Cyberstalking, Harassment, and Bullying: Characteristics ... Cyberstalking, Harassment, and Bullying:

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  • Cyberstalking, Harassment, and Bullying: Characteristics of Perpetrators of Online Abuse

    Cristina A. Aakre, M.A. & Kristine M. Jacquin, Ph.D.

    Cyberstalking CasesIntroduction

    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 stalker.

    • 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 al., 2009)

    • Stalkers use information they have collected to cause extreme stress and destruction on the victim’s life (Baum et al., 2009)

    • 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, & McFarlane, 2003).

    • 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 been broken.

    • 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 of cyberstalking among college students. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 5, 279-289.

    Baum, K., Catalano, S., Rand, M., & Rose, K. (2009). Stalking Victimization in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. NCJ 224527, 1-15. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

    Bocij, P., Bocij, H., & McFarlane L. (2003). Cyberstalking: A case study of serial harassment in the UK. British Journal of Forensic Practice, 5, 25- 32.

    Drebing, H., Bailer, J., Anders, A., Wagner, H., & Gallas, C. (2014). Cyberstalking in a large sample of social network users: Prevalence, characteristics, and impact upon victims. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(2), 61-67. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0231

    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 Psychiatry,158, 795-798.

    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. doi:10.3390/ijerph14121449

    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.





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    Stalking Using Technology, as Reported by Victims