New research has confirmed that being stalked online has now become more common than having a physical harasser.
It's not entirely surprising, given how much less effort is required to anonymously harass someone on social networks, chat rooms and by mobile phone – not that we're speaking from experience, of course.
A somewhat surprising statistic, however, is that 40 per cent of cyberstalking victims are men, and that most of the online stalking is perpetrated by strangers.
In physical world stalking scenarios, women are much more likely to be targeted, and around half of all harassments are carried out by former lovers.
The research, conducted by the Electronic Communication Harassment Observation team (Echo) at the University of Bedfordshire, is the first to examine the effects of online stalking and did so by questioning 250 victims.
Dr Emma Short, psychologist and co-author of the study, argues that online stalking needs to be taken more seriously by the police: "There is a lack of understanding of the impact of this behaviour. One of the biggest questions was, 'Is there psychological harm?' Worryingly, a third experienced this. Not just stress, but a clinical record of psychological harm.
"There have been threats to kill. They give the impression that they know where their victims live and can get at them physically. There is a lot of damage to or loss of reputation, people being compromised by false allegations."
Scarily, most victims who were targeted by strangers never found out who the stalker was, where they had come from or what they hoped to achieve by the harassment.
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