Cyberstalking is another form of harassment that can occur and it happens more commonly because there is a sense of anonymity on the internet today. You’ll find cyberstalking happening on social networks, chat forums, and even websites where comments are left.
One support group, WHOA, receives up to 75 complaints of cyberstalking every week.
Although there isn’t a global or even national definition of cyberstalking that exists at this moment, that doesn’t mean the practice doesn’t happen. From ex-spouses to people who just don’t agree with someone’s politics, this is a quickly growing form of harassment and unfortunately most laws aren’t catching up with the practice of cyberstalking.
- Almost 1.5 million people in the United States alone suffer from cyberstalking at least once every single year.
- 1 out of every 12 American women will suffer from at least one cyberstalking incident in their lifetime.
- The average incident of cyberstalking will last for two years and that average almost doubles if it involves people who used to be intimate with each other.
- 37% of males and 41% of females stalking victimizations were equally likely to be reported to the police.
Why bother someone at their home when you can bother someone online? The issue with cyberstalking is that it leads to a greater level of confidence in the person who is doing the stalking. When successes are found online, that can lead to the desire to have success offline as well. When that happens, dangerous situations are more likely to occur, including violent acts. It isn’t just intimate couples that get cyberstalked, however, because identity thieves are finding great success online as well. With nearly 10 million people having their identity stolen every year and very thieves being brought to justice, the incidents of cyberstalking are likely to keep increasing until laws catch up to this practice.
Why Is Stopping Cyberstalking So Important?
- Over 1.5 million women who had their identities stolen in a 2004 survey were also the victims of some sort of domestic or physical abuse.
- The average cyberstalking victim is a female, aged 18-29, and 56% of cyberstalkers are men, but could be over 80% depending on the survey that is taken.
- It is estimated that more than three women are murdered every day by their husband or significant other and domestic injury is the leading cause of violence to women aged 15-44.
- 85% of a recent survey sample of people proven to have been cyberstalking suffered from a professionally diagnosed mental disorder.
- According to a US government survey, 1.5% of the entire population will be a victim at least once of cyberstalking in the next 12 months and 4% of all women will suffer from at least one incident.
- 70% of cyberstalking victims knew the person who was stalking them in at least some fashion.
- The most common form of cyberstalking is email, which 83% of victims stated that they received.
Because people are essentially oversharing their information online today for a variety of reasons, cyberstalkers have an incredibly cost-effective way of being able to find their victims. With public records available online with just a couple of clicks, an abuser can quickly find where a former partner has moved to get away from them so the cycle of abuse can continue. Although legislation has been introduced in all 50 states in the US against cyberstalking, only 38 states actually have laws on the books. Victims can sue cyberstalkers for damages that have been suffered, but if an incident turns violent because there are no real controls in place, that’s little comfort that can be provided.
What Causes Cyberstalking to Increase?
- Although email is the most common form of cyberstalking, Facebook is the most common method of having an incident become escalated as 22% of victims who reported an escalation had this happen on the social network.
- Telephone calls and text messaging are also common ways for a cyberstalking incident to become escalated.
- 63% of Facebook profiles are visible to the public and some privacy settings may allow cyberstalkers to see more information than Facebook friends are able to see.
- 55% of teens will share personal information with the general public without any privacy settings in place.
- 29% of teens in the United States have suffered from at least one cyberstalking incident by someone who was a complete stranger to them.
- Desktops and laptops are the primary tools for cyberstalkers to use.
- About 83% of college students say that they regularly check their ex’s Facebook page on a regular basis.
When a break-up isn’t a mutually wanted thing, the internet becomes a good resource for people to feel like they can stay in touch with their relationship. Gone are the days when letters or face-to-face conversations were the only ways that someone could keep up with someone else who didn’t want them around. That’s why it is so important to maximize the security settings on Facebook and other social networking sites, such as Twitter, so that cyberstalking incidents can be minimized. It may even become necessary to change email addresses after a bad breakup, like people are willing to change phone numbers.
How Fast is Cyberstalking Developing?
- 70% of people admit that they’ve either used their friend’s Facebook account or created a secondary account to check on the profile of an ex after being unfriended.
- 74% of people check the Facebook profile of an ex’s new significant other on a regular basis.
- It is estimated that up to 20% of divorces in some countries are directly tied to decisions that are documented on Facebook and other social media websites.
The easiest way to stop cyberstalking is to not open emails, set privacy settings to their highest levels, and not overshare information online. Simple pictures of a house can show people where access points are, where your stuff is, and where you tend to sleep in your home’s layout. If the information is limited, then there is less of a risk to becoming a victim of cyberstalking.