2007 Cyberstalking Statistics Released

I'm posting the official press release, but the interesting items from this past year were:

1) Male and female harassers were almost equal - males were 39%, females 30% (the remainder were unknown gender by the victim). We began calculating statistics at WHOA in 2000, and back then 68% of harassers were male. Over the years, we've seen the number of female harassers increasing, which wasn't a total surprise. Most people think they can remain "anonymous" online, which leads to more women harassing not only exes, but complete strangers and not just men - women are being harassed by women more frequently. It's sad when you work on cases with victims and see how a supposed adult female (or male, for that matter) act like immature children.

2) Although only 7% of the cases involved harassment by a family member, what was very surprising was that almost all of those cases involved an estranged *father* as the harasser. Yep, you read right. Scary, isn't it?

3) We saw an increase in how the harassment started by means other than the usual email, message boards, IM and chat. Those include Myspace, Facebook, Craigslist, photo web sites, gaming web sites, blogs, guestbook and forged profiles on dating or other sites.

I always said that as more people went online, more people would be harassed. My prediction is coming true. It's not that people are inherently bad, it's just that the perceived anonymity is what does it. And that the majority of web sites hosting forums, networking, etc do not live up to their terms of service or do not feel they should account for who joins their sites.

Not to pick on any one site in particular, but because of their popularity, Myspace and Facebook are the worst offenders. They do not make you prove you are a real person when you join. If they did (and yes, that would mean more money out of their pockets to institute a viable verification system - which CAN be done) the majority of harassment, bullying, predators and scam artists would significantly decline. Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and other free email/services need to do the same thing. I have worked on too many cases where someone has opened a free email account, sent the victim harassing/threatening emails, shut down the account, then opened up a new one and kept up the harassment.

For example, my niece and nephew (ages 11 and 9 respectively) have a web sites on Freewebs.com. They're kids. It's a cute site. But in the last few weeks, some idiot has been harassing them, even putting up an anti site encouraging people to put nasty comments on the kids site. Their mom and dad filed complaints with Freewebs, but got no reply. I sent a complaint on their behalf (without mentioning I was their aunt) and got a reply that the subscriber had to file the complaint. When I fired back that they HAD complained and got no response, the offending page was taken down. Then this harasser guessed the kids password (which has since been changed to something I created for them) and put up a nasty page on their site. If Freewebs had taken the complaint seriously when it first was sent, this person wouldn't have gone any further (I would hope). Now I'm fighting with them to be more responsive. Grrr.

If these web sites took some accountability for their services and had a safer environment, responded to users complaints PROMPTLY and verified users, the Internet wouldn't be the sh--hole it's fast becoming. If we, the people, don't stand up and say we're sick and tired of the spammers, scammers, predators, harassers, trolls, bullies and general bad guys online, then you know what will eventually happen? The governments of the world will get together and take control of the Internet and you and I will lose control of a very wonderful thing we've been given.

There are many terrific web sites out there. There are great people out there. But the bad guys discovered a long time ago how to use the Internet for their nefarious ways and it's hurting the rest of us.

I've said my piece. Here's the official press release:

Press Contacts:
Jayne Hitchcock,
President of WHOA

Dee Andersson
WHOA Press Release #2008-5
For Immediate Release


WHOA Shows How Online Trends Have Changed The Past Eight Years
May, 2008 - Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) released their 2007 cyberstalking statistics today, as well as cumulative statistics for the past eight years, from 2000-2007. WHOA is the oldest and largest all-volunteer online safety organization that has been continuously helping adult victims of cyberstalking since 1997. WHOA is the only online organization to provide the most up-to-date cyberstalking statistics and cumulative trends.

WHOA statistics represent cases where victims completed questionnaires in their entirety, but the figures do not represent the total number of cases that are brought to WHOA, which average 50-75 cases each week. All criteria gathered are only from victims who fill out the voluntary demographic information in the questionnaires provided on the WHOA web site at haltabuse.org , thus ensuring comparable and meaningful statistics. WHOA estimates they handle between 50-75 cases a week.

“In addition to victim questionnaires, we work on cases directly with law enforcement, on high profile cases we have been directly approached for, or with victim assistance organizations or lawyers,” notes Jayne Hitchcock, WHOA president. “We don’t see online harassment and cyberstalking disappearing anytime in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, creative, clever and skilled perpetrators develop new twists and turns on a daily basis focused to target new victims. This includes, but is not limited to predators, bullies, and scams. More people go online for the first time each and every single day, making them vulnerable to the ‘bad guys’ out there. Currently there are over one billion people online worldwide – if only one percent become victims, that’s ten million people!”

The trust WHOA earns from victims they have helped enables the group to develop reliable cyberstalking demographic numbers. However, as the statistics are generated from information supplied by the victims, verification is not always possible. WHOA bases their cyberstaling statistics on a total of 2,285 completed questionnaires over the past eight years, 249 of those from 2007. Although females are still the primary victims, with males as the primary harassers, male victims and female harassers have significantly increased over the years. : The complete statistics are located on the WHOA Web site.

• Both Male and Female harassers in 2007 were almost dead even, where there was a significant 10% difference between the two last year, with males being the primary harasser. This significant trend shows that the perceived anonymity of the Internet provides female harassers with an opportunity to terrorize victims of both sexes.

• In 2007, WHOA saw a decrease in victims aged 18-30, from 40% to 28%, and victims aged 31-40, from 29% in 2006 down to 24%, while those aged 41 and over was about the same. However, many victims were relunctant to reveal their ages last year, an increase of over 15% over 2006.

• More than half of the victims did not know their harassers last year, reinforcing the fact that not all online stalking victims are being harassed by an ex.

• However, those who did know their harasser saw a marked decrease in the “ex” factor – while 47% were harassed by an ex in 2006, only 31% were harassed by an ex last year.

• A surprising change were victims harassed by a family member – an increase of almost 9%. WHOA received complaints of victims being harassed not only by co-workers, employees, fellow students, teachers, or friends, but also roommates, customers and case involving co-owners of a business who had a falling out.

• California, repeated it’s position of being number one when it comes to victims and harassers, which hasn’t changed over the last eight years (except for 2000, when Texas was the number one location for harassers). Canada took 2nd place for the third year in a row for victims, and swapped places with New York as the 2nd location of harassers last year.

• Email still remained the primary way victims were contacted by harassers, no matter where they encountered their harasser previously, with an increase of 5% over the previous year. Email was followed by message boards (which includes forums, groups and usenet), Instant Messaging (IM), Web sites, chat, Myspace and eBay. . Other ways harassment began included Craigslist, photo Web sites, online gaming, blogs, forged profiles and Facebook.

• Online escalation of the harassment sharply rose from 40.5% to 600% between 2004 and 2005, dropped to 44% in 2006 and then increased again in 2007 to 55%.

• The escalation included (in this order) email, message boards, impersonation (forged profiles on social networking, dating and personal ad sites), IM, Web sites, Craigslist, chat, Myspace, blogs and text messages (via cell phones).

• Offline harassment/physical violence threats went up to 24% versus 22% last year but the number of victims who reported harassment to law enforcement, the harasser’s Internet service provider (ISP) or someone else dropped from last year’s 72.5% to 59% in 2007.

• Only 44% of the cases involved victims and harassers located in the same state or country

WHOA successfully resolved 74% of the cases they received in 2007. These sometimes involved multiple actions, which included WHOA contacting the ISP, web host, moderator or other online entity; or the victim made changes, such as their password, username, email address, profiles or changing options in their online account. In the 26% of cases WHOA couldn’t resolve, victims were either referred to law enforcement or a lawyer, or it wasn’t a case (usually spam).

So, why do online harassers do it? According to WHOA President Jayne Hitchcock, “it is practically impossible to know exactly what triggers someone to do what they do online. For the stranger-on-stranger cases, just like road rage on the highway, you don’t know why that person starts chasing someone else in their car. It’s the same thing on the information superhighway, what I call‘Internet road rage,’ – you don’t know what someone starts harassing someone online and ‘chasing’ them online.It could start with an innocent statement that the harasser perceives as a personal insult or injustice, or it may be the result of faulty information, rumor, jealousy, inflated ego, or just a result of a simple misunderstanding that escalated and grew to become a serious problem.”

WHOA president Jayne Hitchcock is a cyber crime expert who trains law enforcement from the local to federal level, and assists the US Department of Justice Office (USDJO) for Victims of Crime and National Center for Victims of Crime. She trains advocate groups, conducts seminars, raises awareness of cyber crime and harassment and lectures educators, librarians, parents and students at middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities about the dangers of bullies, predators, stalkers and online social networking sites. She has appeared as an expert in various media, including America’s Most Wanted, PEOPLE magazine, Primetime Thursday with Diane Sawyer, TIME magazine, the Associated Press, The Montel Williams Show, A&E’s Investigative Reports, 48 Hours, Ladies Home Journal, Campus Security Reports, Inside Edition, Good Morning America and CNN. Her latest book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors 2nd editon, highlights online crimes, how to be safer online and what to do if you are victimized.Video Professor recently released a 3-CD tutorial based on the book.

To interview Hitchcock, please contact her via email whoa@haltabuse.org. Statistics may be quoted in media and on web sites with appropriate recognition to WHOA. To learn more about WHOA, or if you know someone who needs help, please visit the web site.


Nate said…
It sad to know that these people base on statistic who are harassing. Indeed they act like a immature children.
Leonard said…
Nice post which It's not that people are inherently bad, it's just that the perceived anonymity is what does it. And that the majority of web sites hosting forums, networking, etc do not live up to their terms of service or do not feel they should account for who joins their sites. Thanks a lot for posting this article.

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