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Text Messages Become Catalysts for Dating Violence

fist coming out of cell phone
Texting has made it easy for people to instantly contact each other, and, for teenagers especially, has become the primary means of telecommunication. This convenience, however, has also made it all too easy for disgruntled exes, overprotective boyfriends and psychologically unstable lovers to passively keep track of their significant others. When a relationship hits a patch of turbulence or a batch of texts goes unanswered, innocent texting can quickly become 'textual harassment,' and things can turn violent.

Nineteen-year-old Siobhan "Shev" Russell from Virginia was killed by her boyfriend last year, just weeks after graduating from high school. Her parents later discovered a slew of texts her killer had sent her, many with threatening or disturbing overtones. In 2007, a 16-year-old in Pennsylvania was killed by her ex-boyfriend after she finally relented to his texted requests to meet. Textual harassment can also take a heavy psychological toll, as it did for one Maryland woman whose lover demanded that she regularly send him photos to prove her whereabouts.

Experts say that a large part of the phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that many teenagers and young adults have different social norms when it comes to texting. Because they don't see a problem with receiving hundreds of texts a day, it becomes difficult for young targets to differentiate between normalcy and outright harassment. Since texting is an inherently personal medium, it's hard for parents to ever know what's being sent back and forth. In response, several states have considered implementing mandatory classes on dating violence in schools, and independent help lines like Love is Respect have sprouted up to provide guidance for victims of textual harassment.

The other side of the coin, however, is that texting, e-mails or Facebook correspondences can also provide clear, irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing. The problem, of course, is that they're often unearthed too late. The challenge of raising awareness among today's youth may be obvious, but it'll also require altering the collective teenage approach to text messaging. Perhaps teenagers will develop new norms as they familiarize themselves with new technology, and maybe they'll eventually be able to distinguish dangerous interactions from docile ones. But, until that happens, parental support and mandated education might be the only way to impede what appears to be a growing trend. [From: The Washington Post, via: The Morning News]

Tags: cellphones, dating, harassment, relationships, SexualHarassment, smartphones, teens, Texting, TextualHarassment, top, violence