Statistics show that the vast majority of people, at some time, will be victims of cyberbullying, cyberharassment, cyberstalking, or other internet hate crimes. It is therefore imperative we recognise potential problem situations before they arise in order to protect ourselves and our families from harm. In recent years, cybercrimes have become especially wide-spread due to rapid advancements in technology and the fact they do not require physical strength or face-to-face contact. However, these abuses can be as dangerous, if not more so, than physical assault in that they may occur anywhere and anytime, usually in the safety of one’s own home. Internet crimes can torment a victim 24 hours per day as they spread throughout the world wide web taunting, threatening, and humiliating them in front of potentially thousands of people. Cyber criminals come from all age groups and backgrounds. Anyone with access to the internet whether by computer, ipad, or other mobile smart device, can cyber-harass someone else, typically without revealing their identity.
Males and females harass and bully in different ways. Males tend to engage in cyber abuses by sending lewd pictures or by threatening physical violence whereas females will typically spread lies, start rumours, expose secrets, or negatively influence the opinion of others about the victim. It is also becoming more common for both genders to pose as their victim online in order to direct the attention of others onto the victim in humiliating ways.
Regardless of the mode of attack, cyber bullying and harassment can make a victim feel helpless, vulnerable, isolated, and even suicidal. Cyber harassment can be especially harsh because attackers are typically emboldened by their anonymity and have the perception they will never be caught. Since a cyber attacker cannot witness a victim’s reaction first-hand, they will often escalate their behaviours to much greater extremes than if they were face-to-face with their victim.
Given the vicious and pervasive nature of cyber hate crimes, what can a person do to protect themselves and what does a victim do if ever targeted by cyber criminals? Some basics are:
1. Never reveal your home address or telephone number to private parties online.
2. It is best to avoid online public forums. These are breeding grounds for cyber trolls seeking an outlet for their abusive behaviours.
3. Conduct an internet search using your name and phone number to ascertain whether you are being targeted without your knowledge. There may be false Twitter or Facebook accounts created about you or trying to pose “as you.”
In the event you have already been targeted:
1. Do not to respond to any messages or posts written about you regardless of how hurtful or untrue they may be. Cyber criminals typically try to provoke a reaction from their victim in hopes of drawing them into a web of humiliation.
2. Do not attempt to seek revenge on your abuser as it could result in legal consequences against you.
3. Document the harassment by capturing and saving disparaging text messages, webpage screenshots, tweets, or emails, and then report to the proper authorities.
4. Contact the host of website or social media the abuse is occurring and request its removal.
5. If negative behaviour persists, report the matter to poice. Report the activities of the abuser to their internet service provider or to any online platform being used by them to target you.Because online harassment can continue for extended periods of time, it is important to prepare mentally for a long battle. In some cases, ignoring the problem does not make the behaviours cease so therefore vigilant and swift action must be taken through regular contact with authorities. Although laws may vary from region to region, there is usually some form of law enforcement protection or legal action to find relief.