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Jan 18, 2017

New report shows that 12% of U.S. internet users who have been in romantic relationships have experienced intimate partner digital abuse


CALIFORNIAJanuary 18, 2017—A new report from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research and the Data & Society Research Institute offers the first-ever national data on the prevalence of intimate partner digital abuse and its impact on victims across age groups. The report, “Intimate Partner Digital Abuse,” finds that 12% of U.S. internet users 15 and older who have been in a romantic relationship have been digitally harassed or abused by a romantic partner.

This harassment includes a breadth of experiences including physical threats, monitoring of the victim’s online activities, stalking the victim, or threatening to post nude or nearly nude photos of the victim online. The report suggests that Americans ages 15-29; those who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB); and those with lower levels of education and household income are more likely than other groups to have experienced online harassment from a current or former romantic partner. Among these findings:

  • Three times as many younger people (22%) as those who were 30 years or older (8%) reported being digitally harassed by a current or former romantic partner.
  • 38% of individuals who identified as LGB have experienced intimate partner digital abuse, compared to 10% of heterosexual individuals.
  • More than twice as many divorced (19%) and never married (18%) adults were digitally abused by a current or former romantic partner than people who were married/living with their partner (7%).
  • 12% of men have been targeted by a current or former romantic partner, as have 12% of women. This similarity in rates for men and women holds true for each of the different types of abuse we asked about.

“One of the striking findings in this report is that digital domestic violence is not experienced equally – although men and women experience these things at similar rates, digital domestic violence affects younger people, LGB people, and lower SES people much more often,” said Michele Ybarra, President and Research Director at the Center for Innovative Public Health Research and one of the authors of the report. “More efforts are needed to let victims know about the resources that are available—and that these resources are meant for them.”

The most common types of digital domestic abuse experienced by online Americans include: having one’s online and phone activity monitored (6%), being purposefully embarrassed by one’s romantic partner online (4%), being called offensive names by a romantic partner (3%), being stalked online by a romantic partner (2%), and being threatened by one’s partner with the posting of nearly nude or nude photos of them (2%).

People who experience intimate partner digital abuse are more likely than victims of other types of digital abuse to experiences harms as a result of their online experiences. Many experienced trouble in a relationship or friendship (41%), had damage to their reputation (28%), had to shut down an online account (25%), or felt less connected to friends and family (18%) or information (17%) as a direct result of their digital abuse experiences.

Most victims of digital domestic abuse (77%) have also taken some sort of protective action in response to their abuse. The most common strategy used was changing one’s phone number or email address (41%). In terms of seeking external support or protection, 9% of victims of digital intimate partner abuse have sought assistance from a domestic violence center, hotline, or website, and 16% have gotten a protection order or restraining order.

“Victims of intimate partner digital abuse suffer through lasting harms and consequences from their experiences,” said Amanda Lenhart, a Data & Society-affiliated researcher and one of the authors of the report. “These harms are not only experienced directly from the abuse, but also indirectly, as a side-effect of the tactics victims may use to protect themselves, such as changing their contact information or withdrawing from communication platforms. One of our tasks is to find ways to help victims remain supported as they protect themselves.”

Intimate Partner Digital Abuse” is the final report in a series of research from the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research on digital abuse. Previous reports examined the prevalence of online harassment and nonconsensual image sharing, also known as “revenge porn.”

About the survey
The findings in this report are based on the results of a nationally representative survey of 3,002 Americans 15 and older conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from May 17 through July 31, 2016. Respondents were contacted by landline and cell phone, and interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The study was funded by a grant from the Digital Trust Foundation.

About Data & Society
Data & Society is a research institute in New York City that is focused on social and cultural issues arising from data-centric technological development. Data & Society is committed to identifying issues at the intersection of technology and society, providing research that can ground public debates, and building a network of researchers and practitioners who can offer insight and direction. For more, visit datasociety.net.

About the Center for Innovative Public Health Research (CiPHR)
The Center for Innovative Public Health Research, also known as CiPHR, examines the impact that technology has on health and how it can be used to affect health. We have developed programs to reduce HIV transmission, increase smoking cessation, and provide supportive resources for youth experiencing cyberbullying and people with depression. CiPHR is a non-profit, public health research incubator founded under the previous name, Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc. (ISK). Our vision is to promote positive human development through the creation and implementation of innovative and unique technology-based research and health education programs. Public health is ever evolving and so are we. For more, visit innovativepublichealth.org.

Contacts

Michele Ybarra, Center for Innovative Public Health Research
michele@innovativepublichealth.org
(877) 302-6858, ext. 801

Seth Young, Data & Society
press@datasociety.net
(646) 832-2041

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