Cyberstalking is such a new phenomenon that the media and law enforcement have yet to broadly define and quantify it. The available resources are so few and limited that there is little information for victims or for professional victim service providers to utilize. What stats there are reveal millions of potential and projected future cases. The epidemic of identity theft indicates technology abuse is one of the fastest-growing areas of crime and those same techniques are easily applied to a specific, targeted victim.
What We Know
- More than one million women and 370,000 men are stalked annually in the United States. An astonishing one in twelve women and one in forty-five men will be stalked in their lifetimes. The average duration of stalking is nearly two years and even longer if the stalking involves intimate partners.
- Within the past twelve months, 9.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft. Identity theft is often present in situations of domestic abuse and can become a form of economic abuse once the woman has left her partner. One and a half million of those reporting identity thefts in 2004 also reported that they suffered from domestic abuse and harassment from their exes. These latter stats could be more correctly re-categorized as cyberstalking incidents.
- National figures show victims of cyberstalking tend to be females during the college ages 18-29 but women are not the only targets. A survey of 765 students at Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania found 45% of stalkers to be female and 56% to be male. National figures show most stalkers to be male by overwhelming margins (87%). Men represented over 40% of stalking victims in the Penn-Rutgers study.
- The Department of Justice statistical report of June 29, 2006, indicates that, on average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. The FBI reports that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 to 44, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Cyberstalking provides astonishingly easy and cheap tools for an abuser to locate women who have tried to move away or go into hiding.
Cyberstalking and Domestic Violence Victims
Domestic violence victims are one of the most vulnerable groups to traditional stalking, so it's no surprise they are vulnerable to cyberstalking as well. It's a myth that if women “just leave” they will be okay. Cyberstalking is a way to continue to maintain rigid control and instill fear into a domestic partner, even when she has already left the relationship.
This can happen even to those who one would think would be more prepared. Marsha was an accountant, a working mom with kids, and after her husband, Jerry's rages got more and more severe, she decided it was time for a divorce. She told him in the safety of the lawyer's office, where terms for their separation were laid out. To say he was angry was an understatement, he vowed right then he'd “make her pay.”
This threat had new meaning when she went a couple of days later to buy groceries. When all her credit cards were politely and embarrassingly declined, she went home to discover that Jerry had canceled them and her cell phone, and drained her bank accounts, literally leaving her with just fifty cents. She was forced to get a loan from her folks to make it to the next court date.
We Are All Potential Victims of Cyberstalking
The ease with which someone can perpetuate a cyberstalking crime has made potential victims of us all. Individuals have been cyberstalked for the most minor reasons by people they've angered in the past. Victims were targeted because they dumped a guy after dating less than a month, fired an employee, were part of a business deal gone bad or parked in the wrong parking spot.
We have all grown so complacent about our information and how it is stored and managed; we have no idea how easy it is to access essential personal data that would unlock the safeguards to our finances, our personal and economic safety, and our lives. The havoc a cyberstalker can wreak is painful, frustrating and long-lasting, and the technological tools and resources commonly used by cyberstalkers are all available online for affordable prices.