In Focus 8th August, 2016

Intimate partner violence in online spaces.

Do you like dating? Dating is fun, isn’t it? The butterflies in your stomach. The throwing up before. (No? That’s just me?) What if we told you that dating often shows its dark and morose underbelly? What if we told you that dating is the threshold from whence dark legions from hell descend upon us?

Sorry for being dramatic. But if you talk to people who have been victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) online, they’ll tell you that that’s what it feels like. A lack of open conversations about relationships and sexuality has ensured that young men and women get their ideas of relationships from FRIENDS or worse, DDLJ. Young people are getting into relationships that are dysfunctional and abusive.

They’re not huddling around rose shrubberies in public parks or trying to sneak a mischievous kiss in dark theatre halls. (Well, they kinda are but not as much). Their relationships live on Facebook messengers and tagged pictures and filtered Instagram photos. That’s where they weave worlds, that’s where they love and that’s where they hurt each other. The old Bollywood trope of a shady stalker guy with a ladder is now a shady stalker guy with Broadband. And he knows your IP address.

So we got together with and ChyanIndia (following huge demand) to do a sesssion on this. Evidently, young people often don’t know when they’re being victims of violence. They often don’t know when someone is being ‘out of line’ online (we thought that’d be a good pun, sorry). And they need better support systems and better counseling.

The first thing we talked about was what is IPV? IPV is basically any form of behaviour by your partner that makes you feel anxious, scared, unsafe or attacked. These forms of behaviour includes stalking, controlling, posting pictures of someone without consent, tagging without consent, threatening or just being a horrible person.

When we think of violence, we often think of physical violence, but intimate partner violence can manifest itself in a myriad of ways including emotional, sexual, digital, financial or mental. In our session,, who counsel people who have been in abusive relationships told us instances that gave us goosebumps. Stories of abuse, and rape and extortion.

Stories that many young people are a part of. Stories that harrow innocent people. A lot of young people today are increasingly facing violence online from their intimate partners.

So how can this situation be made better? To an uninformed, naive mind, one predisposed to victim blame, a very knee jerk reaction would be not date online or to not be online. However that is hardly a rational or safe choice. The digital world today will find ways to target even those who abide by the acceptable ‘social norms’. Short from not existing, a world online armed with a culture of no accountability will continue to strip young people of their choices till nothing exists. and Chayn India explain that a good solution is to speak out to other people and not be quiet. Lovedoctor counsels a lot of young people and helps them talk about and process their instances of online abuse in a healthy and non judgemental way. As we have noted in one tweet- ‘Rule 1: Don’t be judgemental’.

Another point of discussion was that given that a lot of young people blame themselves (Thanks, patriarchy, you old turdbag) and don’t actually realize that they’re in an abusive relationship, how can friends keep an eye out for each other? A good way to cultivate cultures of openness among friends where you can talk about abusive relationships, where you can ask your friends if they’re okay with their relationships and if they’re not, have each others’ backs. Listening and supporting goes a long way in helping those who are facing online abuse.

The world can be cold and lonely. It can be unforgiving and nuclear. It’s great that we, in the 21st century have conjured up tools to help us connect more to each other. And we owe it to each other to ensure that the space we have created is safe, inclusive and accessible to everyone. That the internet brings love, and comfort and closeness in all our lives as opposed to anxiety, depression and sadness.

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