Stalking & Cyberstalking

Stalking

Stalking, according to the US Department of Justice, 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 phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property. It is any communication or behavior that causes emotional distress, such as being afraid for your safety. Stalking is illegal in Georgia, even if an overt threat of death or bodily injury has not been made. Whether or not a stalker makes a threat has no bearing on whether or not he/she poses a threat.

Types of stalkers

Intimate partner stalkers are people who refuses to believe that their relationship has ended. Intimate partner stalkers are not sympathetic, lonely people who are hopelessly in love, but are emotionally abusive and controlling to those with whom they had intimate relationships. If a stalker cannot have a victim's love, he/she will settle for the victim's hatred and/or fear. The worst thing for an intimate partner stalker is to be ignored, therefore negative attention is better than no attention. Intimate partner stalkers truly believe "she/he loves me," and any evidence to the contrary is seen as an inconvenience to overcome.

Delusional stalkers are people who have had little, if any, time with his/her victim. Delusional stalkers may have major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, manic-depression, or erotomania. Erotomaniac stalkers believe that the victim is in love with him/her and they are having a relationship, even though they may have never met. Other delusional stalkers believe that they are destined to be with someone, and if they pursue the person long enough, love is inevitable. These stalkers know that they are not having relationships with their victims, but believe that one day they will.

Vengeful stalkers are not motivated by love but by vengeance. Vengeful stalkers are angry with their victims over some slight, real or imagined. In college and university communities, vengeful stalkers are likely to target members of the faculty/staff. Some of these stalkers are psychopaths, while some are delusional and truly believe that they are the victims. Vengeful stalkers stalk to get even.

Phases of stalking

  • Obsession: The stalker becomes enamored of his/her victim.
  • Information gathering: The stalker gathers information about his/her victim from family, friends, co-workers, and various surveillance operations.
  • Harassment: The stalker participates in either positive or negative harassment of the victim. Positive harassment includes sending the victim gifts, such as flowers or candy. Negative harassment includes making threats or killing the victim's pet(s).
  • Violence (extermination):. The stalker commits physical or sexual violence against the victim, which can lead to murder.

Behaviors

Stalking behaviors can include:

  • Writing letters.
  • Damaging your property.
  • Knowing your schedule.
  • Showing up at places you go.
  • Sending mail, e-mail, and pictures.
  • Creating a Web site about you.
  • Sending gifts.
  • Stealing things that belong to you.
  • Calling you repeatedly.
  • Any other actions that the stalker takes to contact, harass, track, or frighten you.

If You are Being Stalked

  • Tell the stalker no once and only once. The more you respond, the more he/she realizes that his/her actions elicit a response.
  • Document everything, even if you are not sure you want to take the legal route - you may change your mind. Save answering machine tapes, voice mail messages, text messages, letters, gifts, etc. Keep a log of all suspicious occurrences.
  • Have co-workers screen all calls and visitors.
  • Don't accept packages unless you ordered them or you are expecting a package from family members or friends.
  • Install a locking gas cap that is only accessible from inside your car.
  • Get a cell phone and keep it with you at all times - even when inside your house.
  • If you are in your car and you believe you are being followed, make four right hand turns in succession. If the car continues to follow you, drive to the nearest police station or well-lit public place. If you believe you are being followed never go home or to a friend's house.
  • Consider moving, if your case warrants it.
  • Don't be embarrassed by your situation. Shame is a stalker's best weapon. Tell your family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, etc. that you are being stalked so when the stalker approaches those who are close to you for the purpose of gathering information about you, they will know to ignore his inquiries and inform you of his actions immediately.
  • Consider filing for a restraining/protective order. Research how these orders are enforced in your area, and contact local violence prevention organizations before you make a decision.

Cyberstalking

CyberStalking is, according to the US Department of Justice, using the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. Harassment via the Internet may seem harmless and less frightening than physical world harassment, but it can become dangerous. The Internet has no boundaries, therefore CyberStalkers can find potential victims, access their personal information, and harass them, while retaining their anonymity and relinquishing responsibility for their actions.

Types of Cyberstalking

E-Mail CyberStalking includes attempts to initiate a relationship, repair a relationship, or threaten and traumatize a person. Unsolicited e-mail is the most common form and includes hate, obscene, or threatening mail, sending the victim computer viruses, or sending high volumes of electronic junk mail.

IInternet CyberStalking is used to slander and endanger victims, taking on a public rather than private dimension. Harassment includes hacking, spoofing, the use of spy ware, and the use of offensive content such as pornographic images and e-mail bombs. A stalker will visit a chat room pretending to be his/her victim or post information about his/her victim on a bulletin board. The information most often contains the victim's name, address, and telephone number, and a message inviting strangers to join in sexual activity. Internet CyberStalkers can follow their victims from place to place on the Internet, and can build and maintain websites dedicated to their victims, encouraging visitors to participate in degrading and harassing her/him.

Computer Cyberstalkers can assume control of their victims' computers. This stalker will be able to communicate directly with his/her victim as soon as the victim connects to the Internet. Changing your Internet address and/or your Internet Service Provider are the only ways to get rid of this type of stalker.

Motives of Cyberstalkers

In many cases, the cyberstalker and the victim have had a prior relationship and the cyberstalking begins when the victim attempts to end the relationship. However, given the enormous amount of personal information available via the Internet, strangers can easily locate "private" information about a potential victim.

  • Sexual harassment is the most common form of CyberStalking. Women are more likely than men to be victims. Victims receive unsolicited private messages in any chat forum that, for example, are derogatory toward women in general.
  • Love obsessions sometimes start in real life and carry over into cyberspace, but they also develop from online romances. Once they realize the fantasy cannot come true, they begin sending death threats to their victims.
  • Hate/revenge vendetta Cyberstalkers begin their harassment disguised as a flame war, or verbally abusive dialogue. These CyberStalkers are rude, obnoxious, and have no problem hurling their obscene remarks at others. They are empowered by their anonymity and will not let go.
  • Power/ego Cyberstalkers have nothing against you at all. They are just showing off their technological skills at your expense.
  • Pedophile Cyberstalkers contact children in chat rooms, posing as teenagers or children of similar ages. They become friendly with potential victims until they gain their confidences. They begin sending pornographic images to their victims, extracting personal information from their victims, and attempting to set up a meeting with their victims, which the pedophile expects will lead to sexual activity.

If You are Being Cyberstalked

  • Make it clear to the stalker that you do not want any contact. Provide this information only once.
  • Report the incident to the system administrator of both your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and, if you know, the ISP of the stalker/harasser.
  • Report the incident to your local law enforcement agency.
  • Document everything. Make copies of all correspondence sent to you. Do not edit or alter the information in any way.
  • Consider blocking or filtering messages from the stalker. Chat room contact can be blocked.
  • Clear out history information.
  • Use an alias in chat rooms, as most chat rooms have archives that can be accessed later by anyone.
  • Change your Internet/e-mail address.
  • Consider changing your ISP.

Sources

UGA Office For Violence Prevention

Georgia Southern University Sexual Assault Response Team