Cyber stalking can be defined as threatening behaviour or unwanted advances or harassment using the Internet, email, social networking sites or text messaging.
It shares some characteristics with stalking in that it is deliberate, persistent and personal and involves the pursuit, harassment, or contact of others in an unwanted manner.
Cyber stalking and Domestic Abuse
One in five women and one in 10 men report being stalked at some point in their lives (British Crime Survey 2009/10).
Stalking is a key factor in many domestic abuse cases and is predominantly committed by a former partner after a relationship has ended. With the growth of internet use the popularity of the internet and social networking sites, cyber stalking has opened up a whole new element of risk for victims of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse ex-partners often have access to victims computers, mobiles and often know the on and offline habits as well as knowing their victims passwords and security questions.
The Internet and mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets (a mobile computer) have made it easier to find and contact people directly as well as find personal information.
These new technologies provide perpetrators of domestic abuse with an ‘extra tool’ to hurt, abuse and humiliate victims.
Types of cyber stalking
Three of the most common types of cyber stalking are: online abuse, trolling and sexting.
Actions that use information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group that is intended to harm another person. Victims are often known personally by the perpetrator.
Trolling is deliberately sowing hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, or just simple bickering between others. Trolls are users who thrive in any environment where they are allowed to make public comments, like blog sites, news sites, discussion forums, game chat and starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community.
Sexting is the use of a mobile phone or other similar electronic device to distribute pictures or video of sexually explicit images. Often carried out by ex-partners who still have access to sexually explicit images to humiliate and embarrass their victim. Cyber stalkers target their victims through social media platforms, chat rooms, message boards, discussion forums and e-mail.
Cyber stalking takes many forms such as;
- Threatening or obscene e-mail or direct messages
- Spamming (in which a stalker sends a victim a multitude of junk mail)
- Live chat harassment or flaming (online verbal abuse)
- Leaving improper messages on message boards or in guest books
- Sending electronic viruses
- Sending unsolicited e-mail or direct messages
- Tracing another person’s computer and Internet activity
- Electronic identity theft
- Spyware installed on phone or computer
- Passwords changing or no longer working
- Files and contacts disappearing from a computer
- Money taken from bank accounts or goods been bought without permission
Recognising cyber stalking
Cyber stalking can leave victims feeling isolated, scared, threatened and humiliated. Hate speech and harassment is a crime and can therefore be investigated by the police. Anyone experiencing domestic abuse or cyber stalking does not have to suffer in silence.
Are you a victim?
Cyber stalking shares important characteristics with offline stalking; many stalkers – online or off – are motivated by a desire to control their victims. Many people are often not aware they are the target of a cyber stalker. The contact might start positively, but through emotional control, lull the recipient into a false sense of security.
The control can take many forms but gradually makes the person do things and behave in a way they might not feel entirely comfortable with. This control can increase until it becomes frightening, unwanted and threatening.
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