Content warning: This post contains an account of domestic violence that may be triggering for some readers.
“Where are you?”
“Where did you go for lunch?”
“We need to talk.”
So begins a tirade of text messages from “Adam”, the ex-husband of an early-twenties American woman who shared their troubling exchange online.
It is one of a number of conversations allegedly between the former couple from their three-year relationship that were posted on Imgur under the woman’s username krissykross.
The six screenshots track the escalation from small abusive behaviours towards outright physical violence and, while they have not been verified, reveal a pattern of abuse all-to-familiar to many women.
We can’t know the history of the pair’s relationship from the small snippet revealed online (though we are told it ended with several charges being laid against Adam and a divorce), but it still provides several clear examples of the most insidious forms of intimate partner violence.
"The thing that jumps out at me is that it’s quite text book coercive and controlling behaviour," says Alison Macdonald, the Policy and Program Manager at Domestic Violence Victoria.
"What you’re seeing in those text messages is quite typical of the pattern of in abuse in many domestically violent relationships."
From frantically keeping tabs on his partner's whereabouts to blaming her for issues he is having with the relationship, MacDonald says Adam has all the tell-tale signs of an abuser.
His accusation of provocation, in particular, is a "gaslighting" tactic many abusers use to make their victims second-guess themselves, she explains.
"The thing to note is that really often these kinds of patterns can be present in relationships – not just long-term or cohabiting relationships, but dating relationships – but there may not actually be any use of physical violence.
"The things we see here, in this case, are red flags and warning signs that this woman is in quite an abusive situation.
"It’s important for women, particularly for young women, to understand that the situation they’re in is domestic violence, even if physical attacks are not occurring."
According to Macdonald, coercion often underpins abusive relationships and surveillance via technology is becoming an increasingly common tenant of abuse.
Read the exchange that appeared Imgur in full:
She noted new apps, GPS built into vehicles, hidden cameras and webcams as some of the tools of modern abuse.
Karen Bentley, the National Director of the Women's Services Network's Safety Net Australia Project, agrees but says new technology also empowers women to hold their abusers to account:
"In the old days if he picked up the phone and yelled abuse down the line at you, if you didn’t – or couldn’t – record it then it would be a case of ‘he said, she said.'
“But now, that abuse is often by text message, it’s tangible and much easier to prove that abuse is actually happening."
Bentley also adds it's important women in abusive relationships don't become isolated and, often, technology is the best way to stay connected.
For women who find themselves trapped in a situation like the one illustrated above, sometimes a second opinion can be the catalyst to break-free.
Listen: Sarah Ferguson and Andrew a former abuser talk about Domestic Violence in Australia (post continues)...
That said, while friends and family can provide a crucial point of contact, Macdonald encourages any woman worried about leaving her partner to contact a specialised violence service.
"You might be in a situation where you’re contemplating the steps you might take or you know it’s not a healthy dynamic," she says.
"It’s important that people understand that often it’s the point of separation from a relationship that is the really risky time, and when you see women and children murdered it's almost always when there’s been an approach to leave the relationship of she’s recently left.
"There are a lot of professionals who understand the dynamics of abusive relationships and who can really help."
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.