Cyber stalking is repeated contact through electronic media that causes a reasonable person to feel intimidated, afraid or controlled. The objective is to maintain or acquire personal contact with the target.
This is the most common type of stalker, and three out of four people who are stalked are stalked by someone they know, such as a former intimate partner, date or casual acquaintance.
Former romantic partners sometimes believe that their targets have wronged them, and they want to retaliate. Other times, they are intent on wreaking havoc on their target’s life, believing “if I can’t have the target, nobody will.”
Acquaintance stalkers are often attempting to get the target to notice them and actually be with them. They are typically driven by the fantasy that with enough attention, the target will be flattered and agree to face-to-face meetings.
About 10-25 percent of people who are stalked are stalked by a stranger. Strangers who engage in cyber stalking meet or target their victims through online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, and through online communities such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Friendster.
Strangers often begin with a grooming process designed to gain the trust of their target. Their goal is to gather information about the target while working towards initiating face-to-face contact. Most strangers are in the same general age range and same geographical area as their target.
Frequently, with both strangers and familiars, stalkers will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their target on Web pages, message boards and in guest books. This is designed to get a reaction or response from their target, thereby initiating contact. It is not uncommon for them to create fake blogs in the name of the victim, which contain defamatory or pornographic content. Remember, the ultimate goal is personal, face-to-face contact.
If you are a target of cyber stalking
- Do not respond to the stalker. Save all email, postings or other communications in both electronic and hard-copy form. If there’s no easy way to save the information, consider taking a screenshot of your computer screen or a photograph of your cell phone screen. Record the dates and times of any contact with the stalker, as well as a description of the incident, and note any witnesses (other people who saw the posting online, others who were copied on the email, etc).
- Under no circumstances should targets agree to meet with the perpetrator face to face to “work it out” or “talk.” No contact should ever be made with the stalker. Meeting a stalker in person can be very dangerous.
- If the contacts continue, targets may want to get a Protection Order and file a report with local law enforcement or contact their local prosecutor’s office to see what charges, if any, can be pursued. Targets should save copies of police reports and record all contact with law-enforcement officials and the prosecutor’s office.
- Targets may want to use the features offered by the phone or Internet company to block the stalker from contacting them, or change their email addresses, Internet service providers, phone numbers or other contact information. In some situations, this might cause the stalker to escalate the stalking behavior, so targets should carefully consider their safety and their individual situation before making this choice.
- Targets who relocate or change their contact information should make every effort to guard this new information carefully. Their information may be published online if they share their email address or phone number to get coupons from a store or open an account or profile with an online store or service. In addition, they can examine the possibility of using encryption software or privacy-protection programs to try to prevent the stalker from hacking into their computer to learn their new information. Any local computer store can offer a variety of protective software options and suggestions.