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Being a victim of online harassment

Typical victims response to online harassment

The impact on the lives of cyberstalking and online harassment victims cannot be underestimated. Most cyberstalking and online harassment victims don’t fully understand what areas of law have been broken; they don’t know what can be done to help them. They only know how they feel. Often hopeless and alone.

What are the factors that impact on a typical victim of online harassment

How to know that you are being harassed

How online harassment may affect your physical Health

How online harassment may impact on your career and livelihood

What could be the impact of online harassment on your personal finances

How online harassment may ruin your social life

Why victims of online harassment are reluctant to seek help

What are the factors that may decide the faith of a typical victim of online harassment

Depending on the victim's situation and characteristics, the cyberstalking experience that they are enduring and the complexities that are involved, what they do know and don't know about the cyberstalker, current circumstances, past experiences, how (and if) the police is  dealing with the online harassment situation if they have reported it, the impact of cyberstalking may vary but mental health is always affected. 

The following are some of the more common effects that cyberstalking and online harassment victims experience:

The impact of online harassment on your emotional and mental health

  • High levels of anxiety, nervousness and panic attacks
  • Feeling isolated and helpless
  • Embarrassment, self-blame, shame and humiliation
  • Insecurity, lack of confidence, self-doubt and intimidation
  • Frustration, irritability and anger
  • Periods of feeling frightened to leave the house (agoraphobia), as well as wanting to be elsewhere in different places  - never feeling safe anywhere
  • Denial
  • Apprehension, fear, terror of being alone or that anyone close will be harmed
  • Feelings of being in a fight or flight mode - increased heart rate, breathing and blood pressure and your body is tense and ready for action
  • Paranoia
  • Depression and worthlessness
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating and confusion
  • Inability to sleep
  • Inability to relax and feeling overwhelmed
  • Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - trauma, flashbacks, nightmares, feeling jumpy and easily startled, hypervigilience (always on the lookout)
  • Emotional numbing
  • Personality changes due to becoming more suspicious, introverted or aggressive
  • Insecurity and inability to trust others, problems with intimacy
  • Self abuse - harming
  • Self-medication: alcohol/ drugs or using prescribed medications
  • Suicide thoughts and/or suicide attempts

How online harassment may affect your physical Health

  • Fatigue from difficulty sleeping and being constantly switched on and being afraid to sleep
  • Effects of chronic stress including headaches, symptoms of depression, body aches, hypertension and more serious illnesses
  • Gastrointestinal problems 
  • Low immunity - consistent colds, flu, coughs 
  • Fluctuations in weight due to not eating or comfort eating
  • Exacerbation of pre-existing conditions, e.g. thyroid issues, musculoskeletal, psoriasis, asthma, gastric ulcers
  • Dizziness
  • Nervousness and shaking
  • Shortness of breath, dryness of mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Impact on health due to increased use of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Physical injury due to not concentrating or lack of sleep
  • Heart palpitations and sweating

How online harassment may impact on your career and livelihood

  • Deteriorating school/work performance
  • Increased sick leave
  • Reducing hours 
  • Leaving job or being sacked
  • Dropping out of school
  • Change career

What could be the impact of online harassment on your personal finances

  • Loss of wages due to sick leave, leaving job or changing career
  • Seeking psychological counselling and medical treatment
  • Expense of increasing home and personal security
  • Cost involved in breaking leases on rented properties
  • Expense of relocation

How online harassment may ruin your social life

  • Problems with physical and emotional intimacy
  • Avoidance of usual activities 
  • Isolation through psychological symptoms
  • Others withdrawing from the victim because they don't recognise them and are unable to cope with the victim’s mental state or as a direct consequence of third-party victimisation
  • Victim moving to a new area, changing their phone number, name or even their appearance.
  • Insecurity and inability to trust others impacting on current and future relationships 

Why victims of online harassment are reluctant to seek help

Victims of online harassment often stay away from seeking help and support for a number of reasons:

  • Feeling embarrassed about telling anyone close / fear of losing them
  • Not understanding that what is happening to them is illegal
  • Being told by the police that there is nothing they can do (requests for help being ignored)
  • Feeling isolated and not knowing what can be done or who to go to
  • Cultural reasons
  • Direct threats from the stalker 
  • Fears about what the stalker will do to them or their loved ones
  • Pretending it isn't happening
  • Not wanting to get the stalker into trouble, if they know them
  • Fear of losing their job
  • Believing that they should be able to deal with the situation
  • Thinking that the stalker will see reason and stop soon
  • Fear that others will think they are to be blamed for somehow having encouraged the stalker in the first place (if they have have been in a relationship with the stalker, even if brief)
  • Financial limitations - not knowing the funding options available for legal help for online harassment victims
  • Language barriers
  • Lack of options in respect of being able to change their address

If you are a victim of online harassment or of cyberstalking, see how Cohen Davis can help you. We are a friendly team of internet law experts and we have helped so many people that have been in your situation. 0800 612 7211.

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