CYBER-STALKING: OBSESSIONAL PURSUIT AND THE DIGITAL CRIMINAL
Stalking as a behaviour is characterised by a different constellation of behaviours, with a great degree of variance between individual cases. Cyber-stalking, is one of the latest variants. In these scenarios, the stalker will utilise electronic mediums such as the Internet to pursue, harass, and intimidate another. The individuals may have had some prior relationship, and this group does, in fact, comprise the largest category of stalkers, though there are almost the same number of cases in which the offender and victim have had no prior contact.
Jurisdictions across the globe are now beginning to take legal action against stalking behaviour, recognising it as a public problem which merits attention. The effects of stalking upon an individual may include behavioural, psychological and social aspects. Specific risks to the victim include a loss of personal safety, the loss of a job, sleeplessness, and a change in work or social habits. These effects have the potential to produce a large drain on both criminal justice resources and the health care system, and it is therefore in the best interests of the authorities to take swift action when cases are presented to them.
While the reader should not curtail on-line activities because of the threat posed by the Cyberstalker, a little bit of caution will help to keep the identity of the user as anonymous as possible. Should one become the target of unwanted attention, one should seek the help of authorities as soon as is possible, documenting all occurrences.
While the behaviour of stalking is not new, its recognition in legal and academic circles is still in its infancy. Only through the continued study of the problem will we be better equipped to deal with particular cases once they are presented. Through the continued study and exposure of stalking (and by extension, Cyberstalking), will investigators and clinicians be better prepared to deal with its consequences and effects.