One adult in fifteen (6.6%) who had been in a relationship had received threatening or obscene messages from an intimate partner, with one in four victims of abuse reporting repeated messages in the previous year.
This is according to a study – “Receiving threatening or obscene messages from a partner and mental health, self-harm and suicidality: results from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey” by Sally McManus, Paul E. Bebbington, Leonie Tanczer, Sara Scott and Louise M. Howard – that appeared in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
Led by City, University of London, the study examined just how common exposure to threatening or obscene messaging from a current or ex-partner is, looking at the characteristics of those who are most at risk, and for associations with other forms of violence and abuse, mental disorder, self-harm, and suicidality.
The study was an analysis of results from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey conducted with over 7,000 interviewees, mainly face-to-face, in 2014.
The researchers found that:
- Threatening/obscene messages were received from a current/ex-partner by 6.6% (95%CI: 5.9–7.3) of adults who had been in a relationship
- 1.7% received these in the past year
- Victims were more likely to be female, under 35, single or divorced, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and to have experienced other forms of sexual and partner violence and abuse
- Those who received threatening/obscene messages in the past year were more likely to experience common mental disorder (adjusted odds ratio 1.89; 1.01–3.55), self-harm (2.31; 1.00–5.33), and suicidal thoughts (2.00; 1.06–3.78)
Recipients of these messages were twice as likely to be female than male, and more likely to be younger adults. They were also more likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged, and to have experienced other forms of sexual and partner violence as well. Even after accounting for these other adversities, receiving repeated threatening or obscene messages was associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.
“Threatening/obscene messaging commonly occurs in the context of intimate partner violence. While often occurring alongside sexual and physical violence, messaging has an additional association with mental disorder and suicidality,” the researchers noted.
For the researchers, “routine enquiry in service settings concerning safety, including those working with people who have escaped domestic violence, should ask about ongoing contact from previous as well as current partners. This should include asking about messaging, as well as other forms of potentially technology-enabled abuse which may become increasingly common.”
McManus, lead author of the study, said: “It’s so very important that when in clinical, police, or other service settings – service providers ask about all the kinds of contact people may have from current as well as former partners. Threats and obscene messages may be a way of extending control after a relationship ends, and is linked to continued poor health in victims.”
While the study did not differentiate between technology-enabled and other means of threatening or obscene messaging, the authors suggest that the near ubiquity of the likes of texts, instant messaging, and social media, may mean exposure to threatening and obscene messaging could become even more immediate and pervasive.
Domestic abuse/intimate partner violence is also an issue in the LGBTQIA community.
In 2018, for instance, a study found that a big percentage of LGBTQIA people experience IPV. Abuse among gay couples stems from stress factors that also apply to heterosexual couples, such as money issues, unemployment, and drug abuse. However, gay couples are said to face additional stress from internalized homophobia, which may also contribute to IPV.
Sadly, a 2020 study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and IPV were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships” even if ther are just-as-affected.