With the ease of access to the lives of others and the anonymity that social media provides, cyberstalking is a growing issue that many people are facing today. There are many ways that you can be cyberstalked, so it is essential to understand the signs of cyberstalking and what you can do to stop it.
According to the Stalking Resource Center, roughly 7.5 million people are stalked every year in the United States with persons aged 18-24 years experiencing the highest rate of stalking. One in four of these victims reported some form of cyberstalking according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Listed below are some common signs that you may be getting cyberstalked:
This person will often appear suspiciously in the same places as you.
If you are often bumping into the same person in public places such as your workplace or neighborhood, someone who you don’t know well or didn’t invite there, this could be cause for concern. This person could be watching were you and your friends check in on social media and monitoring other online activity to see where you frequently socialize or shop so that they can track your movements and your schedule.
If this person is someone you don’t see very often or at all and they send you multiple messages each day, it may indicate they are cyberstalking you. Some stalkers will send inappropriate pictures or messages, and when it is not reciprocated, they will escalate the messages with more inappropriate messages and possibly even pornographic pictures.
They may also tag in public posts to make it appear that you are close to each other which could cause your friends to misinterpret your connection to the stalker. Some stalkers may even attempt to manipulate you into speaking with them by threatening legal action, self-harm/suicide, or hurting others if you don’t reply.
They will try to disconnect you from family and friends.
Many times, stalkers will try to isolate you from the people closest to you to try to have you all to themselves, or they may bother the people closest to you, pretending to be concerned for your well-being. They may leak personal information such as private pictures, messages, rumors or other damaging information to your friends and family to humiliate you. This may push you to withdraw from your social circle, which is what the stalker wants so they can come in and rescue you from the turmoil they caused.
What to Do if You Think You are Being Cyberstalked
If you think you are being cyberstalked, there are measures you can take to protect yourself and stop the stalker from continuing the harassment.
- Cut off contact. Send one clear message to the stalker that you do not want any further contact with them and save it. If you send it via email, be sure to Blind Copy yourself on the message for your records. Once you advise them to stop contacting you, do not reply to them or open any emails or attachments they send you from that point on.
- Document everything. Save text messages, emails, social media messages. Save any communication between you and the stalker and do not alter it in any way. If you can, be sure to print out and save your emails. It is also crucial to save the original emails online.
- Inform family and friends. Be sure the people closest to you understand what is going on, so they know not to interact with the stalker. Also, be sure to tell someone close to you where you are going and when you should be expected to return.
- Contact law local enforcement. With the laws around cybercrime and cyberstalking being unclear, it is essential to report the stalking to the police and get advice about the law. Be sure to follow through with the legal advice you are given.
If you suspect you are being stalked online, there are a variety of resources, organizations and support groups out there to help you. You don’t have to be in this fight alone, 50 Shades of Silence stands by victims of cyberstalking to give them a voice to tell their story and the courage to overcome cyber harassment and other crimes.