The text messages to the 22-year-old Virginia woman arrived the day and night, sometimes 20 or 30 at once. Her ex-boyfriend wanted her back. He would not be refused. He texted and called 758 times.
In New York, a 17-year-old trying to break up with her boyfriend got fewer messages, but they were menacing.
“You don’t need nobody else but me,” read one. Another threatened to kill her.
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.
The harassed often feel compelled to answer the messages, whether they are one-word insults or 3 am 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.
Harassment by text is only one facet of abusive relationships, which often involve contact in person, by phone, by email, and through Facebook or other networking sites.
A federal survey showed one in 10 high school students reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend during the previous year. Such surveys do not show rising violence, but the texting culture has changed the experience.