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Abusers Go Online

Just as technology expands, so do the ways abusers harass their victims

  • By
  • Nov 02, 2016
Abusers Go Online

Cyber-abuse once was narrowly thought of as cyberbullying and online name-calling, and was remedied by simply blocking the perpetrator. But as our world becomes increasingly digital and new technologies develop, so too does the definition of online abuse.

“Cyber-aggression is an old behavior in a new guise,” says Alison Marganski, assistant professor of criminology at Le Moyne College and an expert in intimate partner violence, cyber-stalking and online harassment. “While communication technology has evolved to ease the ways we communicate, it’s also increasingly being used to abuse. And the dynamics are much more complex than one would think.”

Online abuse takes many forms, including:

● Defamation: An abuser posts lies about an individual in an attempt to disparage his or her character.

● Doxing: An abuser posts an individual’s private information, including full name, address, date of birth or social security number with the intent of harassing the individual or opening them up for others to commit crimes against them.

● Financial abuse: With online banking and electronic bill pay, an abuser might take financial abuse to the Internet by interfering with an individual’s accounts, changing passwords, denying access to finances or even identity theft.

● Harassment: Social media offers abusers a multitude of new ways to harass victims via private message, voice calls and public posts.

● Google bombing: In this tactic, the perpetrator uses optimization to cause defamatory content to rise to the top of search results when someone Googles the victim’s name.

● Online impersonation: This is when an abuser creates a fake account or hacks into a victim’s account and sends messages that appear to be coming from the victim. Often the messages are disparaging or defamatory in nature. Or, they may be used to cause turmoil between the victim and a third party. In extreme cases, abusers post fake prostitution ads or rape fantasies inviting individuals to the victim’s home for sex.

● Revenge porn: An abuser shares intimate photos or videos of a sexual partner that were obtained with or without consent during the relationship or when the abuser hacked into the victim’s computer, phone or online document storage.

● Stalking: Abusers tracking the victim’s whereabouts through online “check-ins” or by installing GPS tracking on the victim’s phone and monitoring the location hits.

● Threatening: This tactic is as old as time, but can now be done behind a veil of secrecy. Internet threats aren’t always taken seriously by online platforms or law enforcement but they do cause real anxiety in victims.

● Unsolicited pornography: This occurs when an abuser sends unwanted pornography to a victim or posts it online, such as in an open-forum comment. It also includes sexualizing a photograph of the victim and posting it online.

Online abuse has very real consequences for victims. And while states are lagging in passing legislation that keeps up with new forms of abuse, many are working on it, and it’s still important to report it as harassment. You can find each state’s individual laws regarding stalking on the Stalking Resource Center’s website.

“Flag inappropriate comments and report online abuse to police,” Marganski says. “We should not tolerate these behaviors. The more people report it, the more seriously it will be taken.”

Learn more about the prevalence of online abuse and how to protect yourself in “The New Cyberstalking.”

SourceThe Women’s Media Center

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