Cyberstalking: The emerging form of partner violence

Violence
in intimate relationships is all too common; just ask any cop who has responded
to the calls. But younger generations who grew up with computer technology have
more to worry about than a punch or slap. Cyber stalking is emerging as a form
of partner violence that differs from traditional domestic abuse and is troubling
in the ease in which it occurs.

In
a recently published study, Kansas State University researcher Lisa Melander shone
a light on how cyber stalking impacts college-age students. Gathering data in
male-only or female-only focus groups, Ms Melander found a range of cyber
harassment, including sending unsolicited or threatening e-mails, posting
hostile Internet messages and obtaining personal information about the victim
without his or her consent.

The
study found some differences in cyber harassment compared to face-to-face
domestic violence. One, the conflict was quick and easy, so flare-ups occur in
cyberspace when they might have blown over if people were only communicating in
person. Two, matters that would typically became private become public very
quickly, meaning friends, relatives and others could be pulled into the
situation and also suffer from the conflict. And, three, geographic location
had no bearing on the situation. Victims couldn’t always escape by changing
their physical location.

Ms
Melander also found that contrary to traditional violence, where there was
likely to be one abuser and one victim, cyber harassment often involved both
partners because of the back-and-forth that took place. Moreover, when people
communicated via computer they were less inhibited and didn’t have visual cues,
such as facial expressions or tone of voice, to guide their interactions. She
said that the lack of face-to-face contact could also aggravate conflict that
was being played out in cyberspace.

The
researcher concluded that computer technology “may change how relationship
violence occurs among younger generations.”

The
study was published in the June issue of the journal Cyber psychology,
Behaviour, and Social Networking.

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