The Department of Defense is raising awareness of technology-facilitated domestic abuse as part of its Domestic Violence Prevention Month campaign, which launched Oct. 1.
The campaign's tagline, “Mobilize Help for Safer Relationships,” aims to alert the military community that domestic abuse can be perpetrated across a variety of communication platforms.
Technology-facilitated domestic abuse is increasingly common, and a majority of civilian domestic violence agencies report providing technology-specific advocacy and services for victims in 2018.
This type of abuse includes texting and posting on social media to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. It also includes monitoring and stalking behaviors — where one partner "keeps tabs" on the other's location, activities and communications with friends and family outside the relationship through apps and spyware or malware.
While technology continues to change, an individual's right to safety and respect from their partner remains fundamental. A pattern of unhealthy behavior that violates trust, is disrespectful, or makes one feel unsafe, is abuse — regardless of whether it occurs using technology or some other form of communication.
"Treating others with dignity and respect is the department's grounding expectation for our military members," said A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. “We expect this standard of conduct whether in the field or the home and do not tolerate abusive behaviors of any kind.
"We are also encouraging members of the military community to think about how technology plays an integral part in all aspects of our lives — including our most personal communications," she said. "Technology can be a tool for empowerment, reducing isolation and a connection to resources for help. However, we must also consider what's healthy, what behaviors from our partners might give us pause and what actions may cross the line into abuse."
Everyone deserves to feel safe, respected and loved in their relationships — at all times and under all circumstances. DOD offers several resources to help for those who have noticed a pattern of behaviors that make them uncomfortable or have questions about a partner's use of technology.
For guidance on setting healthy boundaries with technology in a relationship, visit Military One Source. People can also reach out to the Family Advocacy Program on a local installation. If you are concerned about your safety and need immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or visit thehotline.org to live chat with an advocate.
Since 1981, October has been commemorated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Defense Department participates in this observance to educate individuals, couples and families that comprise the military community about Family Advocacy Program services and other resources that can support victims and facilitate skill-building for healthy relationships.
The DOD is committed to preventing and responding to domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. The Family Advocacy Program works to prevent abuse in the military community through outreach campaigns that promote a climate of support for victims and evidence-informed programs for individuals and couples to build skills essential for healthy relationships.
The program's top priority is safety for individuals and families in the military community who may be at risk for, or experiencing, abuse. It also works with individuals who engage in abuse to learn critical thinking and interaction skills to change attitudes and behaviors to keep relationships free from violence.