“I know, you just have to do it like you said.” Michelle Carter at 17-years-old sent this text message to her boyfriend just before he committed suicide in 2014. It was one of many text messages that she sent encouraging him to perform the act. In 2017, she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for her participation in the death and two years later, a higher court upheld the conviction.
But now there is a new case. 21-year-old Ingoung You, sent her boyfriend text messages telling him to “kill himself or go die.” The two had a short, highly toxic relationship in which they exchanged over 75,000 text messages in a two-month period. Sadly, her boyfriend took his life shortly before he was due to walk for his commencement.
Abuse comes in many forms. The traditional 7 ways are physical, meal, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual, and spiritual. But text messaging is not typically thought of as a source of manipulative communication, let alone a deadly one. Yet, it can be. Because the tone of a text message is impossible to discern, multiple meanings can be drawn from one message. This includes the desire to control, manipulate, and harm another person. Here are some abusive examples that could turn deadly.
- Love bombs in the beginning. A typical grooming measure of an abusive person is to begin texting by love-bombing the other person. The messages are exciting, intoxicating, and so irresistible that the other person is naturally drawn in closer. Once the person is hooked, the abuser switches to more abusive measures like the ones listed below.
- Claims that something was never said even though it was in a previous message. This is also known as gaslighting. The abuser is trying to make the other person think they are losing their mind by claiming that a text was never sent. Even when there is evidence to the contrary, they often have some type of excuse. This is an early warning indicator of a manipulative person who could be dangerous.
- Refuses to answer questions. Another way to drive a person crazy by text message is to ignore them and not answer direct questions. Some choose to answer questions with more questions as a diversion tactic. Be aware of a person who does this, it is an abusive tactic that often leads to more manipulative measures.
- Sends multiple text messages to irritate, interrupt, and control. Imagine a person yelling the same thing over and over. Many people, just to get the badgering to stop will do whatever a person may request. Once the abuser has gotten a person to do a small task, they escalate to more difficult ones such as self-harm or harming others.
- Makes false accusations. False general statements are difficult to prove or defend especially for someone who is exhausted, depressed, anxious, or has a mental condition. A person making this type of statement is trying to control an outcome, including dangerous ones.
- Demands immediate response. An abusive person is rarely patient. Instead, they insist on being the center of attention even when inappropriate such as when the other person is at work/school or engaged in an activity. The level of escalation or unreasonableness can be an indication of a dysfunctional person.
- Threatens self-harm. Self-harm includes cutting, taking pills, drinking too much, driving crazy, punching or scratching self, or other similar types of behavior. Making threats to do this via text is manipulative. The abuser is trying to control another person’s behavior by threating to harm themselves if their needs are not met.
- Threatens to hurt you or others. Any threat of harm via texting is manipulative and an intentional cry for help. When in doubt, call the police. It is always inappropriate for a person to make threats to harm others as a means of controlling behavior.
- Sends photos of potential threats or self-harm. Along with sending text messages, sometimes the abuser will send pictures of pills on a counter, razors, ropes, or even a gun as a way of intimidation of what might transpire. Pictures should be treated with the same level of severity as a verbal threat. This is a passive-aggressive maneuver designed to leave room for interpretation and confusion.
The above list is done in a progressive order to highlight how an abusive person moves from love bombing to the passive-aggressive demands for harming behavior. If you or someone you know is in a dangerous relationship, get out and get help now. It is never too late.