Unfortunately, this may be a story that may hit entirely too close to home. As you most likely know, domestic violence victims have one thing in common. They all share or have shared some kind of relationship with the individual who has placed them in fear. Truth be told, the act doesn’t always have to be physical. In fact, under New Jersey law, cyberstalking is considered a predicate act of domestic violence.
You may already have your own concerns. However, you may not even think you are entitled to some form of protection from the courts. After all, your body is free of visible signs of physical abuse. You are not covered with black and blue marks. Meanwhile, you haven’t been to the doctor to report the torture you live through every day.
Quite simply, you should know that you are not alone. Nor, are your fears unwarranted. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 14 out of every 1,000 United States residents has been the victim of some type of stalking. Meanwhile, one out of four victims reports cyberstalking. To top it off, most knew the person who was placing them in fear and actually had a one-time personal relationship.
What is Cyberstalking?
More than likely, you already have some idea as to what constitutes cyberstalking. It is when someone uses technology, such as social media platforms or smartphones, to stalk and harass someone online.
For example, let’s begin with spyware that could be installed on your computer. You’ve taken all the precautions on your social media accounts. In fact, you are beyond confident that your Facebook and Instagram posts are set to private. Nevertheless, your ex-boyfriend seems to know about every picture you put up, as well as your use of Messenger services. How is that possible?
It might surprise you to learn that there are companies that pride themselves on hawking spy gadgets. In some cases, it could involve attaching a GPS tracker to your vehicle and getting email updates concerning your location. Other times, someone could put spyware on your computer.
However, technology goes even further. Believe it or not, a small USB memory stick can be inserted into your cell phone to recover all your emails, texts, and voicemails. Allegedly, one of the goals is to track cheating mates. Notwithstanding, it sure sounds a lot like cyberstalking.
Some unscrupulous cyberstalkers may use internet keyloggers to get into your email, as well as your social media and bank accounts. They may then wreak havoc by pretending to be you or contact you repeatedly.
Cyberstalking is not just about using technology to track you. It also concerns issuing threats or abuse utilizing some type of online contact. Furthermore, someone that is guilty of cyberstalking may even attempt to extort money. They may do this by threatening to post slanderous and compromising posts or photographs.
What Can You Do If You’re a Victim?
Cyberstalking is not only a crime, but should be considered a predicate act of domestic violence. In many states, you can request a restraining order against someone who is stalking or harassing you, even if that person does not have a specific relationship with you. And even if there is no specific restraining order for stalkers, you may still be able to press charges since it is a crime.
But it’s important to have evidence. You will want to do the following:
- Save everything. Keep a hard copy of all social media posts and emails. Try to get hard copies of all text messages by forwarding them to your email. Take a screenshot of your smartphone of the actual calls and videos the stalker may have sent you.
- Keep a log of the harassment. Remember to track the date and time the incident occurred, what the stalker had done, what actions you took, and if there were any witnesses.
- Never respond to the stalker or his/her actions. It may reinforce or encourage the person to keep harassing you.
- Contact the police when possible. Make sure you get a copy of the police report later and keep a note of the name of the officer in charge of the case.
If you are a victim of cyberstalking, don’t wait. Discuss your legal options with an experienced domestic violence attorney a soon as possible.
Our guest article contributor is Attorney Anthony Carbone, P.C. a solo practitioner in Jersey City, NJ. His firm, the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, handles personal injury, family law, and criminal defense matters.