Jayne Hitchcock, Author & President of WHOA -
23rd June 2003
What is your background Jayne?
background is that of a writer - I've published seven
books and am working on a couple of others (go to
click on About for a full background).
got involved with WHOA back in 1997 when another cyberstalking
victim, Lynda Hinkle,
was put in touch with me. We both had our own cyberstalking
horror stories and through that camaraderie, she founded
WHOA - I was on the Board back then. We were called
"Women Halting Online Abuse" at that time.
When she left WHOA in June 1999, I took over as president.
Soon after, we decided to change the name, as we were
seeing more men coming to us for help, but were reluctant
because they thought it was a group for "women"
victims only. So, we became Working to Halt Online
are your aims and objectives?
hope to not only offer help to victims of cyberstalking
and online harassment, but educate and inform net
users on how to stay safe online and offline, offer
tons of resources (such as which states/countries
have applicable laws, lawyers who will help online
victims and more), and get the word out to the media
and public that cyberstalking *is* real.
exactly is a cyber-stalker? (for the benefit of our
audience who doesn't know)
this is someone who begins harassing another person
online but can't let go after they've been told one
time by the victim to stop communicating. Then they
escalate the online harassment to cyberstalking by
"following" the victim online. Some cyberstalkers
inundate their victim with just e-mails or instant
messages; others actually go from chat room to newsgroup
to forums to e-mail, IM, etc. As far as who a cyberstalker
is, we find that they are usually white collar, your
average everyday person who probably doesn't have
a criminal record, or even a parking ticket, for that
matter. They could be your next-door neighbor, a teacher,
the kid who delivers your newspaper, a lawyer, a student
- just about anyone.
widespread is the problem?
average 50-100 cases a week - some weeks it's more,
some it's less. That's around 5,000 cases each year
for our organization alone. There are several other
online safety organizations such as ours, but they
focus mainly on child-related cases while we focus
on adult cases (18 years of age or older).
estimated there are over 500 million people online
worldwide - if only 1 percent become online victims,
that's still 5 million people. When I conduct law
enforcement training, I always tell the officers and
detectives that if they haven't seen a case yet, they
can people do about it?
aware of their online surroundings. The Internet is
a wonderful place, but like "real" life,
their are good guys and bad guys. Too many people
go online and basically lose all their inhibitions,
and their common sense. They would tell complete strangers
in a chat room or message board extremely personal
details of their lives that they would never say to
a stranger in an elevator. Think of the Internet as
an elevator - if you wouldn't say it to a stranger
there, don't "say" it online.
are the most famous or infamous cases?
of the more famous (besides mine, LOL - see www.jahitchcock.com/cyberstalked)
is the Dellapenta case out of California. I wrote
about this in my latest book, Net
Crimes & Misdemeanors (www.netcrimes.net).
a woman was impersonated online with messages and
personal ads placed in her name stating she was into
home invasion rape fantasies, then listed her home
address, phone number and directions to her house.
When men began showing up at her home, she had no
idea why, until one told her about the online ads
in her name. Her father learned how to trace the messages
to their source and it turned out to be a man she
knew from her church. He'd asked her out once and
she said no. He didn't take no for an answer. He was
arrested, convicted and received six years in jail.
many % of cyber stalking cases are an ex girlfriend
or boyfriend situation?
find that less than half the cases we receive are
related to exes of any sort (husband, wife, boyfriend,
girlfriend, co-worker, fellow student, etc). Most
of the cases we get are stranger-on-stranger, where
victim did not know the cyberstalker in any way, shape
or form beforehand. And we're seeing those cases go
up. It's quite different from offline stalking cases,
where most of the victims do know their stalker in
one way or another.
are the penalties in Australia, as opposed to the
to the Criminal Code Stalking Amendment Act 1999:
maximum penalty of five years (seven years if it involves
a weapon or damage to the victim's property or physical
harm of the victim)
there is no federal (nationwide) cyberstalking law
in the USA. Each state has to pass their own law -
of the 50 states, 42 have passed related laws, 2 have
laws pending and 6 have no laws at all (see
of the states make cyberstalking/online harassment
a misdemeanor for the first offense (up to a year
in jail and/or a fine) and a felony for a second offense
(3-5 years in jail or longer, depending on the state,
such as California and/or a fine).
find that since most cyberstalkers are not previous
criminals, when they find out they can be charged
with a crime, they stop the stalking or harassment
(this is based on reports by law enforcement to me
media coverage have you received regarding specific
It depends on what type of victim the media wants.
Some want cyberstalking victims, online dating horror
stories, chat room cases, etc. Media coverage comes
and goes. I swear, it usually comes all at once and
everyone wants me to help them find cases and to interview
me, then there's a dry spell.
you authored books on the subject, or do you plan
to? (I have info for you about my case) - she was
a>"nutter" I tell you...
Crimes & Misdemeanors (www.netcrimes.net)
has your website helped and hindered you?
helped quite a bit - more and more people discover
us or are referred to us; when I give lectures, people
visit the site afterwards. It hasn't hindered me or
the rest of my staff in any way.
many traffic / impressions do you receive?
don't keep an official counter on the web site; I'd
have to ask our host if you really need the info.
have been your biggest supporters, and have any groups
or individuals attempted to stop you?
one disgruntled cyberstalker tried to bad-mouth WHOA
when he was caught by the police. He put up anti-WHOA
web sites, which were promptly taken down. I believe
he's now in jail.
far as support - we get it from all over: The US Dept
of Justice; National Center for Victims of Crime;
other online safety organizations who refer adult
cases to us; law enforcement worldwide; etc.
cyberstalking on the decline, upswing or steady?
are the best measures someone can employ to
ahead and take any of the tips from here:
other important information should we know?
something doesn't "feel right" when you're
online, avoid it all costs and if someone begins bothering
you, don't defend yourself - this is how most online
harassment/cyberstalking cases begin.
buy my book!
note: Cyberstalking is a real problem. Unfortunately,
I know. I had one many years ago. To read more about
cyberstalking go to
To read a little more about my case, go to http://australia.internet.com
This is the stuff books and movies are made on, and
that's part of my plan. Not for any other reason that
that there is an amazing story to be told, I'm in
a position to tell it, and with people like Jayne
Hitchcock, the book and movie would be a big hit,
hence my career in crime movies movies forward. Nice
jump from playing a bit part in Australia's White
was also interviewed on australia.internet.com
on the 19th May 2003.
this subject seriously. You could be next.
Details for Working to Halt Online Abuse
Working to Halt Online Abuse