Cyberstalking

We have all been victims of Cyberstalking, at some or other stage during the “Internet Rage” . We may even have checked up on old friends, ex boyfriends etc, all within reason! We felt compelled to share the article below with you, as we ourselves have become “victims” of a Cyberstalker in the form of an ex-employee! We all remember vividly and with horror how this staff member used to hack into other people’s bank accounts, hack into their emails and read them without the person knowing, check out their facebook page and sit back with great satisfaction with the knowledge that she knew everything about them, yet they had no clue they were in fact the victim of “Cyberstalking” – a very dangerous game indeed!

There are steps that can be taken, and one needs to act and tread very carefully to catch these people out and put a stop to it once and for all! Not only is it creepy to Cyberstalk, but it is indeed a very sad individual who cannot let go of past relationships, past friendships as well as past associations! These people need to seek help for themselves to overcome this addiction, and if you are anyone know of anyone out there “Cyberstalking”, we urge you to urge them to seek help!

CYBERSTALKING

Cyberstalking is now more common than physical harassment, according to new figures due to be released next week, with many victims finding themselves pursued by complete strangers as well as acquaintances online.

The first study of its kind to look at the extent and effect of Cyberstalking, taking in social networking sites, email and mobile phones, has revealed the profile of perpetrators to be radically different from those who pursue victims face-to-face. Victims surveyed by Echo, at BU, reported that their harassers were more likely to be someone already known to them.

Another major finding was that nearly 40% of Cyberstalking victims are men. Past studies have identified women as much more at risk from face-to-face stalking.

Most of the victims surveyed were aged 20 to 39, although ages ranged from 14 to 74, with teenagers reporting social networking sites as the environment in which they were most likely to be harassed.

“There have been threats to kill. They give the impression that they know where their victims live and can get at them physically. There is a lot of damage to or loss of reputation, people being compromised by false allegations. I spoke to a teacher who was followed through chat rooms and the net by someone claiming to have met him through a child porn site. He had a very supportive head but it went on for several years. He never found out who or what their intention was.”

The pattern of harassment is different between male and female victims, with men targeted by strangers more than women. Around 37% of men were stalked by a stranger, compared with 23% of women. Only 4% reported being stalked by a former partner, compared with victims of face-to-face stalking, where around half are former partners and friends.

The largest category of all victims where the perpetrator was a stranger did not know where they had come from, how they were targeted and never found out who pursued them.. One in five said the offender targeted them via social networking sites and 16% via blogging forums. Only 4% came from online dating.

250 victims were interviewed through a questionnaire, and it is clear that a third of all victims reported clinically recognised symptoms of PTSD, men and women often reacted differently. “For women the fear is of physical violence to themselves and then to their families or children. For men, they are afraid of damage to their reputation.

“The population who harass online are different to the population already understood as harassers by the police and the legislators, so the risks are unclear.”

The British Crime Survey 2006 estimates up to 5 million people experience stalking each year, but there are no official statistics on the percentage Cyberstalked.

Last week MPs called for an overhaul in the laws governing such crimes, so that both stalking and Cyberstalking is legally defined. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the law most used to deal with stalking, has not been updated since the explosion of social media, and does not include online stalking.

At the launch of a parliamentary campaign on the issue, most victims reported that they were unable to get the police to take it seriously; that police found it extremely difficult to gather evidence or were met with a lack of understanding of how best to use the law.

A report by the National Stalking Helpline, due out next week, National Stalking Awareness Week, is expected to reveal that more than half of all calls to the helpline are those who have been harassed online or by mobile phone.

A well known expert in the Internet Industry, said that areas such as stalking through social networking sites and the use of the internet to damage reputations were poorly understood by police and not properly defined in law. It is often difficult to get information from internet service providers and proving attribution can be difficult as stalkers have multiple untraceable means of accessing the internet.

He has called for a change in the law to “catch up with technology”. He said: “There needs to be training for police and probation into the nature of stalking, the nature of stalking behaviour and how to investigate, particularly internet crimes.”

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED HARASSMENT OR STALKING

Report – as soon as you are concerned contact your local police.

Evidence – gather evidence including times and means of stalking. Save any texts, emails, Facebook messages, screenshots

You should then assist police AND report to the network provider/ISP/Facebook. The service providers may not be able or willing to help, but you must log the complaint.

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