Although there is no universally accepted definition of cyberstalking, the term can be used to refer to the use of the Internet, email, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. Stalking generally involves harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing telephone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property. Most stalking laws require that the perpetrator make a credible threat of violence against the victim; other’s include threats against the victim’s immediate family’ and still others require only that the alleged stalker’s course of conduct constitute an implied threat.
• • • • • • Cyberstalkers feel they are anonymous and can get away with anything When caught, most cyberstalkers say they didn’t mean to do it, or for it to go so far Most instances are not related to romances gone sour; a majority of the cases are stranger-to-stranger Over 20,000 cases of cyberstalking are being reported each year Over 90% of victims are women It is estimated there may be as many as 500,000 online victims each year
Examples of Cyberstalking
• • • • • • • Threatening or harassing email “Flaming” - online verbal abuse Mass unsolicited email Identity Theft Leaving improper messages at guestbook’s or newsgroups from the victim Initiating directed computer viruses Email forgery - sending false or damaging email from the victim - usually to people they know like co-workers, employees, neighbors, etc.
Cyberstalking is expected to increase as computers and the Internet become more popular. By 2003, it is estimated there will be 500 million people online. In 1991, California became the first state to pass an anti-stalking statute. Since then, 35 of 50 states have passed similar statues. States With Cyberstalking Laws www.haltabuse.org/laws.htm
Why Do Cyberstalkers Stalk?
• Sexual Harassment - By far, the most common type of harassment and stalking online is sexual harassment. Online sexual harassment affords a degree of anonymity. The online harasser has no fear of physical retaliation (slap in the face) and does not have to leave the comfort of his home to find, pursue and harass targets. Love Obsession - Love obsession stalkers often believe that the target of their desires is really in love with them, which means they cannot understand the work “NO.” A love obsession can start from an online romance, where one person then halts the romance, and the rejected lover cannot accept the end of the relationship. (In this case, detailed personal information is often shared between the persons involved). Hate/Revenge Vendettas - Hate vendettas may have nothing to do with sexual harassment at all. There are more male targets in this category. Hate vendettas may begin with an argument or disagreement that escalates out of control. A vendetta may also be waged against someone because of their beliefs. Power Trips/Ego Trips - The victim is usually selected as a random target by someone they do not know. The motivation of the harassers is to show off their skills to themselves and their friends. They do not have a personal grudge against the victim they are using the victim to demonstrate their power among their own group.
Comparing Offline (“in real life”) and Online Stalking
• Similarities The majority of cases involve stalking by former intimates, although stranger stalking occurs in the real world and in cyberspace Most victims are women; most stalkers are men Stalkers are generally motivated by the desire to control the victim • Differences Offline stalking generally requires the perpetrator and the victim to be located in the same geographical area; cyberstalkers can be located anywhere. Electronic communication technologies make it much easier for a cyberstalker to encourage third parties to...