Digital Abuse Common After Relationship Ends

A new UK study finds that online abuse between former partners after relationship break ups is common and distressing among UK adults.

The survey results were presented by Lindy Morrison at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Counseling Psychology.

For her study, Morrison interviewed 1612 adults via an online survey about relationship break ups and online behavior by their former partner.

The online actions she asked about ranged from threats to actions against self or others through private or public means.

Morrison discovered that 526 (33 percent) of respondents reported that they had experience a break up within the last five years. Of those 196 (37 percent) said they had experienced at least one experience of digital abuse from their former partner.

Morrison found that (37 percent) of respondents who had experienced a break up within the last five years reported being a victim of online abuse from their former partner.

On average they listed experiencing four different types of digital abuse. More than half (52 percent) said they found the experience highly or extremely distressing.

The most common experiences reported were:

  • 48 percent had their ex send or share an online message about them that was extremely nasty;
  • 34 percent had their ex contact their new partner or family and friends online for the purpose of distressing them;
  • 28 percent had their ex threaten to post or send an online message about them that was not true;
  • 26 percent had their ex threaten to share online an something they did not want shared;
  • 26 percent had their ex use digital technology to track or stalk them.

Interestingly, more men than women (40 percent vs 36 percent) report experiences of digital abuse after breakups, but there was no statistically significant relationship between gender and the type of behaviors experienced.

Similarly, the type of abuse was not related to age or education.

According to Morrison, there is very little research into digital abuse among adults after relationship breakups, particularly into the breadth of experiences that this study includes.

“Our survey provides strong support for the necessity of further investigation into this issue.”

Morrison is currently recruiting for the next phase of the study, which will interview individuals who have experienced digital abuse to measure the impact of such experiences.

Source: British Psychology Association/Alpha Galileo