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Monday, February 18, 2013

When Teens’ Constant Texting Is Dating Abuse



February is Teen Dating Violence and Prevention Awareness Month.

One of the issues that’s raising concern for advocates and workers is constant texting – the practice of continually checking in on a partner and demanding to know his or her whereabouts and what he or she is doing.

It’s sometimes called “textual harassment.”

Christina Escobar is director of loveisrespect.org, a teen dating resource created by the National Dating Abuse Helpline and Break the Cycle, an advocacy group that works against domestic violence.

Escobar says that while it may seem this type of abuse would typically be committed by boys, that’s not always the case.

“We have a cultural stereotype that girls can’t be abusers,” she told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “Anyone, anytime can be an abuser or a victim.”

Studies by loveisrespect.org, as well as by MTV in partnership with the Associated Press, show that about one in four teens has experienced this kind of abuse in a relationship.


  • Christina Escobar, director of loveisrespect.org, a teen dating abuse resource.

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  • sam

    This is ABSOLUTELY signs of domestic abuse and it is a red flag to watch out for.
    This is how “they” starting to control you!

  • sam

    I am so glad to see this being addressed with younger girls and women.

  • sam

    The problem is that girls are too scared to mention it to someone, parents, teachers, authorities, because they are afraid that the perpetrator will escalate his aggressive behavior and the perpetrator will just stop on their own.

  • Bill

    “We have a cultural stereotype that girls can’t be abusers,” she told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “Anyone, anytime can be an abuser or a victim.”

    I am very glad that Ms. Escobar stated this, even in the face of Ms. Young’s persistent references to boys abusing girls, only.  Ms. Young’s bias is similar to what is seen in all forms of partner abuse.  Not just culturally, but legally, we see the man always as the perptrator and women always as the victim.  When, in fact, the rates of abuse are similar for men as for women.

    I find it encouraging that people involved with these problems, such as Ms. Escobar, are telling the full story, and not the politically correct one.  Ms. Young could learn much from her example. 

    • VioletLotus

      Point well taken, Bill. Please adjust for that in my comment, above. No one, male or female, needs to endure any kind of harassment.

      • Bill

        I couldn’t agree more!

    • Robin Y

      I left another note above,  but just to underscore,  I don’t think you and I disagree. We were making clear abuse can come from both male and female, but right now the only cases of murder after textual harassment that I can find are males towards females.


      • Bill

        Thanks for your response, Robin, and I think we agree on most of this.  I don’t doubt that females were the victims in the few such cases that led to murder.  I would not be a fan of you or your show if I thought that you cherry-picked your facts!  Perhaps you were simply attempting to lead the interview in a particular direction, which sounded to me like you were resisting any attempt to include females as abusers.  All in all, I enjoyed the show, especially because it got me thinking about a topic that I hadn’t much considered before.

  • VioletLotus

    Why is it not a part of our educational system that girls are not taught how to be empowered, how to stand in their power, know healthy boundaries, know when it’s okay to ask for help, know who to go to when you feel unsafe?

    Why are boys not being taught about harassment, too?
    The educational system is lacking… way too much energy spent on academics, not enough spent on how to conduct yourself as a human.

    • lilly

      I agree! There is a huge disservice when it comes to girls and women being taught empowerment, decision making , safe and healthy choices. 
      Plus the teaching to boys/men that all people are to be respected, it’s a huge way of thinking problem that is not being taught, at home or at school. 

  • sam

    RE: When, in fact, the rates of abuse are similar for men as for women.

    Where did you pull this FACT?
    I’d like to see a reference.

    Because per my humble opinion, the rates of homicides committed by MEN – men killing women in DV situations – are much greater than those of women killing men in dv situations.

    This is in fact, because most women cannot physically overpower a man, and a man can GENERALLY overpower most women.

    • Robin Y

      Hi there!

      I’m pretty sure our guest said that women can abuse texting as well as men,
      or words to that effect, then I said, “but the violence is coming from the men”

      All best

    • Bill

      “the rates of homicides committed by MEN – men killing women in DV situations – are much greater than those of women killing men in dv situations”

      I can’t say that I have seen statistics, concerning murder, Sam.  But, my point concerned violence, in general, not just homicide.  I do agree, however, that the severity of physical abuse suffered by women tends to be greater than that suffered by men.  Please bear in mind, though, that the ability of the average man to overpower the average woman is not the only factor.  Many men will not hit a woman, irrespective of his ability to do so.  Also, if he does, even in self-defense, he is much more likely to then be arrested and removed from the home (google “mandatory arrest policies” for some interesting information on that).

      As for references, here are a couple that you might find interesting.  The first is from the WomensNews.org:


      There are many studies, and the results are often contradictory.  But, here is a good one from the CDC, if you have a little time to spend sifting through the results:


      Please bear in mind that, as Ms. Escobar stated, and I think we all agree, men are much less likely to report abuse to authorities, and much less likely to be believed if they do so.  This, too, impacts upon the statistics that are often quoted.

  • sam

     I think that kind of eduction needs to come from families, parents, social structures.

    Why is everything needs to be laid on SCHOOLS?!

  • sam

    Whenever DV issues come up in media, there is always someone saying “women abuse men just as much”.


    I agree that women can be and ARE in some cases act as perpetrators, but the rates and severity of such abuses is nothing compared to the rates and severity of male abuses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.t.palmer.3 David Tuba Player Palmer

    Old problem, new format. When I was in my late 20′s back in
    the late 90′s, I bought my girlfriend/fiancée a cell phone for emergency use.
    She began calling me at work multiple times a day asking, “Who all’s
    there? What are ya’ll doing?” and not just as a part of general
    conversation. When I would tell her that I need to get back to work, her response
    would be something like, “Why? Who’s there? What are ya’ll going to
    do?”It was like this if I went to the grocery store or even stopped to get
    gas on the way home. If I was away from the job I had at the time making a
    delivery, there would be multiple calls directly to me or to the store wanting
    to know where I was, what I was doing, and when I would be back. It was
    relentless and expensive. The cell phone bill started to exceed $500 a month. I
    was once on a business trip and stood at a payphone in the rain in Grand Rapids
    for an hour with her just drilling me on “Who all’s there? What are you
    doing?” But she would always follow it up with how much she loved me and
    how hard it was being apart from me. If I told there that I had a meeting, she
    would habitually call during the meeting and be angry with for not being able
    to talk. She was also quick to get mad at me if I asked too much about her day.
    She was cheating on me the whole time and using the phone the to track me. I
    could only imaging how horrible it would have been like if there had been text
    messaging at the time. It was miserable and I’ve never really been able to
    bring myself to pursue another serious relationship. I was also a reflection of
    the abuse that I saw inflicted upon her by her family.

  • Anon

    This is not just a teen issue.  I ended a relationship with a grown man 6 years ago.  The post-breakup texting (and voicemails) by him were so assaultive, vile and threatening (and nostop), that I contacted the police.  Their first response was, “It’s not stalking, because he isn’t actually showing up.”  After showing them copies of the nearly 200 texts that day (many very graphic and aggressive), they were a little more empathetic, but only to the extent that they told me to change my phone number.  I got quite a “good old boy” vibe as well, even though some of the texts were clearly implied threats to harm me.  I did not get the feeling they thought my issue was serious; essentially revictimizating me.

    Eventually I was able to get one officer to intervene with a phone call to my ex.  The officer’s call did not have lasting effects, however.  I now use a phone block on my stalker’s number, which I must update every 90 days.  Even with that, I get occasional emails on my work account, and he has not stopped the texting.  I just get a three month silence with each call block setting.  I reiterate – we broke up 6 years ago. 

    The most unfortunate conclusion from my experience is how little concern authorities had for the abuse, which was vile and violent and seriously affecting my life and my ability to feel safe.  In my community, I was told, there were no laws to protect me unless he actually showed up at my door.  A community near him developed a new cyber-stalking law a few years ago, but I would have to prove he actually was within their city limits when typing the texts to make a case. 

    I hope that with more publicity and awareness textual harrassment gets the acknowlegdment it deserves and victims have access to rights that I don’t feel I was afforded.

  • Grannie Annie

    I’m 66 but my first marriage was to a very controlling man, Eons ago before personal computers even.  So I have some knowledge of what it’s like to be mentally abused——by control, by jealousy, BY having to account for every movement.

    At any rate, IMO, respect of each other in light of controlling friends needs to be taught beginning in kindergarten, if not sooner at home.  By the time a boy or girl gets to middle school, too many bad habits are set.  At that stage, kids may be looking toward dating.  If a preteen has been allowed to bully a romantic friend, the object is setting up procedures to protect the other person rather than preventing the abuse to begin with.

    If we can change attitudes early, abuse may never rear its ugly head.  Another thing that we all need to do is to show jealousy as potentially dangerous.  Don’t let your youngsters grow up thinking that jealousy is cute and part of love.   IT’S NOT!

    Another thing that I heard today on the textual harassment program, that really upset me,  is that the victim needs to try to get protection orders.  NO mention was made that in many instances, a order of protection is ignored by the harasser   Yes, they can help.  But a piece of paper will NOT prevent injury or death.  And the victim needs to know that.

    I’m going to close off.  Granted,  new technology lets sexual stalking exist on a wider scale. But we need to get down to fundamentals   Teach respect.  Insist on respect.  Don’t wait until desperate means are necessary to protect a young person (or older, for that matter)

  • cindy_dy0121

    Very good info. Thanks for sharing this with us, i found it informative and really interesting.

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