Cyberstalking: What to know, how to avoid it

Computers, tablets, smart phones. They have programs and apps that help us live better, richer lives, but some people use them to inflict pain.

“If people want to perpetuate violence they will do that, and they will use whatever tools necessary to do that,” said Mary Foley, Executive Director of Paducah’s Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center.

She says stalking is a tool used within the realms of domestic violence.

“To intimidate, to change behavior, to control, to isolate,” said Foley.

High-tech tools at a person’s disposal can lead to dangerous behavior.

“What’s discouraging to me is it’s another avenue, another neighborhood our victims can be victimized through and in order to protect them they often have to disconnect in a way that is further isolating to them,” said Foley.

Take mSpy for example. It is marketed towards business owners, but in the wrong hands a perpetrator can use the same technology to monitor phone calls, read e-mail, and track text messages. That’s in addition to the more popular, and free, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

“When does an action on social media or through a certain app cross the line?” asked Foley.

According to members of law enforcement Local 6 spoke with, that’s a gray area. If a victim has an Emergency Protective Order (EPO), or a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) already on file, it’s more likely they’ll be able to convince a judge unwanted contact using any of these forms is threatening.

Foley says she continues to witness victims targeted by text message.

“And the text said something like: ‘I know what Greyhound bus you go off of. This is the number. You’re just one step ahead of me. I will find you and I will kill you,'” said Foley.

What can you do? Be careful who you give your cell phone number. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, think about changing it. Same goes for Facebook, Twitter and other accounts. You may need to create a new account to avoid contact with someone who’s making you uncomfortable.

Encourage a friend or family member to download and use apps created to help domestic violence victims. Apps like “Aspire News, which contains news stories but there’s a help section that contains resource for victims of domestic violence.

Victims can also get help through:

  • The Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center by calling 1-800-585-2686 or 270-443-6001 or clicking here.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233 or clicking here.
  • The Purchase Area Sexual Assault Child Advocacy Center by calling 270-534-4422 or clicking here.

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