The Partner Cyberabuse
Psychometrics of TechnologyBased Intimate Partner
Sewanee, the University of the South
Presented at the Southeastern Psychological Association Annual
Meeting, Atlanta, GA, March, 2013.
The Reality of Battering
Battering is not just about physical assault. Our
questionnaires are supposed to adequately
capture the complexities of abusive
Questionnaires that focus on shouting and hitting
miss complexities of battering. Often absent:
sexual violence, economic abuse and other key
aspects of battering.
Technology-based harassment has long been a
part of battering—such as getting utilities turned
off. Even easier in the modern era.
Study 1: Qualitative Focus Groups
In the first stage of the study, 4 focus groups were
held with college students that discussed peer-topeer cyberbullying and intimate partner
These focus groups clearly indicated that
behaviors by partners and ex-partners were
clearly seen as distinct from other peerperpetrated technological harassment.
Also, intimate partner cyber-abuse often appeared
to involve more severe incidents and was
considered less socially normative.
Example of Serious IPV Cyber-abuse
I have a friend that went abroad and got a boyfriend
and like it went sour …they broke up and so he
started harassing her on Facebook and then when she
defriended him he harassed everyone that he was
mutual friends with that she was friends with, so like
all their mutual friends here…she had to find like
everyone that they were mutual friends with and make
them defriend them. And then he had her parents’ email and was like harassing her parents and saying all
this vulgar sexual stuff like to her parents. …the
parents had to call the ___ embassy,…he was texting
them too. It was just bad, like it’s still not over.
Study 2: Quantitative Study
98 women with histories of intimate partner victimization were
recruited from domestic violence programs (support group, others
from shelter, guardian ad litem, law enforcement) in 2 Southern states.
Wide age range: 28% 18-25, 25% 26-30, 27% 31-40, 20% 41+
Ethnically and racially diverse: 29% African-American, 29% Latina/o,
26% European American, 14% American Indian, 1% Asian and 1%
Low-income sample, with most women (84%) reporting income
below $18,000 per year.
In addition to structured items, they provided their perceptions of
their risks and resources in a semi-structured format. Responses were
coded using a boot-strapping method and analyzed. Participants were
given a $25 gift card to thank them for their participation. DV
agencies were paid $25 per interview to compensate them for staff
The Partner Cyber-abuse Questionnaire
1) My partner sent messages from my Facebook profile without my
2) My partner wrote something negative about me on social media such as
Facebook or Twitter when he was angry.
3) My partner sent angry or insulting text messages to me.
4) My partner forwarded embarrassing online or text messages or pictures
5) My partner changed my password so I couldn’t access my (or our)
accounts, such as bank or credit card accounts.
6) My partner checked or read my emails or texts without my permission.
7) My partner monitored my profile or used phone applications as a way to
keep tabs on me.
8) My partner sent me frequent emails or texts when he knew I didn’t want
9) My partner checked up on my location by getting me to send cell phone
pictures of where I was.
A single factor accounted for
74% of the variance and
included all 9 items.
Cyber-abuse more repeated
than physical or sexual
No differences in frequency
of cyberabuse between
women who were still with
their partner or who had
ended the relationship. Not
just post-breakup pursuits.
0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4
Correlated with Other Partner
P Alcohol problem
Limitations & Next steps:
This is a low-income sample. Would a sample with
better access to computers report even higher rates or
This is a highly victimized sample. Would these be as
common or closely related in a community sample?
#1 Fully capture all elements of abusive relationships
#2 Stay current as the types of acts that abusive and
controlling partners can do changes
#3 Science is about progress. Do not limit to 40-year
old questionnaires—keep moving forward.