Cyberstalking - The National Center for Victims of Crime

Cyberstalking - The National Center for Victims of Crime


Cyberstalking and the Law
If you are a victim of Cyberstalking
Potential effects of Cyberstalking
For more information
Resources on the Internet
A U.S. Department of Justice report estimates that there may be tens
or even hundreds of thousands of cyberstalking victims in the United
States (Report on Cyberstalking, 1999).
A 1997 nationwide survey conducted by the University of Cincinnati
found that almost 25% of stalking incidents among college age women
involved cyberstalking (Report on Cyberstalking, 1999).
Cyberstalking can be defined as threatening behavior or unwanted
advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of
online and computer communications.

Cyberstalking is a relatively new phenomenon. With the decreasing
expense and thereby increased availability of computers and online
services, more individuals are purchasing computers and "logging onto"
the Internet, making another form of communication vulnerable to abuse
by stalkers.

Cyberstalkers target their victims through chat rooms, message boards,
discussion forums, and e-mail. Cyberstalking takes many forms such as:
threatening or obscene e-mail; spamming (in which a stalker sends a
victim a multitude of junk e-mail); live chat harassment or flaming
(online verbal abuse); leaving improper messages on message boards or
in guest books; sending electronic viruses; sending unsolicited e-
mail; tracing another person's computer and Internet activity, and
electronic identity theft.

Similar to stalking off-line, online stalking can be a terrifying
experience for victims, placing them at risk of psychological trauma,
and possible physical harm. Many cyberstalking situations do evolve
into off-line stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and
excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail,
trespassing, and physical assault.

Cyberstalking and the Law
With personal information becoming readily available to an increasing
number of people through the Internet and other advanced technology,
state legislators are addressing the problem of stalkers who harass
and threaten their victims over the World Wide Web. Stalking laws and
other statutes criminalizing harassment behavior currently in effect
in many states may already address this issue by making it a crime to
communicate by any means with the intent to harass or alarm the

States have begun to address the use of computer equipment for
stalking purposes by including provisions prohibiting such activity in
both harassment and anti-stalking legislation (Riveira, 1,2). A
handful of states, such as Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii,
Illinois, New Hampshire and New York have specifically including
prohibitions against harassing electronic, computer or e-mail
communications in their harassment legislation. Alaska, Oklahoma,
Wyoming, and more recently, California, have incorporated
electronically communicated statements as conduct constituting
stalking in their anti-stalking laws. A few states have both stalking
and harassment statutes that criminalize threatening and unwanted
electronic communications. Other states have laws other than
harassment or anti-stalking statutes that prohibit misuse of computer
communications and e-mail, while others have passed laws containing
broad language that can be interpreted to include cyberstalking
behaviors (Gregorie).

Recent federal law has addressed cyberstalking as well. The Violence Against Women Act, passed in 2000, made cyberstalking a part of the federal interstate stalking statute. Other federal legislation that addresses cyberstalking has been introduced recently, but no such measures have yet been enacted. Consequently, there remains a lack of legislation at the federal level to specifically address cyberstalking, leaving the majority of legislative prohibitions against cyberstalking at the state level (

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