Cyberstalking, Harassment, and Bullying:
Characteristics of Perpetrators of Online Abuse
Cristina A. Aakre, M.A. & Kristine M. Jacquin, Ph.D.
American College of Forensic Psychology 2019
Cyberstalkers Forensic Implications
• Bullying is an intentional, repeated, hostile
act that is carried out over a period of
time, typically involving a power disparity
between the bully and the victim.
• Cyberstalking can be defined as repeated
aggressive behavior towards another
person on an online or computer-based
format that makes a reasonable person
fear for their safety (Finn, 2004).
• Cyberbullying can take multiple forms,
including harassment, defamation,
denigration, impersonation, exclusion, or
cyberstalking (Samara et al., 2017)
• The internet provides a sense of
anonymity for perpetrators to use in
harassing victims, even though most
digital input leads a trail back to the
• Eventually the identity of the stalker is
known (Baum et al., 2009).
• Stalkers use the internet to collect
information about their victims and to post
destructive data about them, sometimes
even impersonating the victim (Baum et
• Stalkers use information they have
collected to cause extreme stress and
destruction on the victim’s life (Baum et
• Cyber victims have been found to have
low self esteem, symptoms of depression,
and emotional and peer difficulties
(Samara et al., 2017)
• Cyberstalkers choose their victims and
terrorize them based on a variety of factors
including age, race, gender, sexual
orientation, or religious preference (Alexy,
Burgess, Baker, & Smoyak, 2005).
• Research has shown that stalking has
effects on the emotional and mental health
of the victims in an offline setting
(Kamphuis & Emmelkamp, 2001).
• Victimization rates for cyberstalking have
been noted from as low as 5% to as high
as 85% of the population (Alexy, Burgess,
Baker, & Smoyak, 2005; Bocij, Bocij, &
• Researchers have examined attachment,
violence, anger, and jealousy as possible
explanations for the behaviors of
cyberstalking perpetrators (Strawhun,
Adams, & Huss, 2013).
• As the use of digital technology increased
over the years so has cyberstalking.
• Anti-stalking laws added provisions to
include electronic communication (Fraser,
Olsen, Lee, Southworth, & Tucker, 2010).
• Stalking was prevalent before the digital
age but the danger includes giving the
perpetrator more tools to engage with.
• Cyberstalking is also much more invasive
for the victim (Fraser, Olsen, Lee,
Southworth, & Tucker, 2010)
• One in four victims report the stalker uses
technology (Baum et al., 2009).
• Technology is an inexpensive way for
stalkers to instill fear and harass their victims
(Baum et al., 2009).
• Some technologies enable the collection of
evidence while others make it hard to prove
the identity of the perpetrator.
• This can lead harassment and stalking to
continue for months before law enforcement
is able to pursue action (Baum et al., 2009).
• Elements of stalking cases might focus on
other charges without ever pursuing a
stalking charge due to the complexity of
some cases (Baum et al., 2009).
• Law enforcement has a small window of time
to collect evidence in stalking cases. When
taking legal action, law enforcement should
look at all applicable laws that may have
• If stalking criteria are not met for the crime,
computer crime laws may be applicable.
• Almost all computer crimes laws can be
charged as federal crimes in the US because
they can cross state lines in transmission
(Baum et al., 2009).
• Legal protection orders may prevent
perpetrators from contacting and
impersonating the victim in the future (Baum
et al., 2009).
• Many victims benefit from psychological help.
• More research is needed to evaluate bullying
and cyberstalking of victims.
Alexy, E. M., Burgess, A. W., Baker, T., & Smoyak, S. A. (2005). Perceptions
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serial harassment in the UK. British Journal of Forensic Practice, 5, 25-
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Cyberstalking in a large sample of social network users: Prevalence,
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Finn, J. (2004). A survey of online harassment at a university campus. Journal
of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 468-483.
Fraser, C., Olsen, E. , Lee, K., Southworth, C., &Tucker, S. (2010). The new
age of stalking: Technological implications for stalking. Juvenile and
Family Court Journal, 61, 39-55. doi:10.1111/j.1755-6988.2010.01051.x
Kamphuis, J. H., & Emmelkamp P. M. (2001). Traumatic distress among
support-seeking female victims of stalking. American Journal of
Samara, M., Burbidge, V., El Asam, A., Foody, M., Smith, P., & Morsi, H.
(2017). Bullying and cyberbullying: Their legal status and use in
psychological assessment. International Journal of Environmental
Research and Public Health, 14(12), 1449.
Strawhun, J., Adams, N., & Huss, M. T., (2013). The assessment of
cyberstalking: An expanded examination including social networking,
attachment, jealousy, and anger in relation to violence and abuse.
Violence and Victims, 28(4), 715-730.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
Stalking Using Technology,
as Reported by Victims