Is my text messaging domestic violence?

SMS text-messaging has become our most common form of communication.  Globally, we send an average of 360 billion text messages per month.

“Texting” has also replace phone calls and emails to become the shorthand method of communication between couples.  For most of us, it’s more convenient and time-effective to send a quick text about dinner or picking up the kids etc than making a phone call.

We often don’t even think twice about what we’ve written in a text.  And text-speak has become a language all of its own, abbreviating words and whole phrases into a few letters. (And then there’s the dreaded “auto-correct” ..... most people don’t mean to say duck....

However, the problem with this is that a text-message cannot adequately convey context.  There is a vast difference between referring to someone as an “idiot” in a verbal conversation where context, tone and non-verbal cues (such as smiling) can convey a comment made in good humour compared to reading “you’re an idiot” on a mobile screen.

It is quite common for text-messages to contain threats, criticisms, name-calling and put-downs of the recipient, whether intended in good humour or not.  These may all be considered a form of emotional or mental abuse.

It is also quite common for text messages to contain things that we wouldn’t say when face-to-face with the other person, even in an argument.

For that reason, SMS text-messaging is emerging as a tool with which domestic violence is being perpetrated.  In addition, the act of sending multiple texts (when unwanted) are sent over a short period of time may be deemed domestic violence in of itself.

Further, text messages, unless deleted, can remain in existence for a long time.  They may, therefore, be later used as evidence in a domestic violence charge. 

For example, Sydney Rooster’s star, Shaun Kenny-Dowall was charged in 2015 with committing domestic violence against his former partner, Jessica Peris.  Mr Dowall has been found not guilty and all 11 charges against him were dismissed.

However; it has been widely reported that the couple had exchanged approximately 50,000 text messages during the course of their relationship, including many of an overtly sexual or aggressive nature and form part of the evidence relied upon by the Police Prosecution. 

Further, a barrage of text messages, where uninvited, may also be used as evidence of domestic violence.  In addition, sending unwanted text messages uninvited may also lead to charges of harassment and stalking.

Accordingly, before hitting the send button, the question should be asked; “would I say this to [the person’s] face?”  If the answer is no, then it probably shouldn’t be sent in a text either.  

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