Cyberstalking

How to Avoid Being Stalked in Cyberspace (and What To Do If You Are)

Using electronic media, such as the Internet, email, or other electonic communications devices, to repeatedly threaten and harass another person is a crime.  Cyberstalking is similiar to physical stalking in that the stalker's intended purpose is to exert or maintain control over his or her victim.  In most cases the person being stalked is usually familiar with the stalker!

Cyberstalking differs from physical stalking because the victim and the perpatrator can be seperated geographically and that the stalker generally relies on the Internet to harass and/or threaten the victim.  The stalker can also easily encourage other Internet users to victimize his or her target by posing as the victim in chatrooms or by posting inflammatory message on internet bulletin boards, etc.

Just like physical stalking, cyberstalking can lead to physical violence, where victims can suffer psychological trauma, often resulting in a variety of conditions from anxiety and depression to insomnia.  Moreover, the lack of direct contact between the victim and the cyberstalker can hamper efforts by law enforcement to find and arrest the offender.

The National Crime Prevention Council offers the following tips to help protect yourself from becoming a victim to cyberstalking:

  • Make a list of safe sites (sites that adopt an anti-harassment policy and follow through with it.  Only use those sites.
  • Never give out any personal information about yourself to strangers in emails and chatrooms or on social media websites.
    • Don't publish your residence hall and room number or your phone number on your facebook or other social media websites.
  • When you are online, only type things you would actually say to someone face-to-face. Think about how what you say might be interpreted without the context of body language and voice.
  • Make sure that your screen name is neutral; never use your real name, nickname, or any type of suggestive name.
  • Be very cautious about meeting an online acquaintance in person. If you choose to do so, always take someone with you and meet in a public place.
  • If you expereince contact with someone that is unpleasant or hostile, loff off immediately. Report the incident to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Most chat rooms and bulletin boards have a reporting system for unpleasant encounters.

The following tips are helpful if you find yourself the victim of cyberstalking:

  • Make it absolutely clear to the stalker that you would like him or her not to contact you again.
  • If you are under the age of 18, immediately talk to your parents or an adult you can trust about the situation. You may be in physical danger. 
    • If you reside on campus, contact Campus Safety immediately!
  • If your email program has filtering capabilities, use them to block or filter email from the stalker. Sometimes you can block chatroom contact as well. 
    • If you are using the College email system, this can be done.
  • Inform your ISP of the situation and request a new log-on name and password. If your ISP is not responsive, get a new account. 
    • If it is a York College account, contact the College IT department to learn what options are available to you.
  • Keep a log of all communications from the stalker. Make copies of every email, and do not alter them in any way.  This is very important because this may be your only evidence of the crime.
  • If the harassment does not stop, contact your local police department and tell them the situation. 
    • If you reside on campus, contact Campus Safety and make the report.

Campus Safety may be reached, at any time, at 717.815.1314, however, if you feel that you are in immediate danger, call 9.1.1. immediately for assistance.

Fore more information, contact the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC). You can call the Victim Assistance Hotline at 800.FYI.CALL Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST or by sending an email to gethelp@ncvc.org.  Visit NCVC's Stalking Resource Center at www.ncvc.org/src/.