Cyber Stalking is more common than most casual internet users may realize. For a person with a more prominent presence online, however, it is a very real threat. While females seem to be victims to stalking more often than males, cyber stalking can still go both ways and I’ve personally witnessed both renditions. Again, because I have more experience in the female side of this matter, this article is written in that direction.
So what happens when a person is being “cyber stalked”? Think of everything a real-life stalker can do, but incorporate all facets of internet communication and use. Instead of a person hiding behind some bushes and watching their victim like a creepy voyeur, you have people creating new internet aliases on social networking pages or communities you participate in just to fool you into thinking they are a completely different person. Some cyber stalkers break into personal accounts of their victims and monitor their activity, obtain their personal information, or vandalize their facebooks and forum accounts. What they proceed to do with the pulled information is the scariest part; some cyber stalkers use it to break into more and more of the victim’s accounts and cause further grief, and it’s even possible that the information can be used to track down their victim in person. There have been a multitude of cases in which a stalker uses the information to impersonate their victim and create havoc by doing so.
There are those out there that laugh at the term “cyber stalking” and even take to victim-blaming, claiming that the person suffering from the attacks deserved it because she had pictures on the internet, a semi-public facebook/social networking page, or even made it known that she was indeed a female within an internet community (video games, forums, etc). For anyone out there with the capability to practice critical thinking, these reasons would be considered as obscene–because they are. Using any of these reasons to justify a female being stalked, if even on the internet, is like saying “Well, she walked outside her house and a person capable of stalking saw her. So, she had it coming.”
In this day and age, the internet is a commonly used tool for everyday use. The internet is the livelihood, the cause, and the most common denominator for many peoples’ jobs and careers. Even if you are not entering a field of work in which the internet is a vital tool to be used, it is not uncommon for your potential boss to take a look at your Facebook page. After being hired, people often find themselves friended by co-workers. Social networking is a big deal whether you like it or not, and regardless, having an accessible page on Facebook, DeviantArt, LinkedIn (slightly less accessible but still very ‘findable’ by those seeking you out), or other applicable social networking sites can change whether or not you are accepted in your desired work place. So, why should we act as if women are at fault for having these pages with their first name and picture attached? Isn’t that like saying, “You should sacrifice your freedom to enjoy social networking because you may be, or you have been, stalked. You should also limit your ability to obtain your desired job because your stalker found a way to see your LinkedIn page, DeviantArt page, or Facebook page. Basically, you should just roll up into a fetal position and let your stalker rule your life… just like they planned!”
The point is that it should not matter that she has pictures, her name/alias, or any evidence stating that she is a female posted online. If someone out there is demented enough to begin stalking her and causing her grief for whatever twisted reason (usually rejection!), then they are going to do it regardless of what the victim looks like. They are going to stalk her regardless of what social networking pages she has, and they will find her if she is hiding her identity. She should not have to give up her basic rights and freedom to participate in social networking, communities, forums, and other means of communication online just because she has a cyber stalker or may gain one.
I have spent around 15 years participating in online communities such as video gaming, writing, role-playing, fandom, and tech. As a teenager I first became the victim of cyber stalking while participating in chat rooms about my favorite video games. I had met a person, who at the time convinced me they were a male of similar age and interested in me. I began to spend a lot of time with them, completely unaware that they were not who they said they were. This time in my life was particularly difficult due to my ailments with a rare condition and inability to spend a lot of time socializing “in the real world” because of it. Naturally, I took to playing a lot of video games and chatting with people who did the same thing. I was completely disillusioned by this person, and to make matters worse, they were lying to all my friends within the same community, too.
Much, much later, I finally found out that this person was actually a woman. This absolutely would not have bothered me if they had not attempted, and succeeded at romancing me as a male. During this time of petty “e-dating”, they used fake pictures, fake voice modulators, and even went so far as to fake video chat with me. They convinced me they loved me, and all the while instilled certain fears in me to keep me “controlled”. My illness had taken a serious toll on me and it became clear I may not get a chance to go to college at the same time others were, so they convinced me it was best that I quit trying to go to college. Their reasons for this was that “people who go to college are usually sluts” and that if I wanted to go to college, they’d move to where I was and go to college with me so I would not be alone. They knew that I feared being alone, since I often felt that way and that is why I spent so much time with them in the first place. Over time, they slowly manipulated me into starving myself, convincing me that “fat girls” were “gross and slutty”. By now I am sure you are seeing a trend in slut-shaming. I dropped to 70 pounds, mostly due to my battle with Porphyria, but also my fear to eat.
Eventually I was scared of “leaving” them, which would have entailed deleting all of my previous internet identities (chats, forums, Myspace, Facebook, etc), MMO accounts (Ultima Online, Guild Wars, Anarchy Online), and start anew on an entirely different alias… then hope they didn’t find me. This would be a lot of work, especially considering I had tons of connections to other friends and family members on every account. Fortunately, despite the brain washing and fear, I had enough sense to say enough was enough. I severed ties with them and tried to explain to everyone else what had happened. At the time I prohibited communication with this person, they had tried to apologize and claimed they did everything they did because they were in love with me… because they could not handle seeing me with someone else, and because I was the most beautiful person to them–the beauty they wished they could be, but since they couldn’t, they instead wanted to “own” me.
During this time period, I became the victim of cyber stalking in the traditional sense. I had already technically been stalked by a person claiming to be someone else the entire time, but now I was aware of my situation and the rejection they faced made them more aggressive. Several of my gaming accounts were broken into and I lost everything. My social networking pages were compromised, so I had to re-make them. To make matters worse, this person spread rumors about me among the communities I participated in just to alienate me even further. My phone line started receiving anonymous calls and I received numerous threats; not only did they threaten to send out my personal information (phone number, address, etc) to all of the strangers they had then convinced I was a “bad person” for leaving them, they even made very real threats about finding me and hurting me physically.
I was scared and felt alone. Some of my “friends” at the time slowly took to my stalker’s side, claiming that I deserved everything I got because people knew I was female in real life. People knew what I looked like. People knew my first name was Chelsea. Then, on top of all this victim-blaming, they claimed that I was being bigoted and small-minded for rejecting my stalker because they turned out to be female, too. I was even told that I was simply acting like a victim because all of this happened to me, and that also made me even worse of a person. The truth was that I rejected them for being a liar, for being nothing of what they said they were over the course of several years, for manipulating me, griefing me, and scaring me into mentally and physically unhealthy states, for stalking me, for attempting to control me, and for threatening me should I step out of any of their ‘acceptable lines’. Keep in mind that the majority of this happened while I was well under the age of 18, therefore still a child in most legal circumstances. None of this mattered to these people, though, because they were the type to truly believe the victim is in the wrong.
I learned then and there that people who think this way are just as dangerous as people willing to stalk, grief, and/or hurt another person. Not only will they make you feel alone, trapped, and at fault for all of the terror you are going through, they will let the perpetrator walk free despite their actions. It is sad that this behavior still exists and is promoted as acceptable. It is the reason so many females are afraid to reveal their gender while playing online video games and participating in online communities.
The truth is that it is not acceptable to cyber-stalk someone. It is not acceptable to act like the victim of cyber-stalking is deserving of it for reasons that sum up to simply existing online. Women should enjoy the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. They should not be frightened into hiding themselves. They should not be marked as sluts or tramps for having the same accessible, simple information available that a male is privy to posting. Furthermore, if someone in your community is being cyber-stalked, it is not okay to support the person doing all the damage in any way, shape, or form.