blind_html [Fwd: Stalkers turn to cell phones to 'textually harass']

  • From: Nimer <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 04 Mar 2009 10:00:04 -0700

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        Stalkers turn to cell phones to 'textually harass'
Date:   Wed, 4 Mar 2009 16:52:52 -0000
From:   Ray T. Mahorney <coffee-craver@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To:       Blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To:     <Undisclosed-Recipient:;>

Stalkers turn to cell phones to 'textually harass' <>

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - The college student had endured months of online
and cell phone harassment from her ex-boyfriend. She ignored the barrage
of e-mails, changed her phone number and dismantled online profiles to
cut him off.

Then one evening, her cell phone signaled a new text message. It was him

"You should keep to yourself and stay away from other people," the
message said, according to the student, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity because she feared for her safety. Her ex had found her photo
online and attached it.

As text messaging has boomed in recent years, it has also given rise to
so-called "textual harassment." Text messages antagonize recipients in a
way that is not easily ignored: Most people are never far from their
cell phones, and the gadgets tend to blink and chirp until unopened
messages are acknowledged. Adding another sting, the victims are often
charged by their cell phone companies for receiving the messages.

A study of stalking by the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice
Statistics released last month confirmed that stalking by texting has
become a pervasive problem.

The report found 23 percent of stalking or harassment victims reported
in 2006 that the stalker had used some form of cyberstalking, such as
cell phone texting or e-mail, to harass them. It was the agency's first
measure of the emerging practice, said Katrina Baum, one of the study's

"Technology has become a quick and easy way for stalkers to monitor and
harass their victims," the report said.

And unless calling plans include unlimited texting, recipients are
charged an average of 20 cents for each message sent or received, wanted
or not.

"I was paying to be harassed, which is a lot of fun," the victimized
college student said.

Providers including Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint say they are
willing to work with customers who are charged for unwanted messages.

Verizon Wireless handled 90 billion text messages in the last quarter of
2008 alone, more than double the number during the same period a year
earlier. AT&T customers sent nearly 80 billion texts in the quarter.
Sprint customers sent 41 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2008.

Having a device deliver a message tends to embolden people and provides
a sense of anonymity, even when the messages can be tracked to a sender,
said Jayne Hitchcock, president of the volunteer organization WHOA,
Working to Halt Online Abuse.

"They would never do this to someone in person," Hitchcock said, "yet
they use the faceless avenue of cell phones, their computers or
home/office phones to perpetrate the harassment."

States have scrambled to react to the new threat. Forty-six states now
have anti-stalking laws that refer to electronic forms of communication,
according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Only four states-Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington-explicitly name
text messaging, but laws that are less specific may also be applied to
text harassment.

Last year in New York's Kings County Court, a defendant was accused of
sending six threatening text messages to a woman during a 17-hour
period. The messages said the defendant was outside the woman's house
and that she would end up in the hospital.

The defendant tried to get aggravated harassment charges thrown out by
arguing that text messages were not as serious as phone calls or letters
and were not covered by state law, but the court disagreed.

Technological developments "along with their many benefits, bring with
them ever greater potential for abuse," the court wrote.

The college student said she walked the rest of the way home that first
night her ex texted her with the uncomfortable feeling he might be
crouched in the bushes, even though she knew he lived several states

The texts and e-mails kept coming for more than a year and ranged from
innocuous appeals for contact to disturbing insinuations of violence.
The contact stopped in December, when the man messaged her that he had
found someone else.

Customers who do feel threatened are advised to call law enforcers, who
can then contact the provider to identify the sender.

A Web site sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, Ad Council
and Office of Violence Against Women offers a textual harassment forum
where teenagers trade advice and experiences with overzealous or
unwanted texting.

The site,, <,> also has e-mailable reply
"callout cards" that offer a lighter approach to resolve what could be a
serious problem, with messages including "You're much more attractive
when you're not textually harassing me," and "Thanks for helping me
exceed my text message limit."

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Nimer M. Jaber

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