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The thin line between online flirting and harassment

by Hazen Center for Integrated Care
Wed, Mar 28th 2018 12:00 am

Have you ever met someone new in one of your classes or through some mutual friends and wanted to find out as much as you could about them? You ask a couple of friends if they know them, you find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and maybe even their LinkedIn page to learn as much as you can and start thinking about all the ways you may be compatible.

 Then when talking to your friend, they ask you how much have you stalked them on social media, right? We are in college and part of the social media generation, online “stalking” is something we do, but where is the line between joking about finding old embarrassing photos of a crush and making someone feel uncomfortable and afraid?

Did you know that college—aged individuals experience the highest rate of stalking? According to the Violence Prevention and Action Center, on college campuses, it is reported that 80 percent of victims know their stalkers. Stalking is defined as two or more incidents of unwanted attention, harassment or contact directed towards a specific person regardless of their identity and could make someone feel fear or threat of various types of harm.

Stalking is a serious issue and it is important to know and recognize the warning signs if someone might be stalking you or a friend. Some stalking behaviors include: someone following you, showing up where you and your friends are, threatening you, your friends and family, and even sending unwanted gifts or texts. Unwanted texts might not seem like a warning sign, but if an individual is constantly texting you, asking you where you are and what you are doing, it can be considered stalking, especially if it causes you to feel fear, uncomfortable or threatened. 

With technology being so ingrained in our lives, there has also been an increased rate of cyberstalking, too. Cyberstalkers are stalkers who may verbally abuse someone online, spread rumors, or post intimate pictures of a person online. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. all make it easier for cyberstalking to occur. Stalkers have used social media to learn a person’s daily or class schedules, as well as where they live. One way you can protect yourself from cyberstalking is by making sure to check that your location settings on social media apps are turned off and by not sharing information about your day-to-day life in your posts.

Snapchat is a common app that most students use, but many students don’t know that Snapchat now is able to show your Snapchat friends where you are located using the snap map. Making sure your Snap settings are set to “ghost mode” will prevent your location from being shared.  

It is important that we, as a campus, have conversations about stalking because it can have serious impacts on a individuals. According to the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, some signs include victims having increased rates of: fear for safety, stress, anxiety, depression, disruptions of daily routines and failure to concentrate. 

If you are observing these warning signs and behaviors in a friend or in your own life, it’s important for you to reach out to someone and get help, especially if you feel the person causing these feelings is dangerous and might cause harm to you or a friend.

One tip on how you can get help includes calling University Police if you are on campus at 395-2222 or dialing 911 if you are off campus. Another is telling trusted friends and family members about the stalking behavior to get support. 

If you are experiencing or observing stalking on campus, you can always talk to resident Director, resident Assistant, faculty, the Counseling Center, University Police, the Title IX coordinators, and the Center for Select Respect. All of these campus resources can help in creating a safety plan for you or a friend. In addition, The College at Brockport is most importantly concerned with a student’s safety. 

According to the code of conduct, “The College at Brockport is committed to providing options, support, and assistance to reporting individuals/victims/survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and/or stalking to ensure that they can continue to participate in college-wide and campus programs, activities and employment.” 

If you or a friend are feeling uncomfortable or fearful, please do not hesitate to ask for help. It’s important to watch for warning signs when it comes to stalking. Becoming educated in the warning signs and how to intervene can be really valuable.

Brockport has a Green Dot Program that educates students on how to intervene in incidents of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking by utilizing different skill sets.

By talking about issues such as stalking and being able to identify the warning signs, we as a college community can try to prevent stalking from occurring and make a better Brockport together. 



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