Most of us know what stalking is; what we don’t know is how pervasive it is. With the advent of advanced technology and communications, stalking has gone cyber. Cyberstalking is a technologically-based “attack” on one person who has been targeted for reasons of anger, revenge or control.
Sound familiar? Remember, power and control are the key motivations of abusers.
Cyberstalking can take many forms, including:
•harassment, embarrassment and humiliation of the victim
•emptying bank accounts or other economic control such as ruining the victim’s credit score
•harassing family, friends and employers to isolate the victim
•scare tactics to instill fear and more.
The term can also apply to a “traditional” stalker who uses technology to trace and locate their victim and their movements more easily (e.g. using Facebook and other social media to know where they are going).
A true cyber-stalker’s intent is to harm their intended victim using the anonymity and untraceable distance of technology. In many situations, the victims never discover the identity of the cyber-stalkers who hurt them, despite their lives being completely upended by the perpetrator. The following are documented cases that may shock/scare you:
A woman sought protection after claiming that someone had provided her personal information (including her description and location) to men via an online dating service. The victim discovered the identity theft when she was contacted by a man who said they had arranged a casual encounter through the Lavalife.com dating service. Shortly thereafter she was contacted by a second man about arranging a separate encounter. She commented “You don’t even have to own a computer to be the victim of an Internet crime anymore.”
A 44 year old publishing executive was harassed by strangers who were responding to verging-on-pornographic promises someone had made in her name online. These postings included her home address and telephone number.
A businessman stalked his ex-girlfriend using the GPS tracking device on a cell phone. He purchased a phone device that has a motion switch on it that turns itself on when it moves. As long as the device was on, it transmitted a signal every minute to the GPS satellite, which in turn sent the location information to a computer. He planted the phone underneath her car, paid for a service to send him the information and would log on to a website to monitor her location. The victim would suddenly ‘bump’ into him at the coffee shop, the airport, the mall, and even the cemetery. She knew something was up as he was also calling her 200 times a day — but police couldn’t help her. It was only when she called police after seeing him under her car that she finally got action (he was trying to change the cell phone battery).
As we see from the above incidents, the actions of a cyberstalker are deliberate and focused on the consequences to the victim.Cyberstalking provides shockingly easy and cheap tools for an abuser to locate women who have tried to move away or go into hiding.
If you or someone you know is being cyberstalked or in person, we can help. Call Crisis Services at 256.574.5826.
This article on cyberstalking was written with the assistance of cyberstalking expert Alexis A. Moore founder of the national advocacy group Survivors in Action.