January 15, 2006

Profile of a Pursuit

Gerald met Cathy at church, and after a cordial conversation he invited Cathy out for coffee. She thanked him politely and explained she had just come out of a long engagement and was not ready to date. In the months that followed Gerald's continued to make romantic overtures towards and Cathy and she continued to politely and quietly reject his advances as she was still reeling from the pain of a broken relationship. He didn't want to give up because he felt she was the woman of his dreams.

Gerald was a fifty-year-old security guard at a local office building and retaliated her rejections by posting all her personal details which he obtained by surfing the Internet. These details not only included her physical description, but her address, and telephone number. Gerald also included details about how anyone could bypass her home security system based on information he had hacked online. He also posted false rape and “gang-bang” fantasies to on-line forums either anonymously or pretending he was her. On approximately half a dozen occasions, men arrived at Cathy's home in the hope of “cashing in” on these supposed fantasies.

Although Cathy posted messages to her door stating the postings were false, the perpetrator countered by posting messages on-line stating that these were simply tests to determine who was in fact ‘worthy’ of her fantasies. Cathy's mother noted how men were coming to her door at all hours of the night, and they “got dozens of calls by men who would leave filthy and disgusting messages”.

Cathy was eventually forced to move out of state, as she lost her job due to visits by strange men to her workplace, one of which ended in the rape of a co-worker. Unfortunately, unbeknown to Cathy, Gerald had already infected the family's computer and was able to continue harassing her as she moved to Texas and later Tennessee. You see in 1999 there were no online stalking laws in the California Penal Code. And as Cathy would later discover, there was even less protection for her across state lines. The harassment continued for over 3 years until he moved on to a new victim who was a law enforcement officer.

The increase in stalking complaints in NY and California are staggering. The biggest increase (321% in NYC) has been in the age group of children ages 12 to 15. And please don't assume that it's the children who give out their addresses to predators all the time, becauses it isn't. Case in point was a challenge I was recently issued by another blogger who posted an entry asking people to find him. I took up the challenge, sent him an email and indicated that I would do so without paying the $15.00 to find "everything" about him. I limited myself to only free tools available on the internet.

Not only did I find his home address, I was also able to get his telephone number and date of birth. With those I can get his social security number on a different database and impersonate him if I wanted to. All the information was free and easily accessible online. The total amount of time spent on the internet to get that information... 2 hrs and 15 min.

Lucky for him I'm not an unstable woman fixated on him. The chances of me being stalker are statistically low as men comprise only 12% of online or cyber stalking victims. Women and children (boys and girls under the age of 16) comprise the other 78%.

So while bloggers complained last week whether or not HR 3402 infringed on their rights as bloggers. I was in court providing moral support to a 13 year old who's parents were murdered by an online predator who had tried to abduct her. This case is similar to 2 in Pennsylvania, 1 in Texas, 2 in Arizona and 1 in NJ. In each of these cases the online stalker had the advantage having breached their victim's computer and email security system without their knowledge, allowing them to know their routines and daily schedules.

Yes, the law might be used as Uncle says, however, I'm sure that if he placed himself or his wife in Cathy's shoes he just might feel differently. I'm truly glad he's never had to experience harassment or stalking, and I pray that he and his family never do. But I can't help think of the Conservative Texas blogger who was harassed and eventually his family physically threatened because of his views. He too lost his home and eventually his job in his efforts to protect his family from a cyber stalker who published his home and work address and other personal details simply for supporting Bush and the war on terror.

As for online stalking and victimization, I speak from experience for I've been stalked and know the high price one pays afterwards to feel and remain safe and out of a predator's reach, even when they're in jail. In my view, the amendment passage of HR 3402 was a good thing as now thousands of online predators can be arrested and prosecuted when they cross the line and invade your safety and privacy. You see cyber-harassers eventually become serial stalkers until they're stopped. With this law we can catch them at harassment so we can prevent the deaths resulting from online stalking .

Posted by Michele at January 15, 2006 06:43 PM | TrackBack

I'm sorry I got you involved in this M. I really am. Inter-blog fighting like this really takes away the motivation to post. Mebbe I should just post my opinions and not link to others. :/

Posted by: _Jon at January 15, 2006 11:15 PM

Great post!

Posted by: oddybobo at January 16, 2006 11:27 AM

I am glad that some half of my posts are about shootin'. It seems to minimise the stalker types. Well, that and the fact that I never did get as purty as Mama wanted me to be, then I got old.

Posted by: Peter at January 16, 2006 02:05 PM

I'm not too worried about stalkers... I'm not pretty enough for a stalker.

Posted by: Contagion at January 17, 2006 07:51 PM

You don't have to be purty - you just have to have *some* attribute that a psycho finds irrisistable.
Then she'll ruin your life.

Posted by: _Jon at January 17, 2006 10:57 PM