Stalking and Cyberstalking – What is the difference?
I am writing this blog on stalking and cyberstalking because a very good friend of mine is being cyberstalked and she hadn’t thought of it as cyberstalking until she spoke to me about it. On my suggestion, she reported it to the police but they haven’t taken it seriously and I was frustrated that they told her that no crime had been committed. For anyone that is in any doubt whatsoever, stalking and cyberstalking are illegal and the consequences of both, can have devastating effects on the victim. Let’s look at the definitions for both stalking and cyberstalking and see how they are interlinked.
Stalking is defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear or distress. It can include repeated physical or visual approaching, non-consensual communication, verbal or written threats, gathering of information, and other kinds of communication or contact. Stalking can be behavioral and psychological abuse, and it is a form of domestic abuse that can be dangerous. When it involves repeated phone calls, emails, text messages, visits to or near the person’s home, it can become criminal stalking and is punishable by law.
Cyberstalking is defined as the use of the Internet, email, or other electronic communications to stalk another individual. In most cases, it involves following or harassing an individual in an aggressive, persistent, or threatening manner. Cyberstalking is often used to intimidate, frighten, or harass victims. Cyberstalking can take various forms, including sending uninvited emails, posting derogatory comments online, tracking an individual’s online activities, and/or making threats.
Cyberstalking is illegal in the majority of jurisdictions, and it is considered a form of online harassment. The exact laws vary from country to country, but the definitions are usually the same. In the UK, a cyberstalker may be charged with harassment, cyberbullying, and breaking privacy laws. Penalties for cyberstalking can include imprisonment, court-ordered supervision, financial penalties, or other penalties at the court’s discretion.
So how do stalking and cyberstalking link to domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive behavior that uses physical, psychological, or financial power or control to gain and maintain control over a partner in an intimate relationship. Domestic abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or psychological, and it affects both men and women. It can include intimidation, isolation, control, and fear.
In some cases, domestic abusers will use stalking and cyberstalking to harass their partners. This often happens as a pattern of post separation abuse. This can involve sending threatening messages online or tracking their partner’s or ex-partner’s online activities. Domestic abuse is a serious and potentially life-threatening issue that must be taken seriously. Victims of cyberstalking and domestic abuse should seek help and support via specialist services immediately and contact the police. However, unfortunately, cyberstalking is often not taken seriously by the police, and victims may face further emotional distress after reporting it, as my friend has. She was actually asked to look through the hundreds of online abusive posts and pick out the ones that ‘upset her the most’!! This was as well as being told that no crime had been committed!
Online security tools such as IP blockers, browser tracking protection, and burner emails can sometimes help victims protect themselves online. But, of course, they would need to be tech savvy and often, victims do not know how to access or use these tools. It is important to remember that cyberstalking is a crime despite what the police may say. People experiencing stalking and cyberstalking are perfectly within their rights to report it and it should be reported.
In the UK, there are a number of support services available for victims of cyberstalking and domestic abuse. These include the National Stalking Helpline (Suzy Lamplugh Trust), Paladin, Refuge, and Women’s Aid. These services provide emotional and practical support to victims of stalking, cyberstalking and abuse. I have put these organisations contact details below. In addition, victims can also contact Citizens Advice for more information about where to obtain help and assistance.
The key difference between cyberstalking and stalking is that cyberstalking involves the use of technology to track or harass a person, whilst stalking can include physical activities, such as following a person, entering their property, or eavesdropping on their conversations. Cyberstalking is often used in the context of domestic abuse and can be a serious crime. Additionally, victims of cyberstalking may face additional challenges in terms of evidence and privacy as the stalker may have used technology to hide their identity. Victims of cyberstalking must be given appropriate support and assistance to ensure their safety and well-being. Stalking can also be a serious matter. It is sometimes less likely to be associated with domestic abuse but it can and does happen in the context of a domestically abusive relationship. DO NOT be fobbed off by anyone or made to feel that it is not serious. Contact the following for help and support.
- National Stalking Helpline (Suzy Lamplugh Trust) – 0808 802 0300
- Paladin – 0203 866 4107
- Refuge (National Domestic Abuse Helpline) – 0808 2000 247
- Women’s Aid – contact email@example.com or contact a local domestic abuse service by using Women’s Aid’s Domestic Abuse Directory – www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-abuse-directory