In general, stalking refers to actions or communication directed at a person that includes repeated physical or visual proximity, nonconsensual written, verbal or implied threats, or a mix of these actions that would cause fear in a reasonable person. Similar to domestic violence, stalking is a crime of control and power, and it can cause insomnia, social dysfunction, anxiety and depression in the victim. Learn more from our Stalking 2014 Report!
All 50 states recognized stalking as a crime, and January is recognized as the National Stalking Awareness Month by the Federal Government. For children, cyberstalking is a particularly devious and devastating crime in the age of social media.
Stalking 2014: Differentiating Between Cyber-bullying, Flaming, Cyber-stalking and Harassment
Frequently, the lines between cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking and harassment blur, and the main distinction between cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying is the age of the perpetrator and the victim. When both are minors under the age of 18, the crime is called cyber-bullying. However, the actions and effects are the same.
When a child is the target of cyber-stalking, the parents must make the decision to involve law enforcement. If the communication in question is meant only to flame the recipient, there may be nothing law enforcement can do. Below is a list of signs that will help a parent determine if the problem is flaming or has reached the level of stalking.
Stalking 2014: The type of threat includes:
- Lewd language.
- Uses direct insults.
- Uses vague threats.
- Uses threats to do bodily harm.
- Uses a general very serious threat, such as a bomb at school.
- Uses threats of bodily harm or death to the victim.
Stalking 2014: The occurrence of the threats:
- One time only.
- Repeated in the same way.
- Increasing with time.
- Including third parties and groups of perpetrators.
Stalking 2014: The source of the threatening communication:
- The victim knows the perpetrator.
- The victim thinks they know the source.
- The victim has no clue about the source.
- The communication appears to be from several different sources.
Stalking 2014: The nature of the threatening communication:
- Repeated IMs or emails.
- Following the victim around on the Internet, in chat rooms, and in other venues.
- Creating fake profiles, or posing as the victim’s IM or email.
- Planting false statements to initiate third party harassment and stalking.
- Signing up the victim for email lists, IM, junk email or porn sites.
- Hacking into the victim’s online accounts.
- Stealing or hacking passwords.
- Posting unauthorized images of the victim online.
- Posting real or doctored sexual images of the victim online.
- Posting personal information about the victim online.
- Posting intimate information about the victim, such as special problems.
- Posting contact information, especially paired with a sexual solicitation.
- Reporting the victim for false terms of service violations is called warning wars or notify wars.
- Encouraging third parties to post slut lists, hit lists, or ugly lists that include the victim.
- Encouraging others to post vicious comments on the victim’s blog.
- Hacking the victim’s computer and sending malware.
- Sending threats to others such as celebrities while posing as the victim.
- Blind copying third parties on the victim’s private emails.
- Posting mean feedback or reviews on the victim without just cause.
- Registering the victim’s name and creating a bashing site or profile.
- Posting provocative or rude comments while posing as the victim.
- Violating the terms of service of a Web site while posing as the victim.
- Creating a voting site designed to humiliate or embarrass the victim.
- Impersonating the victim for any reason.
- Posting the victim’s cell phone number or email messages to solicit abuse.
- Creating a denial of service attack on the victim’s Web site.
- Sending so-called jokes to third parties about the victim.
The more the harassing behaviour or communication is, the worse the threats, and the more dangerous the venues, the more likely the police or the legal system needs to become involved. If the personal contact information is posted online, a parent must view and react to this as a serious matter.
If the child knows the perpetrator, they may make the situation more critical, or less. However, once third parties or outside individuals become involved, such as sexually deviant groups or hate groups, then the reason for the harassing conduct makes no difference to the law.
A key course of action for a parent to take involves knowing information about the ISPs in the area prior to needing them. Making a list in advance of offline contact data, including off hours, is critical. A parent should learn to track IP addresses and preserve crucial electronic evidence. In addition, the timeline for obtaining critical subscriber information can be different with each service. Frequently, ISPs discard data after a relatively short time, such as 30 days. A quick note or request from law enforcement to the ISP will ensure the data is preserved.