Relationship violence can exact a significant emotional toll. The ideal path to recovery would be through professional counseling, but this is not always possible. Victims often search the internet for an outlet. There are a variety of resources; sites from larger, established organizations to blogs, support forums and pages on social media sites, like Facebook. They can be helpful and well meaning, but it is wise to exercise caution.
Discussion boards and blogs often attract mischief and conflict. This is especially true for sites that focus on victims of abuse. In addition, survivors of abuse, sometimes, create these outlets before they have recovered. This can create an unhealthy environment for those seeking help. Knowing what to expect and what to avoid go a long way toward guarding your emotional well being and keeping your recovery on track:
Protect your identity and safety.
– Never use your real name on discussion forums or blogs when seeking support.
– Create a separate email account for support related memberships and registrations.
– Do not enter phone numbers, addresses or any information that could identify you or reveal your location.
Know your limits and set boundaries.
Healing and personal growth, while beneficial, can also be a painful process. Sharing your story can cause intense feelings to surface. And websites, forums and blogs that focus on abuse can be triggering. You will read stories that are similar to yours. You will encounter people who are still raw and in a lot of pain. They are, sometimes, hyper-vigilant, hyper-sensitive and, from time to time, combative. All of this can be overwhelming for someone who is still healing from their own trauma. You should ease into participation. Don’t hesitate to step back if it becomes uncomfortable. It’s OK to take a break or leave the group all together. You are under no obligation to stay.
Pay attention to the red flags.
– Frequent disruptions by trolls and spammers.
– Frequent violations by the same people.
– Questions, complaints or concerns that go unaddressed for extended periods of time
– Leniency or no consequences for disruptive/abusive behavior
Forum hosts that are focused on their members’ comfort and security will:
– secure against spam
– require approval before participation
– employ a reliable and fair moderation staff
– have a zero tolerance policy for abusive behavior
Blogs and Social Media Pages
Many support blogs and social media pages are created by survivors of abuse. Some are motivated by anger and revenge. Others begin with the best of intentions but lose their objectivity along the way. Both can be harmful to those who are seeking guidance and support.
Red flags include:
– Promoting victimization and hostility instead of empowerment and healing
– Promoting fear and paranoia; vilifying entire groups (men, women, ethnic groups, political parties)
– Frequent ‘diagnosing’ of others
– Hateful/combative discussion/blogging
– Hateful/combative responses to differences of opinion
– No response or hateful/combative/dismissive responses to concerns/complaints about these behaviors
When encountering these situations, the best response is to disengage and withdraw. Your recovery and emotional well being depend on healthy and productive interaction support. If you choose to go online, be aware of and prepare for the risks. This can help ensure a safe and gratifying experience. – © 2014 Lila Rey
Learn more about computer and internet safety here.
You can also contact a coalition in your state or one of the following organizations for assistance:
The National Domestic Violence Helpline 800-799-SAFE (7233)
The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474
The National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)
ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)