Stalking and Cyber Abuse
The U.S. Department of Justice defines stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Stalking behaviors can include:
- Knowing your schedule.
- Showing up at places you go.
- Sending mail, email, and pictures that make you feel uncomfortable.
- Calling or texting repeatedly.
- Contacting you or posting about you on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
- Writing letters.
- Damaging your property.
- Creating a website about you.
- Sending gifts.
- Stealing things that belong to you.
- Any other actions to contact, harass, track, or frighten you.
You can be stalked by someone you know casually, a family member, a stranger, or a past or current friend or partner.
- Approximately 7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the United States.
- 15% of women and 6% of men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
- The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.
- Stalking is a crime under the laws of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and the Federal government.
Cyber abuse/harassment is any unwanted contact, whether it is in person or via text messages, emails, social media posts, or voicemail messages. The harassment can be threatening or abusive or messages sent over and over again, even if the content isn’t necessarily threatening. Other tactics of harassment include disclosing personal information to embarrass or hurt the victim or targeting friends, family, and colleagues.
Cyber abuse and harassment can include, but is not limited to:
- Repeated unwanted contact via text, messaging sites, email, social media, or phone calls.
- Impersonating you on social media or via text.
- Logging into your accounts without your permission.
- Reading your private messages without your permission.
- Monitoring your computer or cellphone via an app.
- Creating new or fake profiles or phone numbers in order to contact you.
Our digital devices contain a lot of our personal information—the people we know, the messages we send, the pictures we take, the websites we visit, our social media and email accounts, etc. Because of this, abusive partners often try to get access to them as a way to spy, stalk, and control.
If you feel you are being harassed or abused through technology, document everything. You may feel obliged to delete the unwanted contact so you don’t have to see it, but it is important to save everything. This can be used as evidence.
- Matthew J. Breiding et al., “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization – National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report, Vol. 63, No. 8 (2014)
- Katrina Baum et al., “Stalking Victimization in the United States,” (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009).