Savaged on Social Media: Fielding Public Allegations of Domestic Violence
Our justice system is built on the principle that a person is “innocent until proven guilty.” Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the public debate, especially when it comes to social media. While social media’s purpose is to help us stay connected (at least in theory), the downside is that anyone can say anything on social media without fear of retribution. All it takes is one person publicly accusing another, and everyone who trusts the accuser is likely to take up the offense and make their own negative posts. If the person is facing criminal charges, the problem can be even worse. The accused person may find themselves crucified on social media even before the court process begins. It’s unfair, but it’s just how social media works.
No one understands this new reality better than someone whose partner or spouse has taken to social media to publicly accuse them of domestic violence—especially when there has been an arrest, and criminal charges have been filed. Once the accusation is “out there,” regardless of your guilt or innocence, it can quickly and permanently skewer your reputation. It can affect your other friendships, family relationships, even your job. Even if you’re eventually exonerated, and the charges are dropped, the stigma of the accusation can linger for years to come. What can you do to fix this situation? What steps can you take to repair your reputation? Social media can definitely be a “wild card” when you’re facing domestic violence charges, so let’s discuss some tips for handling social media with grace and dignity during this difficult time.
Don’t Respond to Accusations Online
You might feel like you’re already being put on trial on social media—or rather, tried and convicted on social media—but in most cases, the worst thing you can do is attempt to defend yourself online. Not only will it serve to add fuel to the fire, but it can also jeopardize your case because prosecutors may be watching your social media interactions—and those interactions may be used against you. Resist the urge to counter-attack your partner or anyone else saying bad things about you. Even if you delete a potentially incriminating post, it can still be screen-shotted (i.e., captured electronically) and used against you later on.
If possible, avoid interacting with anyone online who is making negative public statements about your conduct or character. Even if someone comes to your defense, it’s best to remain silent on the subject. Save the trial for the courtroom where it belongs—assuming your case even goes to trial.
Consider Deactivating Your Social Media Accounts
Suppose someone close to you has taken to using social media as a weapon against you to destroy your reputation. In that case, there’s one thing you can do to regain some sense of control: you might consider deactivating or deleting all of your social media accounts. It might seem like the “nuclear option,” an extreme step to take, but doing so can benefit you in several ways:
- It helps you resist the urge to defend yourself. (See point above.)
- It takes you out of the public conversation completely. It won’t necessarily stop people from talking about you on social media, but it will stop them from tagging you. You won’t feel compelled to sit and look at the hateful remarks day after day, and that can give you greater peace of mind.
- It makes a statement. Deleting your accounts is not an admission of guilt. Rather, it conveys a message that you’re refusing to engage in the debate, and it demonstrates a sense of responsibility, which your defense attorney may be able to use to negotiate for leniency at some point.
Deleting your accounts won’t “erase” all the negative posts about you, nor will it keep people from seeing those posts if someone decides to “Google” you. But it will definitely make the conversation a bit quieter online and reduce the amount of fuel on the fire, so to speak. Deactivating or deleting your accounts might seem unfair and feel like a defeat at the moment, but it can help your case in the long run—and once the dust settles, you can always start new accounts if you’re so inclined.
Reach Out Privately to Friends and Family (Where Appropriate)
Responding to accusations online is never a good idea, but if you have certain family members or friends who have taken up the rants against you on social media, you may feel like you could restore some of those relationships through meaningful conversations offline. Again, it’s best not to approach the matter defensively, but rather in a reconciliatory way. You may or may not get the person to see “your side,” but you might be able to convince them to disengage from attacking you on social media.
To clarify, this step includes some important caveats. First and foremost, if you reach out to someone, make absolutely certain that you aren’t violating the terms of any restraining orders, as doing so could result in criminal charges. Second, don’t discuss the case with anyone, publicly or privately, if your attorney discourages it while your case is pending. It might be better to have those conversations once your case is resolved.
Consider Hiring a Social Media Reputation Manager
If you’re a public figure, or if your business relies heavily on social media, deleting your social media accounts may feel like a viable option—and yet, if you’re being savaged over domestic violence allegations, those posts could be hurting your business or your brand significantly. In situations like this, it may be best to leave it to the pros. There are professional online reputation management companies that can monitor your social media reputation and take strategic steps to mitigate the damage. Restoring your online reputation in this way will require time, money, and patience, but a company that specializes in reputation management can accomplish some surprising things—and in the long run, it may be the best way to keep your business running.
Being savaged on social media over accusations of domestic violence can certainly make you feel helpless and victimized—but the good news is that social media isn’t where your case will be tried or where your fate will be determined. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you deal with the criminal charges in a way that minimizes the long-term impact on you and your family. If you’ve been arrested and charged over domestic violence accusations in Los Angeles, call our office today for a free case evaluation.