Cyberstalking is often considered the feat of an obsessive male who has found the image of a woman he likes the look of, desperate to have her. However, cyberstalking, in definition can happen any age bracket, situation, or even between countries. It's estimated that cyberstalking affects 1% of the population, or 10 million people online. 

      The documentary, Cyberstalking, from the Crime and Investigation Channel UK, sought to explore two unusual cases of obsession. Both cases have perpertrators going beyond normal lengths to affect their victims, in potentially dangerous, reputation-breaking ways. What both stories have in common are how the Internet only solidified their real-life pursuits, and the laws that often go amiss in protecting their targets. 

      Chay Ankers met his stalker through work. One night in July at a work party they become intoxicated and had sex at her house. The next morning they both decided it was a mistake and should be forgotten. Although Ankers received a strange phonecall requesting they hang out, two months later his stalker quit her job and seemed to have moved on. He then formed a relationship with Melanie, a girl he'd met at a later date. 

      Ankers first sign of concern was an email from his stalker, claiming she had contracted Chlamydia and they should get tested. The timing seemed confusing, but he was tested and found negative for the STI. She called several times, which he angrily requested she leave him alone. Chay responding to the calls and emails to make the request only encouraged further contact. The harrassment soon began in real life, the woman leaving notes at the house for Melanie, his current girlfriend, stating he was cheating on her. Another hand-delivered note was intercepted by Melanie, who questioned the stranger, only for her to claim it was the wrong person. 

      Harrassment continued, in the form of emails of the woman posing as other people, tyres being flattened on Melanie's car, and the further insistence that Ankers was cheating on her. Melanie began to get panic attacks. The police-suggested surveillance cameras outside their residence gave evidence of car tampering, but not enough to arrest her. 

      The stalker soon took on a full assault, deciding to try and destroy his life. She was behind a website being created, chayisgay.com, and believed to be the author of information being leaked to his employer about his allegedly false resumes. She also hacked into the computer to find out what holiday they were going, booking exact flights and destinations for herself. Ankers was resilient, deciding to use the Internet against her too, with the information highway travelling both ways. Upon finding her IP address and hacking into her files, they found she had researched Melanie and her family, booked holiday tickets, and hired a company to hack Anker's PC. Amusingly, Ankers changed his flight plans when he found out, changing their schedules so as not to clash with hers. 

      With enough evidence she was put under restraining order, however this did little to sway her to give up. Instead, she tried to extort money using Ankers, Melanie's and Melanie's sisters details. The forged loan applications were stopped when Ankers found out, and the woman was soon arrested. All of the materials online were enough to find her guilty and charge her accordingly.

 

      The Brown-Martin family are a unique case, where the stalking was not of a romantic persuasion. 

      Graham Brown worked in the music industry, and had the opportunity to work in fusion music between Jamaican and UK artists. He knew people in Jamaica and decided to move his wife (Wren) and daughter, 3, to be with him. He also went with a photographer he'd worked with via electronic processes. Brown explains when they did meet in person he seemed safe, intelligent, funny, and maybe eccentric -- but so were a lot of musicians he knew. Wren describes him on hindsight as "on edge," but she got along well with his girlfriend and the couples became friends. 

      Brown states that the personal and professional interactions were smooth while in Jamaica. The photographer even moved closer to make their time easier, and suggested the Brown-Martin family move also, to Kingston. Brown refused the move, knowing that Kingston could be a violent area to bring up a child in. The photograher became heated, becoming difficult. He emailed photos of car accidents, where occupants were dead and mutilated. Brown felt ill over it, and broke ties when the photographer refused to remove these images from a website. 

      The Brown-Martin family returned to London, only to find the harrassment had progressed. Online websites had their home address listed, maps to their home, inciting surrounding residents to attack them. Rumours and non-truths were shared, such as their child having HIV, or Brown being a racist, instilling violence against him for his alleged racist commenting. Hundreds of emails reached the family, in response to what they were told. 

      Finally the photographer set up a website which had 3 red crosses on it, to symbolise wife, husband and child. It said they had to get off the island or would be killed, with a timer counting the days they had left.  

      "It felt like a jilted lover," Brown recalls.

      Jamaican police were contacted, only they were helpless. Same with UK officials. Police were unable to assist because there is not a regulated understanding for multi-country cyberstalking. The loophole means that actions taken outside of the UK cannot be pursued by UK officials, and actions outside of Jamaica are not considered their responsibility. 

      The stalker continues his tirade online, posting offensive and damaging information about the family for the past 5 years. Brown actively contacts websites and service providers to share his story and get the content deleted posted where possible, but as Wren highlights, the information will always be there if they do not assist in deleting it. Police also suggest armed guard for physical protection. 

      Experts in the above cases suggest people be careful in the information they share online. Social networking sites can be dangerous if you share too much information. Even having people on your friends list could give the stalker a person to garnish information from, or target in the effort to mentally attack the victim. 

      Nobullying.com share information about avoiding social media stalking and over-sharing of information. You can find their articles at http://nobullying.com/.

      The article, Facebook Stalking in the UK , mentioned computer programs that are designed to stalk the stalker, or gain hard evidence where and how they might be following you online, as well as ensuring the information gets to the right authorities. In their companion article, The Nature of Facebook Stalking, they define the warning signs as:

 - someone who chats with you every time you are online

 -  leaves messages on your way, in your email, or showing obsessive behaviour

 - someone who wants more time with you, after you state you don't want to

 - someone making sexually suggestive comments

 - anyone being intimidating or using abusive language

 - someone who's trying to humiliate you by posting materials that paint you in a negative view. 

 

      Stalkers require no chances to re-offend, or any encouragement to friendship or a relationship. If you feel you are being stalked, make it clear you are not interested, even if you have mild interest. Obsessive behaviours are signs there is something "not right" about the interactions. If they do not take no for an answer, start tracking and telling family members about the situation that unfolds. 

 

 

 SEE ALSO: Look Who's Stalking

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