Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence and suicide, and may be triggering for some readers.
Imagine a man messaged his girlfriend a list of reasons why she was “not worthy.”
Imagine that 34-item list accused her of having a “fat gut”, a “loose” vagina and “bad breath”, accused her of “hating men”, and criticising her for her sexual abilities.
Turns your stomach, doesn’t it?
The same man went on to send a string of abusive texts to another of his girlfriends, Bree Robinson, calling the 21-year-old woman “a stupid, dumb c***” and threatening to leave to find “better sex elsewhere”.
Minutes after receiving a message like this, Bree jumped off a balcony to her death — a devastating culmination of what a magistrate later described as a deliberate campaign of “gratuitous harrassment” perpetrated by Shearin.
The story is tragic and infuriating. But just as distressingly, the messages Shearin allegedly emailed and texted these women are not unique.
Domestic violence experts say this sort of use of new technologies to harrass and control partners is on the rise — and the phenomenon, dubbed “textual harrassment” by the Courier Mail, has presented a major challenge to anti-domestic violence campaigners.
Domestic violence goes hi-tech: the frightening new epidemic.
Heidi Guldbaek from Women’s Legal Services Australia told Mamamia she and her colleagues had seen “all kinds of stalking, harrassing” and “abusive” behaviour through the use of technology.
“(They include) threats to disclose nude photos, the use mobile apps with GPS technologies to stalk victims” as well as “harassment on social media or hacking of social media and/or emails and non-stop calling, texting or emails to threat and intimidate,” Ms Guldbaek said.
“Also, we often see situations where there may be a restraining order in place that prohibits the person bound by the order from sending text messages – except to communicate about the children,” Ms Guldbaek said. “Often abusive ex-partners will use this as an opportunity to send threatening or harassing messages.”
A Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria survey from last year revealed that more than 80 per cent of domestic violence workers now report that smartphones and social media were used stalk victims, as the Daily Mail reports.
It’s news that gives me the chills — not least because it reminds me of text messages, Facebook posts and emails my friends have received from boyfriends over the past couple of years.
One one occasion, a former workmate went on holiday with some girlfriends, only to constantly receive texts calling her a “dumb slut” and erroneously accusing her of infidelity when she didn’t respond within the hour.
On another occasion, a friend’s boyfriend installed a GPS tracker app on her phone and used it to constantly follow her movements; if he couldn’t see her position on there, he would constantly call and text until she’d reveal where she was.