Stalkers: The Psychological Terrorist
A 50-year-old former security guard used the Internet to punish a 28-year-old woman who had resisted his advances. He went into various chat rooms and impersonated her, putting out the message that she desired to be raped and offering her phone number and address. Men came to her door in the middle of the night to fulfill her fantasy. The security guard was arrested and pleaded guilty in April 1999 to one count of stalking and three counts of soliciting sexual assault. It was the first successful prosecution of cyber-stalking under a law that California had recently enacted against it.
The Web is an information and communication highway that connects millions of homes and offices around the world. People desperate for love may accept whatever they're told and be willing to meet. Sometimes this results in true love and marriage, sometimes in rape, sometimes in death, and sometimes in the initiation of stalking.
Dr. Robert Lloyd-Goldstein describes the case of a man and woman who communicated on America Online [AOL/Time Warner, which owns America Online is one of the owners of Courtroom Television Network] and arranged a meeting. The man immediately talked of marriage and children, which frightened the woman. She backed off, but he didn't. He sent e-mails, letters, and packages, and made numerous phone calls. When she still did not respond as he had planned, he threatened to make public details about her online. Then he began to show up where she worked, insisting that he was the perfect man for her and that she was turning his love into something "dark." When he sent an e-mail telling her quite specifically that he had stalked her, she was able to get the intervention of law enforcement.
Children are especially vulnerable to the encroachment of a stalker because they spend hours in chat rooms talking with strangers, tend to miss the signals of predatory deception, and may be seeking an innocent adventure. Often they're unaware of the true danger.
The most perilous areas are chat groups, message boards, and personal e-mail boxes, and the most common form of harassment online is done through threatening e-mail and live chats. Cyber-stalkers can spread rumors, post information about you, send a virus, or even draw you out for an offline (f2f) encounter.
While the laws governing cyberspace are just catching up to this problem, law enforcement has devised some ways to help protect kids.
Ray Cannup trolled the Web as "Dr. Evil," seeking young girls. He finally persuaded one to meet him in Virginia. When he arrived, however, it was no 13-year-old he met, but the police unit known as Operation Blue Ridge Thunder. Its members spend hours in chat rooms looking for such pedophiles and posing as children or potential buyers of child pornography to trap them in an illegal act. In this case, they were successful.
Online predators can be reported to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. Their cyber-tip hotline number is 800-The-Lost, or online at www.missingkids.com.