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Ask Amanda: How Can I Stop My Cyberstalker?

Document everything and don’t ever reply

  • October 17, 2016
  • By domesticshelters.org
Ask Amanda: How Can I Stop My Cyberstalker?

Q: Even though I broke up with my abusive ex-boyfriend six months ago, he continues harassing me with texts and Facebook messages. No matter how I try to block him or how many times I change my number, he still seems to keep finding me. Is there anything I can do? – Michelle T.

A: It sounds like you’re the victim of cyberstalking, Michelle, which means your abuser is using electronic means to harass you. This can not only include harassing calls, texts, emails and social media messages, but may also include an abuser logging into a social media site as you to reveal your personal information or post disparaging or lewd things that could result in even more harassment by strangers. Cyberstalkers may also log onto a victim’s personal accounts—such as email or bank accounts—in order to change settings or passwords. They do this as another way to assert power and control over you, and make no mistake about it—it’s stalking, and it’s illegal.

While stalking is illegal in all 50 states, the specific nuances of each stalking law vary, including how cyberstalking is described. Luckily, the Violence Against Women Act enacted a cyberstalking amendment to the federal criminal provisions against stalking in 2013, allowing for electronic communication that causes emotional distress to be recognized as a form of stalking.

You can see how your state defines stalking here. This will be important information to know if you want to file charges or obtain an order of protection. Some experts argue that the abusers' behavior isn’t likely to change without accountability and monitoring. This means you should consider filing charges, even though that might seem scary. Your best bet is to consult with a local domestic violence advocate who can help you navigate the court system and talk to law enforcement about what’s going on. Find an advocate near you by entering your ZIP code on our home page. A list of organizations with advocates will appear.

Two good online resources for further reading include The Stalking Resource Center’s Use of Technology to Stalk, from The National Center for Victims of Crime; and the Safety Net Project, by the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

If you haven’t already, you should start keeping documentation of all incidents of stalking, online or otherwise. Ruth Foster is the public relations assistant with CallerSmart, an app that can help you unmask and/or block unknown callers to your cell phone. She suggests taking a screen shot of any harassing messages from your ex, whether they’re emails, texts or social media messages. Also, never engage with a cyberstalker—they’re looking for any response, so even replying something like, “Please stop contacting me,” may make them continue stalking you, since they can validated or emboldened by your engagement with them.

Foster also says changing your phone number and improving the privacy settings on social media accounts, or deleting them completely, are steps to take. “However, in the digitized world that we live in, even if we're not online our personal information can still find its way there. Some information is public record and other information we may have unknowingly given up by filling out a survey or downloading an app.” She suggests running an online search of yourself by entering your name into Google or another search engine. “If you find any results, contact the site's administrator to remove the information.”

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Ask Amanda is meant to offer helpful resources and information about domestic violence. If in crisis, please reach out to your nearest domestic violence shelter for the guidance of a trained advocate.