Cyberstalking: A Growing Problem

We have written before about cyberstalking, the disturbing use of technology by stalkers. WeNews reports that “stories like these [involving cyberstalking] are becoming more common.” While cyberstalking affects both women and men, women are disproportionately targets. According to a National Violence Against Women Survey, 80% of targets of stalking of any kind are women and 60% of cyberstalking targets are women.

Cyberstalking can involve perceived threats, harassment, and worse. Karen Baker, director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, defined cyberstalking to WeNews as “threatening behavior or unwanted advances that use computer communications.” Baker stated that 1 in 4 adults has been the target of a cyberstalker.

The utilization of technology allows stalkers to harass their target from oceans away. A teenage boy in Western Australia sent a girl in Wisconsin various “gifts,” including a Domino’s pizza. Worried, the girl blocked the boy on Facebook. After realizing that he had been blocked from the girl’s Facebook, the boy began to threaten her via e-mail and text. One text read, “If you thought ultimate love was bad, wait till you see ultimate hate. I’ll ruin your life. I know exactly where you live.”

Luckily, authorities were able to find the boy from his internet protocol (IP) address which he used when ordering the pizza online. The boy was arrested and “may face stalking, fraud and harassment charges, according to a police report.”

Some targets are not as lucky as the Wisconsin girl was. WeNews relates cases of cyberstalking that resulted in more violent consequences.

In Ohio, a high school student committed suicide after her ex-boyfriend sent nude photos of her to her classmates via text message from his cell phone.

In Florida, a female teen stabbed and killed a romantic rival after exchanging months of threats on the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook.

In Wyoming, a woman was raped by a stranger when her ex-boyfriend posted an ad on Craiglist.com calling for a man to go to her house, pretend to attack her and act out a “rape fantasy.”

Legislators have taken notice of the growing instances of cyberstalking. The Rhode Island House passed a bill which would make cyberstalking by a relative or household member a crime listed under domestic violence offenses. While cyberstalking is already a crime in Rhode Island, making it a domestic violence offense would “automatically prohibit offenders from contacting victims, prompt tougher criminal penalties for repeat convictions and provide victims with advocacy services.” Congress is considering a bill that would extend the federal definition of stalking to cyberstalking.

To find out what cyberstalking laws your state has, click here.

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