It’s not uncommon to hear a woman playfully tell a friend, boyfriend or potential boyfriend that they’re "Facebook stalking" her when the other person is always checking her profile or comments often on different posts.
But what if that person really started becoming obsessed and sent tons of messages or commented on everything, even after the woman told him or her to stop. What if it got to the point where the obsession started to threaten the safety of the woman?
The Bureau of Justice in the U.S. Department of Justice found in a report on female victims of violence that women are stalked more often than men (20 per 1,000 female victims versus seven per 1,000 male victims), and “during a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006, an estimated 3.4 million persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking.”
Mary Friedrichs, the director of the Office of Victim Assistance at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the general term "stalking" is used over "cyber stalking," since technology is just one way for stalkers to get access to a victim.
A fact sheet from the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center stated that “persons aged 18-24 years experience the highest rate of stalking,” “1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology (such as e-mail or instant messaging),” and “10 percent of victims report being monitored with global positioning systems (GPS), and 8 percent report being monitored through video or digital cameras, or listening devices.”
She said in the past school year, her office dealt with 12 cases of stalking, though not all college students who are being stalked come to the office, and it could also be classified under harassment.
When threats start being made and there is possible harm to the victim, that becomes stalking, she said.
“Harassment would perhaps be somebody who’s sending four or five messages a day, and stalking might be 50 or trying to contact the person more often, or if it’s looking more scary,” Friedrichs said. “The way you define stalking is when it gets scary.”