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Spotting the warning signs of tech-based coercive control

It isn’t always easy to tell when a romantic relationship is becoming controlling.

It often only becomes clear over time when lots of individual actions by the abuser build up into a wider, more obvious pattern of controlling behaviour. This is called coercive control.

When digital technologies are used as part of coercive control, it is called tech-based coercive control or technology-facilitated coercive control.

This is a serious form of abuse that can undermine a person’s confidence, freedom and independence – but it is not widely understood.

To help more Australians identify red flags or warning signs that a partner might be using technology as part of a broader pattern of coercive control, eSafety has launched a new social media campaign called ‘Love is’ – to reinforce what love isn’t.

Coinciding with 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we want people to be able to recognise signs of tech-based coercive control, whether that’s being forced to share location data or being told what can and can't be posted online.

Visual

[A series of definitions in the style of a dictionary entry appear]

love:

- to feel deep affection for someone

- supporting your ambition to win the local karaoke cup

love isn't:

- to use tech to coerce or control someone

- constantly messaging you

[text messages appear]

- Where are you?

- What are you doing?

- Who are you with?

love:

- to feel deep affection for someone

- giving you space to vent about your boss... again

love isn't:

- to use tech to coerce or control someone

- forcing you to share your location data, so they can track where you are

love:

- to feel deep affection for someone

- thinking your snort-laugh is the best sound ever

love isn't:

- to use tech to coerce or control someone

- telling you what selfies you can and can't post on social media

[text messages appear]

- I told you not to post that

- You look awful

- Take it down

- I said no

love:

- to feel deep affection for someone

- celebrating your successes tiny, big and small

love isn't:

- to use tech to coerce or control someone

- getting jealous and possessive when you add new friends online

[text messages appear]

- Why did you add them?

- Who are they?

- How do you know them?

love:

- to feel deep affection for someone

- always having a shoulder to ugly-cry on

love isn't:

- to use tech to coerce or control someone

- getting angry when you don't want to send them nudes

[text messages appear]

- But you owe me

- Why not?

- Don't you love me?

Video: Love is... to feel deep affection for someone

How can I get involved?

Build awareness of tech-based coercive control

To help us educate more Australians, you can join the conversation with eSafety on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) and share our campaign posts.

Learn more about tech-based coercive control

We have information to help you, your family and friends better understand this abusive behaviour:

Last updated: 24/11/2023