Cyber Crime Expert Endorses National Stalking Awareness Month
President of WHOA
WHOA Press Release #2009-1
NATIONAL STALKING AWARENESS MONTH
cyberstalking awareness/education highlighted
January, 2009 - A Congressional resolution introduced in July, 2003, following the stalking and tragic murder of Peggy Klinke in California, promoted supporting a National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). This year, in January, marks the sixth consecutive NSAM, a time when all efforts are encouraged to increase public awareness and understanding of the crime of stalking. Jayne A. Hitchcock is president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) and WHOA-KTD (Kids/Teens Division), all-volunteer organizations that help victims of online harassment and cyberstalking. A former cyberstalking victim herself, Hitchcock understands the nature of this crime and strives to fulfill what she feels is her responsibility to educate, counsel and support other victims of cyberstalking. The theme for 2009 is “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” and it appropriately challenges everyone to combat this dangerous crime by learning more about it.
The National Conference of State Legislatures attributed electronic communications as a factor in from 20 to 40 percent of all stalking cases. Forty-five states currently have (or have pending) legislation that explicitly deals with electronic forms of communication within cyberstalking or harassment laws. It is estimated that 1.4 million victims a year are stalked and that 78% of stalkers use more than one means of contacting the victim. The Violence Against Women Act, passed in 2000, made cyberstalking a part of the federal interstate stalking statute. The more that can be known about stalking, the more that can be done to protect against it. According to WHOA’s proprietary statistics released in 2008 (for the previous year), email was the primary way victims were contacted by harassers, no matter where they encountered their harasser previously. Email was followed by message boards (which included forums, groups and usenet), Instant Messaging (IM), Web sites, chat, Myspace and eBay. Other ways harassment began included Craigslist, photo Web sites, online dating, online gaming, blogs, forged profiles and Facebook.
Cyberstalkers can be difficult to stop and their methods include many forms. Social networking sites (such as Facebook and Myspace) get mixed reviews on safety issues. Participating safely in any social site depends on the amount of information that is made available to the general public. There is no doubt predators look for victims and that predators present themselves to be innocent, young, harmless would-be buddies. On the positive side, social networking sites provide an opportunity for friends to communicate all across the world, friends they would otherwise never have been able to meet. Other forms of cyberstalking could be email that is often threatening or obscene, spamming that includes sending a multitude of junk email, live chat harassment (verbal abuse), flaming, leaving improper messages on message boards or in guest books intended to humiliate and diminish the victim, sending electronic viruses, sending unsolicited e-mail, registering a victim’s name with porno sites, tracing another person's computer and Internet activity, and electronic identity theft.
“The important thing to remember,” according to Hitchcock, “is that the Internet is never going to go away. Everybody needs to learn how stay to be safe if they want to conduct business and socialize online. There is no sense in parents banning the kids from social sites instead teach them to never give out personal information, such as real name, address, phone number, class schedule and social plans, to strangers who may be predators. Make sure that privacy settings for profiles are set high. Also, people have to begin to understand that you can’t take back anything you put online, so do not put anything online that could harm you in the future. Future employers may be adversely influenced by things an applicant was involved in on the Internet.”
For victims suffering psychological trauma, online stalking is every bit as terrifying as offline stalking because the victim never knows when the online stalking might escalate to offline stalking. According to Hitchcock, “it’s like waiting for that other shoe to drop – victims stay in a tense state of watchful waiting.” Victims may demonstrate mood changes and severe depression, social dysfunction, insomnia and eating pattern changes, nightmares, hyper vigilance, anxiety, and they may appear fearful.
According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, cyberstalking victims should:
1. Victims under the age of 18 should tell their parents or another trusted adult about any threats.
2. If the stalker is known, send one clear written warning to stop. Under no circumstances communicate with the stalker again.
3. Collect all evidence and document all contact by the stalker, save all electronic communications and make hard-copy documentations.
4. Document how the harassment is affecting their lives and what steps they have taken to stop the behavior.
5. If the stalker continues contact, file a complaint with the stalker’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) and contact their own ISP for any help they can provide.
6. Victims may want to file a report with local law enforcement to see if any charges can be pursued. Save copies of police reports.
7. Consider changing email address, ISP, home phone number.
8. Become educated about steps that can be taken or software that can be used to encrypt or use privacy programs.
9. Contact online directory listings such as www.four11.com, www.switchboard.com, and www.whowhere.com to request removal from their directory.
10. Never agree to meet with the stalker face to face. Meeting a stalker in person can be very dangerous.
Jayne A. Hitchcock is a cyber crime expert who trains law enforcement from the local to federal levels, 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 edition (netcrimes.net), 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 schedule an interview with Hitchcock contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about WHOA, the oldest and largest all-volunteer online safety organization that has been continuously helping adult victims of cyber stalking since 1997, and Kids/Teens since 2005, or if you know someone who needs help, please visit www.haltabuse.org and www.haltabusektd.org