"Teen girl commits suicide over cyber bullying."
How many of you have read a headline like this? How many of you have been a victim of cyber bullying? How many of you have met someone who has been a victim? *raises hand to all three*
Scary, isn't it?
Cyber Bullying. The term alone invokes fear into parents. After all, how well do you really know the person on the end of the other screen?
As someone who has been a victim of cyber bullying more than once, I feel that it's a topic that can't be ignored.
Do you want to know why I don't use Facebook? It's because of the cyber stalking and bullying that I copped while I was on it. That was five years ago. Five years and I still have no desire to jump on the Facebook bandwagon.
Bullying comes in many forms, as you may well know. From simple harsh words and harassing e-mails to full on stalking and death threats. So how can we prevent being victimized by it?
I've found the best way to combat a bully is to ignore them. In my case, I even alerted Facebook as to what was happening as well as my local police. But after a while, the taunting and the threats I got were too much to handle, so I closed my account and moved to Twitter. I even shut down my blog that was attached to that account seeing as most of the treats were aimed at what I wrote. I would also like to point out that Facebook did nothing to aid me against the bullies. This has also contributed to me leaving their site and never to return.
I've been on Twitter now for about three-four years and so far all seems well. I've had minor issues, but that can be resolved by a simple 'block' and 'report for spam.' As for the harassing e-mails, once again the blocking button comes in handy. But when things gets a little more intense, that's when you have to step up your defense.
Stalking. It's not that difficult to find out information online about people. Everything we type and put on the Internet will come back to haunt us at some stage. Not too mention that it's out there for all the public to see. By gathering this information, a stalker then can up his or her attacks by 'dropping' by a victims house.
Now I'm grateful that this hasn't happened to me, but it has happened to a friend of mine. The constant harassment became too much and there was talk of suicide as the police weren't able to do much to help. My friend, whom I shall call Jane*, couldn't give much information to the police simply because she wasn't sure what he had told her was real. After all, this being the Internet and the twenty-first century, people lie about who they are. It all comes back to how well do you really know someone.
Instead, she printed off all the harassing e-mails and conversations she had with this man, handed them over to the police and began searching for a new house. Within six months, she had moved to another state. Her stalker found this out somehow and continued to harass her.
She returned to my home state and rang me in tears. She couldn't continue running away. She wanted her life back. He was not only affecting her family life but also her work and her health. She was so stressed by his 'presence' that the mere thought of going outside was enough to send her into a panic attack.
I'm happy to report that less than a year ago, Jane's stalker was arrested. He was caught exiting her house after leaving the body of her cat on the front door step.
But what's most upsetting about Jane's story, aside from the death of Boots, is that there was no law in place to prevent this harassment. OK, so she could have gotten a restraining order, but what name would she have given to the court? "Hi, I'm being stalked by BigTool4U."
As the world moves forward into the technical age we really need to change our laws. Please remember that I reside in Australia so I really can't speak for the rest of the world. But with our dependence on computers and technology ever growing, there needs to be new laws that aid police in stopping cyber bullying. Criminals are getting smarter and if we can change the way we see fraud, why can't harassment laws be changed to combat Internet bullying?
If you are suffering from cyber harassment or if you are a past victim, please contact me. Your story may just aid someone else in their fight against cyber bullies.
* - Names have been changed to protect privacy.