’s like the 20 questions a parent would ask.”

As an added bonus, cell phone companies may charge victims for receiving the messages.

With the advent of technology harassment is easier, and with no let up: Where r u? Who r u with? Why didnt u answer me? And the harassed often feel compelled to answer.

In fact, they may not get that they’re being abused. Friends must sometimes tell victims: “This isn’t right.”

A young woman named Kristen didn’t get that the messages were abusive. Just hours before her boyfriend killed her, she texted him: “You are being ridiculous. Why cant i do something with my friends?”

In fact, too many of these victims end up dead.

These violent relationships are typically marked by misogyny and male entitlement where men feel they should be able to define the reality of “their” women, and who expect women to submit.

Here are a few red flags that a relationship is abusive, according to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, Oregon State University.

Does your partner:

  • Constantly put you down?
  • Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your family or friends?
  • Make you feel like you’re nothing without him/her?
  • Intimidate or threaten you? “If you do that again, I’ll…”
  • Always say it’s your fault?
  • Pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to?
  • Glare at you, give you the silent treatment, or grab, shove, kick, or hit you?

Do you:

  • Always do what your partner wants instead of what you want?
  • Fear how your partner will act in public
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
  • Feel like you walk on eggs to avoid your partner’s anger?
  • Believe if you just tried harder, submitted more, that everything would be okay?
  • Stay with your partner because you fear what he/she would do if you broke up?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, talk to a counselor about your relationship. Remember, when one person scares, hurts or continually puts down the other person, it’s abuse.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 20, 2012, in feminism, gender, relationships, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Haley Conroy

    Personally, I have been in a relationship that had these kinds of text harassments. I remember one time I went to get Lunch with my sister and checked my phone and I had over 50 messages in one hour. I had notice my phone blowing up, and personally chose not to answer till later. It’s important for girls too know that they don’t have to answer and can change their number or block the caller. I ended up have to block the persons number only to find my service only blocks for 90 days. I found that 90 days is not long enough and changing your number is the best idea. One thing that kept that particular relationship from escalating into more abuse was my own understanding of how I deserved to be treated. Had I submitted to all demands I do feel like it would have escalated. It can be hard to stay strong in these situations but it is important for girls to ‘lay down the law’ with how they deserve to be treated. Girls need to be taught at young ages what they are worth, as well as exposed to ways to notices these actions as abuse. Also, boys need to not be taught and shown this image as girls being their property and subservient to them.

  2. I have never thought about how texting can be abusive. When I think of abuse I typically think of physical abuse. It is horrible to think that our modern technology and advances allow for more abuse and harm to be done. Our modern world gives more room for people to cheat and to not be loyal to their partner, but that isn’t an excuse to be controlling. Men often try to control women and the new technologies allow for more control of women. I believe that men blame the women for this and use slut shaming to get them to stay with them. Men also might say that they are trying to protect the woman, which can be romantic or charming. Women like knowing that they have someone to protect them and they sometimes don’t see this protection as controlling. This is a good example of how men want to be the only thing in a woman’s life and they want to be the only thing in a woman’s life. Thank you for posting this it has opened my eyes to a new type of abuse.

  3. I know its not the point of this post, but, if she was getting harassed from text messages, why not just change the number? I guess that goes into the broader tissue of her not knowing when things get out of control. Her responding to him is proof that she just didn’t see it as abuse. It just seems so simple: Man send idiotic text. Ignore it. Men sends numbers follow up texts and won’t leave you alone. Change your number.

    • Yep. You nailed the problem on the head. These young women don’t get that they’re being abused. They often think the guy just cares about the A LOT to be so concerned with every move they make.

  4. I don’t blame men for being jealous because of their girlfriends. I remember when I had a girl, she was really pretty and through her, I realized how perverted some men can be. When a guy has a beautiful girlfriend, she could be prone to perverted guys talking to them, when the guy is not around and alot of these men don’t care that she has a boyfriend because they’re not good people. Jealousy implies that you care.
    But I feel that when you are texting some one, it’s a little shady in certain contexts, because you are asking them to divert their attention to you, no matter what they are up to.

    I try to be very careful about what I text. When you say things like, “are you ignoring me ? ” you could be coming off as vulnerable or insecure so I make a conscious effort to not say things like that.
    One thing these text message harrassers do is- when she doesn’t reply to the text, they wait about five minutes and send the text again- a duplicate text.

    THese men should handle their jealousy in a healthier and less tacky way. They should communicate face to face. People communicate through computers and cell phones too much anyway.

    Lastly, if he’s jealous reagarding what she’s doing, that’s fine–but will a reply to his text message really provide him with any security?

    If she’s cheating on him and he doesn’t know it and then she gets a text from him, what could he possibly say in a text message her that would change her mind?

    Also, if she’s cheating on him, will she admit it though a text message ?

    I doubt it. I argue that texting can’t really solve any problems of jealousy within relationships and could possibly even makes things worse.

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