Who are you with right now? What are you doing?
Sending tons of questions can become abusive, Uribe says. "At first, they can happen at a slow pace," she says. Someone might ask where you are, what you're doing, or who you're with. Logistically, that might make sense if you're trying to make plans, but an abusive partner will ask incessant questions about your whereabouts, she says. "It's more accusation than general interest," she says. "They're figuring out what you're doing and why, because they want you to feel guilty — which is unhealthy and abusive."
You're going to be in trouble if you don't answer me now.
An abusive person will try to control their partner constantly, so they might expect their partner to have their phone on them at all times, Crawford says. Texting your partner a lot is okay if it's mutual, but if you fear that there will be a punishment if you don't answer, that could be digital abuse, she says. "Their barrage of texting will make you feel like you can't be away from your phone or there will be a repercussion," she says. There might even be "implicit punishment" if you don't answer right away, Meagher says, like, "If you don't answer, I'm going to come find you."
Why are you with Johnny? What's going on with you two?
Texts might be "fueled with jealousy," and someone may ask why you're with another person instead of them, Uribe says. This can be particularly complicated, because people often confuse jealousy with a sign of love — but jealousy comes from insecurity, not love, Uribe says. "Not everyone who's jealous will be abusive, but it's what we do with that information [that makes it abusive]," she says. "Using jealousy to send harassing text messages is not okay."
Send a pin with your location.
The thing about digital abuse is that it doesn't always begin and end with someone's phone, Uribe says. In fact, 52% of teens who are digitally abused are also physically abused, according to the Urban Institute. Someone might demand that you send them a GPS pin with your location, so that they know where you are and can really keep tabs on you, Uribe says. That can be a "coded threat," or something that may not be a clear sign of abuse to a parent or friend who might come across the messages, Uribe says.
WHY AREN'T YOU ANSWERING ME?! 😡😫😤🔥
Oftentimes, tone can be misconstrued in text messages, but an abusive partner might make their mood very apparent by using all caps, angry emojis, or just tons of exclamation points, Uribe says. Someone might use different graphics or text settings (like all caps) in order to be menacing, Meager says.
I love you so much, I didn't mean what I said before ❤️💕💋
If someone sends an angry or abusive text message, and then does a 180 and tries to backtrack by sending loving emojis, that can be a subtle warning sign, Uribe says. "That's another way of them controlling and manipulating the situation," she says. When the "love" messages are excessive or used after someone had a lot of anger, that's a mood swing, which can be indicative of an abusive relationship, she says.
If you're really just at home, send a photo of yourself to prove it.
Last month, a woman shared screenshots of text messages from her abusive ex-husband, detailing how he spoke to her. In one instance, he asked her to send a photo holding three fingers in a place where he could tell it was her mother's house, where she claimed to be at the time. In addition to asking questions or checking a GPS pin, someone might also ask for you to take a photo of yourself in the place where you claim to be, Meagher says. "It's a real-time threat, where you can't lie about it," he says.
Here's a photo of what you're missing.
An abusive partner might send someone unwanted explicit photos via text, or insist that they do the same, Crawford says. For all of these scenarios, it's important to understand that just because you're in a relationship, that doesn't mean you're required to do things you don't want to, and that goes for texting and sexting, Crawford says. "You have the right to turn off your phone, and spend time with it away without your partner getting angry," she says.