Since the JFP launched eight years ago, we have witnessed many disturbing examples of vicious and personal attacks and libelous smears on websites, our own and others, and usually by people who refuse to use their real name on their electronic missives. We've also witnessed how the attacks are usually aimed at women who express opinions or who are in public or office.
Almost every female editorial staffer at the JFP has been the target of fixations, sometimes leading to chains of phone calls, messages, persistent e-mails, and posts on local blogs and websites. They almost always veer from a civil discussion of our work into personal insults that have little to do with the work that we do, and often containing outright lies. (Women here are routinely called "sluts," "bitches" and "liars" by bloggers not using their real names). Experts warn, in particular, about repeated fixation on victims' bodies or personal lives.
Our tactic has been to ignore the harassment so as not to give the perpetrators the attention they desperately desire. However, we have grown increasingly disturbed as we have heard reports of the more persistent offenders spreading their attentions to other women around the city, sometimes in person and seldom using their real names when they harass or "flirt" (such as using a fake Facebook name to message a woman about what she was wearing earlier).
Ronni Mott's award-winning work on domestic abuse continues this issue with a look at stalking, which is usually aimed toward women. Due to her research, we are now aware that patterns behind stalking and harassment are important to expose before they lead to violence and outright threats. We have discovered that state law is now on the side of the victim. Mississippi has an abysmal history on stalking—it used to be that a cop might "have a talk" with a stalker rather then arresting him, leaving no repercussions unless and until he committed a violent act. That left the burden on the victim to "ignore" him.
Now we have a stalking law with teeth, and cyberstalking is a felony in Mississippi, meaning prison time and stiff fines. We urge Jacksonians to read up on the cyberstalking law (Sec. 97-45-15 of the Mississippi Code). Note it does not have to contain outright physical threats; repeated electronic harassment qualifies, as does allowing others to use your tech tools to harass specific people.
In our city's growing collective effort to stop domestic abuse, we must work together to unveil the cyberstalkers who threaten, lie and harass victims "repeatedly" (to take a word from state law). Report any and all suspected harassment to the attorney general's cybercrime unit (601-576-4281) so they can check it out. Victims, keep PDFs, printouts, recordings and notes on any potential violation.
Be on notice: If you don't want to be considered a cyberstalker, do not indulge in personal attacks and creepy public fixations. And for God's sake, never encourage a harasser. You don't want someone's blood on your hands.
I'm all for punishing these kinds of creeps - stalkers of any nature and kind! Some type of public exposure is warranted too. I'll read the statute.