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What is Cyberstalking? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Cyberstalking is a form of stalking that is done via the internet or electronic devices. This lesson will define cyberstalking, provide some examples, and discuss how you can protect yourself against cyberstalking.

The Packages

Several months ago, packages started arriving at Amy's home that she did not order. At first, she thought it was a random error, but when she began receiving packages on a daily basis, she realized that something else must be going on. She spent countless hours calling the businesses sending her packages and explaining that she was not the one placing the orders. Amy finally involved the police who began an investigation and told Amy she was the likely victim of a cyberstalker.

What is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is stalking that takes place using electronic devices or the internet. It is the technological harassment directed towards a specific individual. There are several forms of cyberstalking that can take place including:

  • placing orders for delivery in someone else's name
  • gathering personal information on the victim
  • spreading false rumors
  • encouraging others to join in the harassment
  • threatening harm through email
  • creating fear and paranoia for someone else
  • hacking into online accounts

Cyberstalking can cause extreme distress for the victim. It can impact their career, personal relationships, and quality of life. Often times victims do not know who the perpetrator is and start wondering if they are being watched or followed. The common denominator amongst cyberstalking cases is that they are typically against the law, unsolicited by the victim, and unrelenting.

A Few Statistics on Cyberstalking

Although statistics are difficult to calculate in cases of cyberstalking, a national advocacy group found the following:

  • half of all victims were ex's of the stalker
  • most victims were between 18 and 29 years old
  • more than half of cyberstalkers are men
  • over 30 percent of cyberstalking begins on social media sites
  • the majority of victims are caucasian

Cyberstalking in the News

The following two cases of cyberstalking made headlines:

In 1999, Gary Dellapenta became the first person to be charged under California's new anti-cyberstalking law. Dellapenta apparently took out ads that advertised sexual services provided by a woman who wouldn't agree to see him romantically. The ads provided the woman's address and several men showed up at her home. Dellapenta was convicted and received a six-year prison sentence.

In Delaware, a case of cyberstalking led to murder. David T. Matusiewicz and two of his family members were each given life sentences in a case of cyberstalking that resulted in the murder of his ex-wife and her acquaintance at the hands of David's father. According to court records, the Matusiewicz's spent years electronically harassing the ex-wife online. They posted false information, accused her of child abuse, and made several other false allegations. The claims incensed David's father so much that he shot her as she arrived to attend a hearing at court. David's father then took his own life. The case received national attention since it was the first time the federal statute involving cyberstalking and murder was utilized.

How to Protect Yourself

Because cyberstalking can have serious consequences, it is important to become aware of some things you can do to prevent cyberstalking or mitigate the harassment. The following are tips to stop online harassment:

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