By Dr. Amanda M. Stylianou
September 15, 2017
In today’s world, businesses and individuals both express concerns over the ways in which technology affects their privacy. Businesses spend millions of dollars investing in online security, while individuals express concerns over social media privacy. However, there’s another kind of privacy concern which impacts individuals across the nation – cyberstalking, or technology-facilitated stalking.
Stalking is “a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear” (United States Department of Justice, 2016).
According to the Center for Disease and Control, 6.6 million people are stalked every year in the United States (CDC; Black et al. 2011). 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men experience stalking at some point in their lifetime (CDC; Black et al., 2011). For both female and male victims, stalking is most often committed by people they know.
In a recent Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, of those individuals that reported being stalked, 26.1 percent also reported experiencing some form of cyberstalking during the course of the incident (Baum, Catalano & Rand, 2009).
Cyberstalking is defined as “the use of the Internet, email, or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors,” involving a “credible threat to harm.” National Conference of State Legislatures, “State Cyberstalking and Cyberharassment Laws” (Jan. 12, 2015).
Cyberstalking includes a variety of behaviors that involve repeated threats and/or harassment, by the use of electronic or technological means that would make a reasonable person afraid or concerned for his/her safety.
Common cyberstalking behaviors include:
- Monitoring the victim’s email, either directly on the victim’s computer, or remotely
- Sending threatening emails to the victim and/or the victim’s friends, family, or colleagues
- Using the internet to access information online on the victim through social media outlets or websites
- Breaking into the victim’s social media, email, online banking accounts, or other private internet accounts
- Using the victim’s email or social media accounts to send false messages to other people or to purchase goods and services
- Using car, computer, or phone tracking devices to monitor and locate the victim
In a world of ever-changing technology, advocates in the field of crime and violence need to be prepared to support survivors of cyberstalking to increase their safety. In order to accomplish this, Safe Horizon partnered with IBM’s Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs to train 36 Safe Horizon staff on Understanding and Protecting your Online Identity.
The cyberstalking training, created by IBM and delivered by IBM Senior Managing Consultant for Security and Privacy Kevin Addington, focused on how to support survivors to identify potential technology risks and review online safety options. The cyberstalking training was provided through the IBM Impact Grants program, which deploys consulting expertise and software to support educational and not-for-profit organizations. The training was accompanied by the provision of concrete tools that will aid Safe Horizon staff in supporting clients to increase their internet and social media safety. The training was a major success and Safe Horizon found the specialized training allowed staff to find ways to better support clients, to identify their potential technology risks, and to develop safety plans to address those risks.
At Safe Horizon, we provide a range of services to support victims of stalking and cyberstalking. From our 24/7 hotline to our Family Court Programs and Criminal Court Programs to our Community Programs, we offer a comprehensive continuum of care to assist victims in identifying safety plans and resources that will best support them in increasing their safety. Learn more about what we do to support victims of stalking.
Thank you, IBM’s Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs team for your incredible expertise and guidance!