Last week, in Part I/II of What the Law Can and Can Not Do About Cyberstalking, we provided information regarding the reporting of cyberstalking process.
In this second and final part of this series, this week we explore the limits that law enforcement encounters in dealing with cyber stalking and then provide you with Help For Crime Victims real time information.
When the Law Itself is Handcuffed Regarding CyberStalking
Revenge Porn– the online posting of explicit photos of people without their permission, usually by an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend – is a legal gray area in most states. Victims of revenge porn have filed civil lawsuits against their victimizers and the sites that have published the images. These lawsuits are typically based on claims of copyright infringement and invasion of privacy. While the individuals who published the images can be directly sued, the website owners themselves are immune under section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C 230). Under that statute owners and operators of websites are generally not held responsible for material posted by others on their sites. The photos or videos are either published on websites specifically geared towards revenge porn, or on pornographic websites featuring categories for these types of photographs and/or videos. Many sites permit the publisher (the “ex”) to include the victim’s identifying information, such as the person’s full name, address, employer, and hometown, as well as links to the person’s Facebook or social media webpages. Without fail the websites have a comment section below the pictures or videos allowing voyeurs to post their own vulgar or degrading comments about the victim. Although some revenge porn sites have been shut down, new ones continue to appear.
Disappearing Evidence. (I.e., SnapChat.) In assessing the threat level of a complaint, the police will need to examine proof. SnapChat – the wildly popular mobile app that allows you to send videos and pictures, both of which will self destruct after a few seconds of a person viewing them – is the cyberstalker’s preferred tool of trade. Combined with “normal” IMs, emails, texts, etc., harassment by Snapchat coupled with seemingly normal chat via these other regular communication methods are a form of gaslighting – the intent is to portray the victim as being a liar or mentally unstable when , in fact, the cyberstalker is committing the horrible acts s/he is being accused of by the victim.
Stalker Identification. Cyber stalkers understand that law enforcement needs proof positive – that which positively identifies the stalker – in order to charge the wrong-doer. Often cyber-stalkers will share their online, telephone or other data programs with others so that the shared usage cannot exactly identify the end-user.
For the moment, it appears that cyber criminals are ahead of cyber law by several steps but as the law catches up with technology, less and less will that be the case. In the interim:
Help for Crime Victims
The National Center for Victims of Crime has a number of resources available to assist victims of crime. Our National Help Line, VictimConnect, provides help for victims of any crime nationwide, and can be reached by phone at 1–855-4VICTIM (1-855-484-2846) or by online chat.
The VictimConnect Resource Center is a place for crime victims to learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately. A program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, it combines:
- A traditional telephone-based helpline: 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846)
- An innovative online chat: Chat.VictimConnect.org
- Web-based information and service referrals:VictimConnect.org
With extensive specialized training, our Victim Assistance Specialists stand ready to help crime victims understand their rights and options, find information and connect with resources, access referrals, and craft next steps to regain control over their lives.
The National Center’s Connect Directory provides a fast and easy way for victims to locate service providers specializing in specific areas of victimization in a wide variety of jurisdictions throughout the country. Users enter information into a simple form which is used to pull up contact information for service providers nearby who can help.
https://www.domesticshelters.org/, a project of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), and Theresa’s Fund, provides abuse victims, their friends and family, and agencies, with the most comprehensive, searchable database housing more than 300,000 data points on more than 3,000 domestic violence shelters, agencies and programs in the U.S.
Get Help Bulletins
GetHelp Bulletins provide information on a wide range of topics, including the impact of crime, victims’ rights, and the criminal and civil justice processes. The bulletins also include resources for victims, their families, and friends.
Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime
The U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), provides an online directory of Victim Services throughout the country. OVC also provides information about victim assistance and compensation programs available in communities around the country.
Go to the helpful links section of our resource library for other Web sites offering crime and victimization information.
The National Crime Victim Bar Association is a network of attorneys and allied professionals dedicated to facilitating civil actions brought by crime victims. Crime victims may be able to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and responsible third parties for the damages the victims suffered as a result of the crime.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.