Friday, March 27, 2009

Domestic Violence in the Age of Social Media

Are you on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, Blogger or any of the other dozens of social media applications sprouting up faster than the New York MTA can raise their fares?

Since you are reading this blog, I'm going to go ahead and bet that you are on at least one, if not more, of those sites.

Now, here is my question: How is social media affecting the problem of domestic violence?

As I was getting dressed this morning, I heard a story on the radio about a 14 year old girl who posted nude photos of herself on her MySpace profile and now is consequently being charged with child pornography distribution, and if convicted could be forced to register as a sex offender.

A few months ago, we blogged about a woman who broke up with her abusive partner and then changed her Facebook Relationship Status to "Single". The media identified this incident as the reason beyond her ex's decision to kill her. (Obviously, his violence towards her was not caused by this alone, but the story did bring attention to the magnitude of the role which social media sites are playing in people's lives today.)

If you search for "domestic violence" in YouTube 11,700 results appear, including PSAs about abuse and personal video diaries. The community of victims of abuse I have seen on YouTube and Facebook is overwhelming. uses the internet to give legal help and support to victims of abuse, their friends, family and advocates. The Internet can be a powerful tool for disseminating information and reaching people who prefer the fast and anonymous nature of the web over other channels of communication, but there are some serious dangers and risks associated with the internet.

The 14 year girl who posted pictures of herself is an example of the ignorance with which the majority of internet users (not just teenagers) treat their email, online profiles and internet searches. Eyes are everywhere and it is crucial to be careful and smart about what we put out there and where/and what we search.

Social media is changing the way we relate to each other in this society - from how we gather information to how we keep in touch with our friends, and even how we date. What do you guys think? How else is social media changing this world, especially the world of domestic violence?


  1. OMG. You all have a blog now?! Social media is giving survivors another forum in which to detail their stories, with or without anonymity, and put the power behind their hands (voice) without submitting to the requirements of standard journalism. On the flip side, social media gives more opportunities for some to be victimized, exploited, stalked and harassed because of the lack of control of the originator, and the pursuer. In summary, good for some, bad for others.

  2. Rj, I totally agree. Good for some and bad for others. Hopefully social media is helping more people than it is hurting. With so many young people growing up in the age of the Internet, wouldn't it be great if schools taught a course or gave workshops about how to safely use the Internet?

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