Dating violence is unfortunately common, affecting millions of teenagers and young adults in the United States. According to the CDC, about one in twelve teens have experienced dating violence. However, the actual number is likely higher because many people are afraid to report their partner’s unhealthy behaviors.
Victims of dating violence may be unsure of what steps to take or how to handle the situation. Their partner may be controlling and monitor everything they do. Alternatively, the abuser may isolate the victim, preventing them from communicating with friends and family.
Fortunately, there are ways for dating violence victims to use social media to connect with people and seek help.
How Can Social Media Platforms Help Dating Violence Victims?
Advocates against domestic violence and dating violence are always looking for ways to support victims. We explain some ways social media can help below.
Using Hand Signals, Code Words, and Phrases
Many victims are in a situation where they cannot leave their homes, call someone to discuss their abuse, or ask for help. Social media often provides a platform they can safely access and use to communicate without their abuser’s knowledge.
For example, the Canadian Women’s Foundation created a hand signal – the Signal for Help – for abuse victims to silently indicate that they require assistance. The Signal for Help quickly spread in videos across TikTok, and this helped save an abducted 16-year-old girl in 2021. She flashed the signal from a vehicle, and a nearby driver recognized it and called 911. The girl had been reported missing two days earlier, and her kidnapper was arrested.
Similarly, some organizations and advocates allow domestic violence victims to ask for help using specific code words and phrases. For example, the United Kingdom created the “Ask for ANI” scheme to allow victims to ask pharmacists for assistance by requesting to “speak to Ani.”
Similar code word schemes appeared on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. For example, a Florida woman told abuse victims to send her a message asking for her favorite cake recipe to signal they need to be checked on. If they asked for a recipe with pineapple, it indicated that they wanted her to call the police.
Temporary Messaging Apps
Apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Instagram offer safe messaging tools to allow victims to send messages safely without their abusive partner reading them.
For example, Snapchat allows users to send photos, videos, and texts that automatically disappear after a certain amount of time. Similarly, Instagram’s Vanish Mode (which must be manually activated) will automatically erase messages once the recipient reads them.
An abuse victim can use these temporary messaging options to send evidence of abuse, seek guidance, and ask for help without worrying about their abuser seeing the conversation.
Seeking Advice and Guidance
Reddit is another popular platform that dating violence victims can visit for advice and resources. For example, the subreddit forum known as “Relationship Advice” has over 7 million members asking/answering questions and seeking/giving advice regarding various relationship topics.
Responders can range from people who have experienced similar situations to certified counselors. For example, one professional domestic violence worker spends hours every day helping abuse victims navigate complex issues and develop safety plans.
The good thing about Reddit is that it’s an anonymous medium. You don’t have to give your name or any personal information.
What Other Internet Resources Are Available for Dating Violence Victims?
If social media isn’t your preferred resource, there are other options. Some websites are developed to allow victims to navigate away from the page quickly. That way, if their abusive partner approaches them, they can conceal what they’re reading.
For example, the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website has a red “X” in the top right corner. Users can click it or hit the “escape” button on their keyboard twice to leave the website immediately. The website also gives tips on how to clear your browser history and information regarding digital security.
Additionally, the site has a live chat feature, or victims can text “START” to 88788 to ask for help. You can also check for local resources and seek shelter and social services if you need to escape an abusive relationship.