Stop using the term ‘cyber’ with harassment and stalking?

Philip Grindell
Written by Philip Grindell
stop using the term cyber with harassment and stalking

This is a mistake and here is why.

Increasingly we see the term cyber being used, such as cyberstalking and cyber harassment.

Research from 2019 in the UK indicated that just 15% of harassment and stalking offences were flagged as having an online element.

The data refers to those reports where a person has stated that the unwanted contact has been made online, but I believe this is misleading.

My experience is that the stats are much greater and it is for this reason that we should stop differentiating whether it is online or offline.

The problem is that all too often when we hear harassment or stalking prefaced by the term ‘cyber’ there is an implication that it is less serious as there is no personal contact.

This is wrong and undermines the impact on the victims. For many victims, the unwanted contact that is conducted online can add an extra level of fear because they may not know who the perpetrator is.

About 60% of our clients ask us to identify who is harassing or stalking them online, posting abusive or offensive content and damaging their reputations because they do not know who the perpetrator is.

Why is this so important?

One of the bi-products of these unwanted behaviours is a sense of fear. This is exasperated when they don’t know who is responsible and can cause paranoia and hypervigilance. It can mean that every time they leave their front door, go to work or attend an event, they look at everyone as a potential suspect. Family and friends can be suspected and this lack of trust can be infectious and have significant implications for their mental health.

Stalking and harassment are deeply invasive and harmful behaviours, and I would argue that almost all incidents of stalking or harassment involve some form of online activity, even if that just refers to the manner in which research is conducted.

In my view we should drop the preface ‘cyber’ and stick with the terms harassment, stalking, bullying etc….it is never less serious because it occurs online.

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