Despite it’s popularity, the term “cyberstalking” might be new for some people. However, its roots are well-known to humanity. Cyberstalking is said to have evolved from domestic violence that has prevailed in most male dominant societies since centuries.
To understand what cyberstalking is and how it victimizes women, it’s essential that its roots of domestic violence be explained in significant detail. When domestic violence was prevalent in societies, women could put an end to the suffering by choosing to leave. But now that it has evolved into cyberstalking, it’s impossible to “just leave”. After all, the internet is an intensely connected network that has made it impossible for any regular internet user to live her life offline.
Roots of Cyberstalking
History tells us that in the early 19th century, beating wives was considered a legal way for husbands to exercise their authority over their wives. As the years passed, laws were created to curtail such incidents. However, it’s evident that domestic violence has not ended, but rather increased over time.
It’s horrific to know that women, who were previously abused by husbands only, had started being victimized by their fathers, brothers, and at unfortunate moments, they were abused by their children too. Domestic violence was carried out by people who were either direct relatives or a part of the family, as what happened with a family stayed within, and provided a sense of anonymity to the abusers. It’s worth mentioning that women were not the only victims of domestic violence, a small proportion of men also faced this issue.
In the late 20th century, mankind was blessed with the most innovative invention which was set to change the world and how we live in it – the internet. However, with each advantage that the internet brings to us, there are an equal number of disadvantages that have come along and continued to haunt humanity.
The internet provides users with anonymity, allowing them to conceal their identity at will. In real life, everyone remains overly concerned about their words and actions as they can later be used to judge them. But on the internet, and behind hidden identities, people, or as we’ll call them cyberstalkers, can practice newer forms of domestic violence – cyberstalking, which is far more damaging than traditional domestic violence.
In a recent survey conducted by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre of Victoria (DVRCV), it was found that 98% of domestic violence victims also experienced technology-facilitated abuse. While there are many laws available to hold people accountable who engage in domestic violence, it’s tough to apprehend cyberstalkers in most cases as they hide behind pseudo identities and remain anonymous. The difficulty that law enforcement agencies face in apprehending these anonymous cyberstalkers has made women very vulnerable and exposed, senior researcher at DVRCV Doctor Delanie Woodlock said.
Global Impact of Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking is a global phenomenon that affects millions of women each year. Its effects are so negatively impacting on the mental condition of cyberstalking victims that they often resort to harming themselves. Just like domestic violence victimized women in significant proportions, cyberstalking also mostly victimizes women.
However, men are not entirely safe from it either. Surveys suggest that where 1 in every six women are victims of cyberstalking, 1 in every 19 men are also cyber stalked. It’s surprising to know that cyberstalking victims are mostly young women aged between 12 and 18. Diving deep into the cyberstalking statistics, it’s clear that women are the prime targets of most cyberstalking cases.
Because of the conservative mentality that prevails in the minds of the masses, women are expected to obey, follow and not have an opinion or choice of their own. Cyberstalking Statistics suggest that most victims knew the reason they were being cyberstalked, even if they didn’t know the cyberstalker themselves.
These reasons were identified as problems and disagreements with an intimate partner, friend, roommate or neighbors. Some cyberstalking victims even claim that their cyberstalkers not only stalked them online on their social profiles, but also tapped their cameras and microphones on smart devices, and were aware of their every action and move.
Despite the fact that cyberstalking laws are now in place in most societies and provide excellent protection to those who get victimized, most women find it very difficult to report cyberstalking cases. In most cases, cyberstalkers blackmail their victims with some recorded videos or captured images which can compromise an individual’s reputation. The fear of such photos and videos being leaked to the public keeps the victims from contacting the authorities and reporting the case.
While there are some cyberstalking stories with happy endings too, where the victim reported the incident to the authorities, which then played their part in neutralizing the dangerous elements. However, the number of such cases where cyberstalking victims reported the incident to authorities is meager. Most women who are being cyber stalked find it convenient to confide in a friend and tell them about the ongoing situation.
If you are a victim of cyberstalking, or if you know someone who is a victim of cyberstalking, report the case to a relevant authority. Ensure that you save any communication logs of your conversations with the cyberstalker that you can use later as evidence. DO not indulge in any of the requests put forth by a cyberstalker, or ever give in to their demands. Remember, cyberstalkers feed on their victims fear and vulnerability. If you can act otherwise, you just may be able to scare them off.