Saturday, June 14, 2014

Understanding Cyber Stalking

By David Simms, Senior Contributor

Cyber stalking is when a person’s privacy is invaded and they are followed and pursued online. It is a form of harassment, and can disrupt the life of the victim and leave them feeling very afraid and threatened. Typically, the cyber stalker's victim is inexperienced or relatively new to the internet therefore being unfamiliar with taking certain precautions when dealing with others online. Cyber stalker’s main targets are mostly females, children, or those perceived as emotionally weak or unstable. Although there are many statistics showing trends and numbers of those affected, they are largely inaccurate as a high percentage of cases go unreported. As bad as the phenomenon appears to be, we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg.  Many children who are harassed will not report it in fear of being targeted all the more as  tattletales. Adults may be even less likely to report due to extreme embarrassment in their workplace or at home with their families where they are viewed as protector. This fact makes it especially difficult for men and only intensifies the damaging effects.  

There are generally two types of cyber stalking situations that arise.  One is when the activity begins online and remains online. This can have devastating effects on a victim’s mental state depending on their personal situation and could ultimately end in suicide. The other type is when activity begins online and transfers to physical stalking. Obviously this ratchets the danger to a whole new level compounding the distress felt by a victim.  The motivations of a cyber stalker can originate from several places. It could be from an argument that got out of hand leading to some kind of need by the stalker to seek revenge on you. This could be the result of something you may have innocently said or done online that gave the wrong perception. Although many revenge stalking cases begin with some kind of provoking argument, they can begin for no reason at all leaving a victim clueless as to how they were targeted and why. In many situations neither the victim nor the stalker will know each other. A victim may be chosen at random for the stalker to unleash pent up hate and frustration resulting from an unrelated matter. Unbelievably, there are also stalkers who want to show off their skills to themselves and their friends.  They are simply doing it for fun without any realisation of the terror and damage they are causing to another life. Most people who receive threats online imagine their harasser to be large and powerful, but in fact the threat may be coming from a child who does not really have any means of carrying out the physical threats made.  But having said this, a victim should always take threats and harassment seriously. As laws become more effective in dealing with this troubling area of crime, perpetrators will be less able to hide behind their computer screens. It is my belief we will see a dramatic decrease in cyber crimes when people are fearful of being caught and held accountable for what they are doing.