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Persistent cyber stalking unpacked

Persistent cyber stalking unpacked

By : Liapeng Raliengoane

MASERU – The internet has multiple times presented challenges that enable stalkers to continue harassing their targets under the assumption of anonymity. 

Cyber stalking is explained as “the continual use of the Internet, e-mail, or any connected digital electronic communication devices to frighten, annoy, or threaten a certain individual or group of individuals.” Cyber stalking is a widespread crime that Lesotho needs to look at with an open mind in order to provide the necessary intervention. This is in particular to protecting victims.

The current persistent cyber stalking by one Facebook account going by the name; Thabo Boss is worrying. The owner of this account harasses women and publicly insults them.

An interview with Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, Researcher who specializes in Cyber Psychology, Cyber Mental Health, and Cyber Disorders Rethabile Tšephe, revealed that there are various challenges that are faced by the law enforcement during the administration process that deals with cases of cyber stalking.

“The most common challenges are assumed as jurisdictional issues and issues of privacy during the process of obtaining account records and user information from Internet service providers as well as relevant technological equipment, and softwares. The inappropriate use of technology and its anonymous nature highly contributes to the continued increase in this type of crime,” she added.

Tshephe listed the dangers of persistent cyber stalking as follows: Cyber stalking has serious psychosocial impact on individuals. Victims of cyber stalking report a number of serious consequences such as increased suicidal ideation, fear, anger, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology. However, research is largely limited in both qualitative and quantitative outcome research.

She said some of the dangers of persistent cyber stalking include but not limited to: “Victims who do not seek mental health services because of fear of being judged. Approximately one-third of female and one-fifth of male stalking victims sought professional counseling. A report on Cyber stalking victims reported as missing on an average of 11 days from work is still missing. While homicide occurs in only 2% of cyber stalking cases, when it does occur, the victim is most likely to be a former intimate partner.”

Mental Characteristics of a cyber-stalker: “The occurrence of cyber stalking in some countries report that cyber-stalkers are not psychotic, (i.e., have hallucinations or delusions) although a lot of them do indeed suffer from other mental challenges that include depression, substance abuse, and personality disorders.”

“Motivation for cyber stalking is not necessarily sexual, but is more to develop anger, frustration and hostility towards the victim, this type of attitude often stems from actual or perceived rejection of the stalker by the victim. Usually, victims think the control and obsessional behavior is the primary motive of the stalker,” she concluded.

The National Violence against Women (NVAW) survey shows that slightly more than half of female stalking victims reported their stalking to the police. Overall, only 13% of female stalking victims reported that their cases were criminally prosecuted. Police were more likely to arrest a stalker when the victim was a woman police, were also more likely to refer female than male victims to victim service agencies for support and counseling.

According to The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Cyber psychology & Well-being study that was conducted in July 2021 by Rani Sheilagh Dunn, Marvin Dadischeck and Rethabile Tsephe for Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research: In Lesotho, Internet penetration stood at 44% of the total population, with 946,300 internet users in 2020. This showed an increase of 84,000 thousand or +9.8% between 2O19 and 2O2O.