I should not have to write this post. I should not have had to write the last four posts I wrote here. But it’s necessary because so, so many people are cyberstalked and it’s important for cyberstalking victims to understand how a lot of people are going to react when you tell them what happened to you and try to get help. First, though, I want to tell you that YOU ARE NOT CRAZY. YOU ARE NOT WRONG FOR SPEAKING UP AND SEEKING HELP. It’s not your fault that other people don’t know how/don’t want to deal with what happened to you.
Some cyberstalking victims aren’t going to like the word “victim” as I’m using it here and that’s fine. If you’ve been cyberstalked, you get to choose how you want to define yourself and your experience. In my experience, the initial feeling when you get that creepy email or blog comment with with the picture of the new person you’re dating or the personal information that only one person could know about you is a feeling of victimization. In my case, I’ve been cyberstalked for so many years by my ex-husband and his third wife that my response to this new case of cyberstalking was first that feeling of being a victim, then utter white-hot rage and absolute determination to find the person and put him or her behind bars.
Don’t keep your cyberstalking a secret. That just makes the fear worse for you, and it gives the cyberstalker more power over you. Tell your family, your partner, your friends, your classmates, and anyone else who needs to be aware that you might be in danger. This can be difficult when it comes to work and co-workers, but if there’s a chance that your cyberstalker might come to your job or if he or she is contacting you at work, you really have to tell your employer or supervisor. If you’re getting calls or emails from your stalker at work and your employer thinks they’re personal calls, you might get fired.
Some people are going to react with something like “oh, that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.” That’s because it hasn’t happened to them. It’s very upsetting, but it’s their problem, not yours. Do not let them convince you that you’re overreacting. If someone knows things that you only wrote in an email to another person (or a corporation) and never posted online, that’s a cyberstalker and you are right to be concerned.
Cyberstalking is almost never a one-time deal unless you manage to find and get the stalker arrested. It usually continues interminably, and some people (who are jackasses, remember that) may get tired of hearing you talk about it. Their opinions don’t matter. They should be ashamed for being too impatient to listen to someone who is being repeatedly victimized by a criminal. If someone kept slipping notes under their door at night for weeks or months or years, you can damn well bet they’d be talking about it and cyberstalking is just the modern version of that.
When you post being cyberstalked, your cyberstalker will see it. A cyberstalker varies very little from an abusive domestic partner. As a matter of fact, my ex-husband would watch my online activity while we were married and interrogate me about it. (I spoke to a man on Twitter, I posted on Facebook that I’d like to go see a MATINEE and would either of his MARRIED SISTERS like to go with me.) The cyberstalker I have right now (I call him/her “The Newb” in my mind) is doing much the same as my ex-husband did, quoting my public posts to me, critiquing my online behavior, and then blaming ME for the stalking. Because it’s not REALLY stalking. It’s because I need to “take a look at [my] compulsive and poor behavior” that he or she has to leave comments here.
This is CLASSIC abusive partner behavior carried over into cyberstalking. “If only you wouldn’t do this thing, I wouldn’t have to send you unwanted messages in a sad attempt to intimidate you into not doing the thing.” Yep. That’s what it all boils down to.
So now that we’ve established that cyberstalkers are desperate losers, let’s talk about the scary stuff.
Even a desperate loser can call you, email you, come to your house, attempt to hack your accounts (tomorrow’s post: Creating Strong Passwords for Stalking/Abuse Victims) try to ruin your online reputation (this is particularly sensitive if you’re in school) come to your job, follow you on the street, and try to assault you or succeed in assaulting you. This is why you have to tell and why you have to contact law enforcement.
Call 911 and file a report. Your local police have the discretion as to whether to investigate. THEN go here http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
Yes, that is the FBI’s website for reporting cybercrime and no, I’m not going overboard. I’ve used that form to report cyberstalking twice (once when someone was leaving comments on this blog telling me that they were killing cats, and once when someone contacted me with private information between me and a 3rd party that I’d never posted online.) The latter cyberstalker also detailed my online activity on different sites down to “you posted 15 minutes after midnight.” WHO DOES THAT? I’ll tell you who: someone who is dangerously mentally ill and someone you should take very seriously. As in, report to the FBI via the IC3 page. I don’t know what happened to the person who kept leaving comments about killing cats, but after I filed that IC3 report, he or she disappeared and has never resurfaced.
You will very likely not get a response from IC3 but that doesn’t mean they aren’t investigating your complaint.
Okay, we’re going to go over this again because it’s the most important thing for your mental health. Like abusive domestic partners, some cyberstalkers try to make you question your behavior. Your posts. Your avi. Your Facebook pictures.
BIG GINORMOUS RED FLAG: “… weirdly there are pictures of” and then a reference to your Facebook public photos.
THAT PERSON IS DANGEROUS. Unless you shared your Facebook photos with someone, they have NO BUSINESS DIGGING THROUGH THEM AND NO YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE TOTALLY LOCKED DOWN. I will tell you how to do that in a minute but remember: You are never at fault for being cyberstalked anymore than you are at fault for being harassed on the street. It is not your fault. It is THEIR FAULT.
Lock down your Facebook page so that nothing is public. Yes, this means not listing your school/work/relationship status. I’m sorry, but that’s the only safe way to use Facebook. Go to your Facebook page. Go to your timeline. Go to the three dots next to “message.” Select “view as.” You will then see your Facebook page as a total stranger sees it. No matter how long it takes, you MUST change every photo and post viewable to the pub;lic to “friends only.” Lock your Facebook down tight or delete it. Those are your only choices.
The Newb (my new cyberstalker) started a comment he left on this blog with “ok [sic] Robin you are not a victim.” BULL MOTHERFUCKING SHIT I AM NOT A VICTIM YOU GIANT LYING WORTHLESS LOSER BASTARD. I am actively in the process of hunting you down because YOU VICTIMIZED ME BY ACCESSING PRIVATE INFORMATION NEVER POSTED ONLINE AND SENDING IT TO ME IN A PATHETIC LOSER ATTEMPT TO SCARE ME INTO SHUTTING UP ABOUT A SUBJECT YOU DON’T LIKE. WELL, FUCK YOU. YOU DON’T GET TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT ME AND MY LIFE. I AM CURRENTLY A VICTIM BUT NOT FOR LONG BECAUSE I WILL GET YOU. I WILL NOT REST UNTIL I GET YOU. I WILL TESTIFY AGAINST YOU IN COURT. I WILL PUT YOU AWAY.
I’m obviously very aggressive towards any type of abuse/cyberstalking. Cyberstalkers are abusers. Many abusers are cyberstalkers.
This is not my first time at the rodeo. It is probably yours and you may have a different attitude towards openly confronting your cyberstalker and if you aren’t prepared for the blowback (the adult tantrum they will throw) you shouldn’t do what I just did. What you should do is keep reporting every single incident of cyberstalking to law enforcement.
You are scared and/or angry and/or outraged. You have a right to be. But you are not alone and you have resources. If your local police won’t help, make an appointment to see the chief. If he or she won’t help, go to the sheriff’s department. If they won’ help, find the nearest FBI office to you and go there.
Please don’t blame yourself or disappear offline because of a cyberstalker. People will tell you that. “Well, just don’t go online.” First-YOU have rights. The cyberstalker doesn’t. Second-YOU DID NOTHING WRONG. THE CYBERSTALKER IS ENTIRELY IN THE WRONG. People who tell you “just don’t use Facebook” are victim-blaming.
When I was still married and realized that my ex-husband had installed a keylogger on my laptop so he could read everything I posted, I was so shocked and bewildered that I spent a couple of days sleepwalking through life, and I finally just walked into an ER and I got so, so lucky. I got the full attention of the head of the ER department. I told him about my ex-husband cyberstalking me and constantly telling me that everything I posted on Twitter or Facebook was wrong or horrible and that doctor looked me in the eyes and said, “You didn’t burn down a building or kill a child. Who cares what you said?”
So if your cyberstalker says things to you like “The stuff I saw you do isn’t consistent with being a patient, reasonable adult… ” well fuck them. DON’T LET A CYBERSTALKER’S OPINION OF YOUR BEHAVIOR CHANGE WHO YOU ARE. Be safe, absolutely, be safe, but maintain your mental health.
Speaking of mental health . . . what kind of person is sooo obsessed with you that they think they have the right to follow you online or in person, track and record your behavior, and lecture you?
A mentally ill person who needs to be confined to an institution and helped by mental health professionals. By reporting your cyberstalker, you aren’t hurting him or her. You’re actually helping them because they may be on the verge of going out of control and ruining their own lives.
Report, report, report, stand tall, know in your mind that you are right about their abnormal behavior, keep reporting until your find someone (for me it was a county detective) who believes you and takes that person under control. And be you. Stay you. Oops, you made a faux pas on social media. So has everyone else on social media.
Above all, I beg you, be safe. Don’t let these very practiced, manipulative sociopaths hurt you. Raise hell until law enforcement takes you seriously. Raise hell on line and tell all your friends. Be a bitch. Be a bastard. Take no shit and take no prisoners.