Repeated electronic contact that causes a reasonable person to feel intimidated, afraid, or controlled. The objective is to maintain or acquire personal contact with the target.
The stalker is a former intimate, date, or casual acquaintance. Cyber stalkers need to maintain or gain power and control over the source of their obsession. Those that are former intimates or dates believe their targets have wronged them. They are frequently angry and have a strong need to retaliate.
The casual acquaintance is generally attempting to get the target to notice them and actually be with them. They are typically fantasy driven. They believe that with enough attention, the target will be flattered and agree to face-to-face meetings.
Strangers who engage in cyber stalking meet or target their victims by using search engines, online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, and through online communities such as MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster. Frequently, predators use these means for the solicitation of minors for sexual purposes.
Strangers begin with a grooming process designed to gain the trust of their target. Their goal is to gather information about the target while working towards initiating a face-to-face contact. Most strangers are in the same geographical area as their targets.
Frequently with both Strangers and Familiars, stalkers will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their target on web pages, message boards and in guest books. This is designed to get a reaction or response from their target, thereby initiating contact. It is not uncommon for them to create fake blogs in the name of the victim containing defamatory or pornographic content. Remember, the ultimate goal is personal, face-to-face contact.
If you are a target of Cyber stalking
- Targets should send the stalker a clear written warning. Specifically, communicate that the contact is unwanted, and tell the perpetrator to cease communications of any kind. Do this only once, no matter the response. After that there should be no further communication with the stalker. Save copies of the warning communication as well as all communications from the offender in both electronic and hard copy form. Collect all evidence and document all contact made by the stalker. Save all e-mail, postings, or other communications in both electronic and hard-copy form. Record the dates and times of any contact with the stalker.
- Under no circumstances should targets agree to meet with the perpetrator face to face to "work it out," or "talk." No contact should ever be made with the stalker. Meeting a stalker in person can be very dangerous.
- If the contacts continue, targets may want to get a Personal Protection Order and file a report with local law enforcement or contact their local prosecutor's office to see what charges, if any, can be pursued. Targets should save copies of police reports and record all contact with law enforcement officials and the prosecutor's office.
- Targets may want to consider changing their e-mail address, Internet service provider, and phone number, and should examine the possibility of using encryption software or privacy protection programs. Any local computer store can offer a variety of protective software, options and suggestions.