Cyberstalking: You Don’t Have to Take It!
I want to begin this blog on a serious note. Even though cyberstalking takes place almost entirely online, please do not let that fool you into a false sense of security. If you are reading this now because someone has made a direct threat against you, or if you think your stalker may be somewhere physically nearby, stop reading now and call the police. Do not try to rationalize it, or talk yourself out of taking action. These are real crimes, and your personal safety may be at stake. Let the professionals decide whether or not these threats were “serious”.
As implied in my first paragraph, cyberstalking is real. It can be terribly frightening, and is often used as a means of intimidation and bullying. Is there someone sending you unwanted or threatening messages over and over again? Is someone using online platforms like social media or online forums to bully you repeatedly? Do you get the sense that someone is trying to pinpoint your physical location to seek you out? If so, chances are you are being cyberstalked. If you feel you are being stalked online, there are a number of things you can do to maintain your safety, and bring a case against your stalker. Let’s look at a few of your options.
Tell Someone Immediately
Often, cyberstalkers are counting on you not telling anyone about what they are doing. Whether they accomplish this by threatening you, or by reminding you that you will be ostracized if you “snitch”, the end result is the same: you are silent, and they get to continue. This can be an especially brutal tactic to employ if you are currently in a school situation. Your stalker might imply that everyone will know that you “told on them”, and that will lead to you being disliked and bullied even more.
These are threats against you, and all the more reason to speak up. Find someone you trust, and let them know what is happening, and that you are afraid. If this is happening at school, look for a trusted teacher or counselor. If this is happening at work, find a manager or superior who can help you. If this is happening outside of work, school or other group situations, find someone in your circle of friends and family to tell.
Often, those being cyberstalked are too close to the situation to see how dangerous it really is. Sometimes, having that important talk with someone else can give you the perspective you need. If you tell a friend, and their reaction is “Oh my gosh, call the police, now!”, that should hopefully reassure you that this is not simply a case of you overreacting. Speak to someone now, and accept any offers of help they can give.
One last word of caution. Sometimes, people figure that since the stalking is taking place online, then the measures to stop it should all be online too. Do not be afraid to take instances of online stalking and bullying to the real authorities. The police, campus security, human resources, or your managers will have a system in place to deal with this. Do not simply “boost the signal” about what this person is doing by posting about it online. Take this problem to the people who can end it.
Create a Paper Trail if Possible
Online communications are easy to log, and you should try to keep a record of your cyberstalker’s activities. Are they harassing you via text message? Save them, so that you can show exactly what this person has been doing and saying. Are they attacking you via Facebook? Screen cap every instance of them bullying you, and present those images when you go to get help.
One of the main reasons cyberbullies and cyberstalkers are able to get away with what they do is because they are preying upon your sense that this might somehow be your fault. Let me reassure you, there is absolutely nothing you could have done, and nothing you could have said that would “make” someone stalk you. This is not your fault, it is the stalker’s fault. Gathering up all the instances of when they tried to scare or intimidate you online will hopefully help you see that.
Again, don’t wait too long before bringing this evidence forward. Someone can help you right now. There is no need to allow this person to intimidate you for one more minute. If you are wondering if there is a “minimum” number of times someone needs to threaten you, before you are deserving of help, the answer is one. One time.
Block and Report Your Stalker
If you are confident that this stalker is nowhere near you physically, and can not gain access to information regarding your whereabouts, it may be an effective step to simply block this person from contacting you again, and report their activities to the websites or phone services they used to harass you. I do want to be clear however, if blocking this person is not going to stop them from contacting you, then this is not enough, and you do still need to report them to the authorities.
Stalking is a crime. It means that someone is showing up at the sites you frequent, or using the same programs you use in order to bother you, or even pinpoint your location. That is why it is so important to really think about whether or not this person has any other means of accessing you, once you block them. For instance: they have been bothering you on Facebook, so you blocked them. Did you have any information on your profile they might have seen which could lead them to you? Your home town, your place of business, your phone numbers?
I am going to encourage you again and again to seek out help from someone other than yourself. While blocking them is a good step, it should not be your only step.
Make a Scene (in a Good Way)
If you were walking home at night, and you were absolutely certain someone was following you, what would your reaction be? No matter how you choose to handle this – by going to a well lit and well populated area, by calling for help, or by turning and fighting – I am willing to bet that your plan would never be “Just keep leading them directly to my front door without saying anything”. That would be ridiculous, right? Even dangerous?
Well, that is exactly what the victims of cyberstalking so often do. They don’t tell anyone, they make no effort to stop the attacks, and they allow the stalker to hurt them in new and upsetting ways by not taking action.
I am telling you to take action. Just like I would want you to scream your head off if someone tried to attack you on the street, I want you to do the same thing if someone tries to attack you online. Not only will this lead to your stalker facing the consequences for what he or she has done, but it will also allow you to become an example to others who may be going through the same thing. Sometimes, victims of cyberstalking do not speak up, because they think nobody will be able to relate. They think they are the only ones. Stand with them, and tell them they are not alone. Fighting back against bullies is a team effort, and the louder our team is, the better!
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