Consider documenting any harassment, threats or other violence you may be experiencing through technology. If you decide to report, these records will be important later.
If you feel unsafe and are comfortable doing so, consider contacting Brandeis Police at (781) 736-3333 on campus or the local police at 911 if you are off-campus. You may choose this option especially if the harassment you are receiving online or via phone seems like it might escalate to in-person violence.
You can also choose to block the person harassing you, but you don't have to. Sometimes knowing what the person is doing or saying can be helpful for your own safety planning.
For a more in-depth guide to your options if you are experiencing online harassment, we recommend this guide — "Basic Protocol on How to Respond to Online Harassment" — from Heartmob.
Safety planning is a way to think ahead of time about strategies to stay safe — which can reduce risk — and get through difficult situations you might encounter. In terms of technology safety, you can think about adjusting privacy settings on social media accounts, blocking a perpetrator’s number or social media or asking your friends to not tag you in pictures.
A safety plan is meant to be tailored to your own experience and will look different for everyone depending on what their immediate and future safety concerns are. Think about what works for you and what makes you feel empowered in reclaiming your sense of safety and security. Your plan may shift over time, but overall, the goal of a safety plan is to make you feel as safe as possible, whatever your current circumstances may be. This can be an overwhelming process, so remember to take care of yourself and that it is okay not to have an answer for everything!
If you would like help with safety planning, PARC can help guide you through the process. Our hotline and anonymous chat function can also be used to talk to an advocate about safety planning, but do consider whether your computer or phone is secure! You can also fill out our PARC Safety Plan Tool on your own or with a support person if you would prefer.
For some helpful ideas about safety planning online by website and social media services, we recommend Social Media Safety Guides from Heartmob.
Here are some actions you might choose to take if you are being cyberstalked:
- Block them on social media: You can choose to block the person who is perpetrating the violence and/or report their account to the social media platform that you are using.
- Record evidence: You could keep a record of the harassment that is occuring, as this can help if you wish to report to law enforcement in the future.
- Contact website operators: If you are being harassed on a specific website, you can email or call the website operators to request that they remove the harmful content.
- Report to the school or police: Find more information about reporting in the tab below.
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance that works to track down serious cases of online criminal complaints.
- Take a break: Being cyberstalked, documenting cyberstalking and/or reporting cyberstalking can all be very stressful. While you certainly don't have to, you might find it helpful to take a break from social media platforms for a little while.
For additional ideas and more information, explore PARC's one-pager on cyberstalking.
Here are some preventive measures to decrease someone's ability to gather information about you:
- Update your software: Keeping the software updated on your electronic devices is important in making sure that your information is protected, which includes protecting software that may track your location.
- Protect your IP address: Protecting your IP address can be important in making sure that no one can find out your location from your electronic devices. One way to do this is to use a VPN. A VPN, in addition to protecting your IP address and your location, also encrypts your internet usage, adding an extra layer of protection.
- Adjust privacy settings: Social media platforms often share your personal information, such as your name, date of birth or place of work. Consider adjusting privacy settings on your social media to be private.
- Keep your devices physically safe: Make sure to always log out of your computer when you are leaving it unattended and protect all electronic devices with a password. In addition, avoid allowing others physical access to your electronic devices, as some stalkers use software devices that physically connect to the back of computers.
- Protect your passwords: Create complex passwords that you never share with anyone. Change passwords regularly, especially if you share them with someone.
- Use security software: There are many companies that provide security software that you can download onto your computer. This will reduce your chances of encountering spyware that can compromise your personal information.
- Turn off geo-tagging: Geo-tagging is a feature that stores information in a photo about where it was taken on a mobile device. If you post photos online, make sure that geo-tagging is turned off in your phone's settings so the location data is not present in your photos.
- Google yourself: It can be helpful to know how much information there is about you out there on the internet. You can do this by googling your name and other identifying features about yourself in various combinations. If you do find information on a website that you want removed, you can often contact the website and ask it to do so.
For helpful ideas about privacy settings on various social media services, we recommend Social Media Safety Guides from Heartmob.
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