If you're managing a crisis that is happening online, it might feel like there’s no escape from it. You may be feeling scared, unsafe and worried about what will happen next. The good news is there are a few things you can do to get the issue sorted and help you feel better in the meantime. Remember, it’s not your fault!
Your first thought might be to blame yourself, but that’s not fair. To give yourself a break, you can try to limit the amount of time you spend online. While it’s not fair that you should have to stay off the web because of someone else’s actions, it might help you to feel safer and happier. If you are experiencing a digital crisis such as the ones listed below, please tell a trusted adult.
Cyberstalking refers to the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other telecommunication technologies to harass or stalk another person. It is not the mere annoyance of unsolicited e-mail. It is methodical, deliberate, and persistent. The communications, whether from someone known or unknown, do not stop even after the recipient has asked the sender to cease all contacts, and are often filled with inappropriate, and sometimes disturbing, content.
Cyberstalking is an extension of the physical form of stalking.
It is estimated that there may potentially be tens or even hundreds of thousands of cyberstalking victims in the United States.
A cyberstalker only needs access to a computer and a modem. Due to the enormous amount of personal information available through the Internet, a cyberstalker can easily locate private information about a potential victim with a few mouse clicks or key strokes. Information is power, and stalking of any kind is about power and control. There is little security on-line. Turning on a computer can expose anyone to harassment. Everyone who receives e-mail or uses the Internet is susceptible to cyberstalking.
Cyberstalkers use a variety of techniques. They may initially use the Internet to identify and track their victims. They may then send unsolicited e-mails, including hate, obscene or threatening mail. Live chat harassment abuses the victim directly or through electronic sabotage (for example, flooding the Internet chat channel to disrupt the victim’s conversation). With newsgroups, the cyberstalker can create postings about the victim or start rumors that spread through the bulletin board system. A cyberstalker may also set up a web page on the victim with personal or fictitious information or solicitations to readers. Another technique is to assume the victim’s persona on-line, such as in chat rooms, for the purpose of discrediting the victim’s reputation, posting details about the victim, or soliciting unwanted contacts from others. Cyberstalking is a course of conduct that takes place over a period of time and involves repeated, deliberate attempts to cause distress to the victim.
The fact that cyberstalking does not involve physical contact may create the misperception that it is less threatening or less dangerous than physical stalking. Cyberstalking is just as frightening and potentially as dangerous as a stalker at the victim’s front door. The psychological torment is very real, even in the absence of a distinct physical threat. It totally disrupts a victim’s life and peace of mind. Cyberstalking presents a range of physical, emotional, and psychological trauma for the victim, who may begin to develop or experience:
- Sleep disturbances
- Hyper vigilance
- Recurring nightmares
- High Levels of stress
- Eating disturbances
- A feeling of being out of control
- A pervasive sense of the loss of personal safety
What Should You Do If You Are A Victim Of On-Line Stalking?
If you are being harassed on-line, there are several things you should do:
- Trust your instincts: If you suspect that someone knows too much about you and/or your activities, it is possible that you are being monitored.
- Plan for Safety: Advocates at your local rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter are available to help you develop a safety plan. You can also use national hotlines such as 1-800-656-HOPE, the National Sexual Assault Hotline or a website such as www.fris.org or www.rainn.org.
- Be extra cautious if your abuser is very technologically savvy. Again trust your instincts. You may want to talk to an advocate or to the police.
- Use a safer computer: If you suspect that your computer is compromised, use a computer at the public library, church, or a community center.
- Create a new email account(s): Look for free web-based email accounts. Use an anonymous name and don’t provide much information in the profiles that an abuser could use to find you.
- Check your cell phone settings. Consider turning it off when not in use. If your phone has GPS enabled, consider turning it off.
- Change passwords and pin numbers. Use gender neutral passwords. Try to avoid using birth dates, numbers or phrases that your abuser may recognize. Don’t give your passwords to anyone and keep them in a safe, not easily accessed place.
- Use a donated or new cell phone. If the local rape crisis center or shelter provides cell phones or if you can obtain a new phone, do so. Consider the use of a prepaid phone or phone cards as well.
- Ask about your records and date. Many court systems and government agencies are publishing records to the Internet. Ask agencies about their policies regarding publishing and protection of victim records. Find out if there are ways that your records can be sealed or if access can be restricted in some way to protect your safety.
- Get a private mailbox and don’t give out your real address. This will give you a safer address to give out to doctors, businesses, etc. Try to keep your actual address out of national databases.
- Search for your name on the Internet. This can help you determine what information is online and whether search engines have access to your contact information.
Note: (Information in this section taken from West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services,www.fris.org)
“Sexting” typically refers to sex-related or nude photos taken and shared via cellphone or online. The images are meant to remain private, but sometimes, they can get into the wrong hands and end up being more public than you ever would have felt comfortable with. There can be significant psychological consequences, if coercion’s involved or if one partner later shares photos without the other’s consent. If you receive a sex related photo or have a sex related photo of you being distributed, please talk with your parents, a trusted adult or a counselor at NormanAid.
The practice is not illegal when photos are shared between consenting adults, but when minors are involved, sexual-exploitation and child-pornography laws can come into play.
If you’re not 18 years-old and you’re sending sexy texts (or if you’re receiving them from someone under 18 years-old), you could get in a lot of trouble. Any naked or sexual images of people under 18 years-old are considered child pornography. There are some really serious legal consequences for people who distribute or possess child porn.
You shouldn’t ever feel like you’ve been forced into sexting with someone. It’s never OK for someone to pressure or guilt you into taking and sharing photos of yourself.
Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not a condition of being in a relationship, and your partner should get to keep compromising photos of you on their phone. It’s always up to you.
As with sex itself, consent needs to be considered when sexting, by both the sender and the recipient. When someone shares a sensitive photo of you without your consent, it’s a form of cyberbullying. It might be worth figuring out what you feel comfortable doing and what could cause trouble later on before diving in. Once it’s taken, a photo or video can go anywhere. It can be messaged to other people or even posted online. If the photo, video or message doesn’t exist then there’s no chance of harm. It can’t be shared if it doesn’t exist. If you’re thinking about sexting, make sure you’re prepared for what might happen if the content gets into the wrong hands. When someone uses pressure or coercion to get nude or sexually explicit photos from another person, that’s usually a form of sexual harassment. Young people need to see that pressure for what it is – that it’s inherently disrespectful and abusive, that they owe themselves the self-respect that prevents this victimization, and that there are laws against it
This is another kind of sexting that can cause serious harm. “Sextortion” generally refers to the crime of extortion involving sex-related digital photos. Extortion victimizes someone by demanding money, property, sex, or some other “service” from the person and threatening to harm him or her if the demand isn’t met. When digital photos are involved, the harm being threatened is often extreme embarrassment or loss of reputation through exposure or distribution of the person’s photos. Certainly sextortion can also involve a violation of trust, as with “aggravated sexting,” exploiting emotional vulnerability.
The term “doxxing” originates from the word “documents.” 1990s hacker culture shortened the term to “docs” and then “dox,” with “dropping dox” referring to collecting personal documents or information, such as a person’s physical address, and then publishing them online.
Today, the definition of doxxing can refer to publishing anyone's information online. Doxxing attacks usually involve harassment or revenge.
While the concept is decades old, doxxing is still alive and well — and it can be very dangerous, especially as it becomes more mainstream. Once someone’s private information is out there, they can be targeted based on their physical address, job location, phone number, email, or other information. Doxxing attacks can range from the somewhat benign, such as fake mail sign-ups or pizza deliveries, to the far more dangerous, like harassing a person’s family or employer, swatting, identity theft, threats or other forms of cyberbullying, or even in-person harassment.
If you’ve been doxxed, you’ll know it soon enough. Unfortunately, doxxers usually don’t publish someone’s personal information and then stay quiet about it. If you start receiving threatening messages, it’s time to lock down all of your accounts. Make sure to check if your Facebook account has been hacked and verify that your Gmail account is secure.
You should also check to see if your personal information is now for sale on the dark web — the restricted part of the internet that you need special means, like Tor, to access. It’s not easy to monitor the dark web yourself, so you may want to consider enlisting the help of a service. If you’ve been doxxed, or if you think someone may be doxxing you, it’s time to act fast to stop the spread of your personal information. Here are a few simple steps you can take right away:
- Document the evidence. Make sure to take screenshots of everything in case you need to report it to the police.
- Report the harassment to whatever platform your info appears on. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have terms of service agreements that prevent doxxing, and they should respond to your request and suspend the account of the doxxer(s).
- Report the cybercrime to the appropriate authorities.
- Lock down your accounts. Change your passwords, use a password manager, enable multi-factor authentication where possible, and strengthen your privacy settings on every account you use.
- Enlist a friend or family member for support. Doxxing can be emotionally taxing. Ask someone to help you navigate the issue so you’re not dealing with it on your own.
- Consider changing your number. Depending on what information was exposed, you may want to consider changing your phone number, usernames, or other personally identifying info where possible.
- Enlist a service to monitor for leaks of personal information.
This information came form Avast Academy
Better Protect Yourself Online
- Use a gender-neutral screen name.
- Never give your password to anyone, especially if someone sends you an instant message (IM).
- Don’t provide your credit card number or other identifying information as proof of age to access or subscribe to a web site run by a company with which you are unfamiliar.
- Tell children not give out their real name, address, or phone number over the Internet without permission.
- Don’t give your primary e-mail address out to anyone you don’t know.
- Spend time on newsgroups, mailing lists, and chat rooms as a “silent” observer before speaking or posting messages.
- When you do participate on-line, only type what you would say to someone in person.
- Don’t respond to an e-mail from a stranger; when you reply, you are verifying your e-mail address to the sender.
- On a regular basis (at least once a month), type your name into Internet search engines to see what information, if any, pops up. To have your name removed from any directories, contact each search engine on which you are listed and request to be removed.