Wednesday, February 09, 2011

CyberStalking - A Very Real Problem

(U.S.) Cyberstalking is defined as threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the internet and other forms of computer communications. It can involve the use of email, instant messaging, chat rooms, bulletin boards and/or other electronic communication devices to repeatedly harass or threaten another person.

The process of stalking a person in real life generally requires that the perpetrator and victim be in close physical proximity. Cyber stalkers can be across the street, the country, or the globe from their victims.
"Cyber stalking can cause the same kind of trauma to its victims as traditional forms of stalking," says Holly Quist, public health educator at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County, Tennessee Health Department. She continues, "But, behind a username, stalkers can be difficult to identify."

Most stalkers repeatedly change usernames and accounts to slow down or deter the identification process. The anonymity of the Internet makes it easier for perpetrators to carry out their attacks against their victims. The most popular targeted areas are: Live Chat or IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in which a user talks live with others, Message Boards (IM) and Email.

Cyber Stalking Prevention Tips:
  • Never be gender specific- Use a neutral gender name. Use a nickname your stalker won't know if you create a new email account.
  • Change your password often- Never share your password or personal information with anyone.
  • Use the private settings on social networking sites and let friends know not to share your information.
If you do become a victim of cyber stalking, let the offender know that contact is unwanted. But when harassment continues, contact your local police authorities and collect evidence by documenting all contact by the offender.

Visit http://www.haltabuse.org for more information on cyberstalking and how to prevent becoming a victim.

The Rape Prevention Program of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department focuses on reducing the number of rapes and educating the community on how to prevent rape from happening. Through partnerships with local domestic violence advisory boards and other local domestic violence agencies, the program is able to provide resources for contacts, educational materials, and programs. For additional information, please call (423) 209-8282.

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