Text messages become a growing weapon in dating violence
It is all part of what is increasingly called "textual harassment," a growing aspect of dating violence at a time when cellphones and unlimited texting plans are ubiquitous among the young. It can be insidious, because messages pop up at the sender's will:
Where r u? Who r u with? Why didnt u answer me?
"It's gotten astonishingly worse in the last two years," says Jill Murray, who has written several books on dating violence and speaks on the topic nationally. Especially for those who have grown up in digital times, "it's part and parcel of every abusive dating relationship now."
The harassed often feel compelled to answer the messages, whether they are one-word insults or 3 a.m. demands. Texts arrive in class, at the dinner table, in movie theaters -- 100 or more a day, for some.
Harassment is "just easier now, and it's even more persistent and constant, with no letting up," says Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the University of Virginia, which became the focus of national attention in May with the killing of 22-year-old lacrosse player Yeardley Love.
Textual harassment is getting more attention as concerns about dating violence mount. In the past several years, about a dozen states have passed or are considering laws to bring dating violence education into schools.
The legislative push comes partly from the parents whose daughter, Demi Brae Cuccia , was murdered a day after her 16th birthday in 2007.
In the days before Demi's death, her parents would later learn, her ex-boyfriend texted her again and again: "You know you can't live without me," he wrote. "U need to see me." And: "I'm ballin my eyes."
When Demi finally agreed to see the boy, he came over when she was alone and stabbed her 16 times in the living room of her family home.