Stephanie Nilva is an attorney and the Executive Director of Day One, an organization that partners with youth to end dating abuse and domestic violence through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy and leadership development.
Claudia: What should be the primary role of Governments and Cyber Law Enforcement Entities in this regard?
Law enforcement and legislators would benefit from including experts in the field as they consider how to create accountability systems and legislation to protect people from Cybersatlking. In such a new and dynamic field, using a thoughtful approach will prevent regulations from being over-inclusive or from criminalizing behaviors that do not warrant such a severe response.
Claudia: Do you think Cyberstalking laws are mature enough to a cover majority of these cases? Do you think the legislation and the law enforcement agencies can keep up with the fast-paced Cyber Ecosystem and Advancements?
Given the rapid rate of technological advancement, legislation can barely keep up. Most laws take several months or even a year or two to pass, whereas we see technology evolving much more quickly. New tools that can be used to harass and stalk people online are emerging every few weeks.
Most existing laws that protect against abusive tactics were passed at a time when no one could conceive of the arsenal that would be available to threaten or harm someone through various forms of technology. Day One offers support to young people experiencing abuse online by advocating with law enforcement and the court system in areas that are still unfamiliar to authorities. Police struggle to respond to allegations of online threats, and courts are accustomed to issuing “stay-away” orders that would do little in an online context.
Day One also supports legislation that would offer accountability for abusive online behavior while also being mindful of the age-appropriate behaviors that young people engage in. It would be counterproductive to criminalize the conduct of a teen who shares an intimate photograph online that is later publicized by someone with harmful intent.
Claudia: How can we, as individuals, help the victims?
Day One offers training for caregivers and professionals who work with youth that provide guidance in how to identify risks associated with various forms of technology.
Most importantly, we can support individuals who are being stalked, threatened or harmed in their relationships by not judging them or their decisions. Being patient and connecting them with experts in the field, such as Day One, can help people find safety more quickly.
Claudia: Can you share the highlights of “Know Your Rights” guide with the readers? How can it help us spread awareness and educate people on the issue?
Here is some content from the guide, which can be found here.
PHONES can be tools to harass, control or stalk you when your partner:
- Calls, texts or IM’s you repeatedly to threaten or insult you;
- Erases voicemails or text messages you saved to your phone;
- Checks the private messages on your phone;
- Sexts you or demands sexts (i.e. nude or semi-nude pictures sent by phone);
- Uses “spoofing” (hiding or faking a number so you can’t tell who is calling); or
- Repeatedly calls people close to you to find your location and whereabouts.
INTERNET/COMPUTERS store a lot of private information. It can be a warning sign of abuse if your partner:
- Changes your passwords on computers and websites;
- Deletes, intercepts or sends emails from your account;
- Creates fake online profiles of you on Facebook, dating sites or pornographic sites;
- Creates fake profiles on social networking sites to contact you, friends, family or community members;
- Posts sexual images or content about you;
- Threatens to post private information about you online through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other sites; or
- Puts spyware on your computer.
Claudia: Can you share any story/case that you have dealt with, which you think will help the readers in any way?
India Ortega started dating when she was in high school, at 14 years old, she was excited to be in what she called, a real relationship. The guy was an upper classman, and he played sports.
They would argue a lot, and he would raise his voice at her. When she tried to break up with him, he posted nude pictures of India on Social Media. She was helpless and couldn’t do anything but cry. She had to go for therapy because she went into deep depression and anxiety.
India’s mother tried to take legal action against the stalker to get the justice she deserved. Now India’s older, wiser and is off to college for higher education.
Claudia: What preventive measures should a user take to avoid getting Cyber Stalked when online?
Here are some Safety Tips to prevent abuse via telephones, internet/computers, and spying technology:
- Create passwords no one will figure out and don’t tell anyone what they are.
- Block phone numbers that are used to harass you. Report them to your mobile provider.
- If you are on the same cell phone plan as an abusive partner, talk to Day One about options for getting off the plan safely.
- Run an internet search for your name to see if anything is posted about you that you don’t want people to see.
- Check your privacy settings on social media and networks to make sure you’re not sharing your location, phone number, email or other information you don’t want public.
- Remember, it’s easy for anyone to see what websites you’ve been on. Cover your internet tracks: erase cookies, internet history files, and your cache. Download free anti-spyware software online.
- Don’t open email attachments from sources you don’t trust.
- Don’t accept social networking (i.e. Facebook) friend requests from people you don’t know or trust. Check your friends' lists to see if you have friends in common that could put you at risk. Don’t share your location on those sites. Document suspicious activities on your email or social networking sites.
- Trust yourself. If a person knows too much about where you are and where you’re going, they may be using technology to track you.
- Turn off the GPS on your phone and in your car.
Careful use of passwords and controlling our accessibility online can help minimize threats in this area. Day One recommends turning off location notifiers and ensuring no one has access to your smartphone or computer. To make sure that there are no false profiles or information about you online, set up an alert that will inform you if your name appears on the internet.