Press Release, February 24, 2015 - One of the earliest advocates protecting cyberstalking and cyberbullying victims, Jayne A. Hitchcock of York, Maine received the 2015 M3AAWG Mary Litynski Award on February 17, 2015 for her efforts in assisting cyberstalking and cyberbullying victims, training law enforcement, supporting cyberstalking legislation and teaching teenagers how to protect themselves online.
This lifetime achievement award for her work as president of Working to Halt Online Abuse and in aiding thousands of online victims was presented by the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group at the M3AAWG 33rd General Meeting in San Francisco, California.
Hitchcock became a cyberstalking advocate in 1996 when she was targeted with threatening emails and defamatory messages posted in her name online after she exposed a fraudulent publishing scheme on a Usenet message board. When the local police did not have the tools or knowledge to help her, Hitchcock fought back by learning all she could about the technology.
As a result, she became one of the earliest experts on how to identify online stalkers. She testified in support of the first U.S. email harassment bill passed in 1998 and has helped draft or support legislative efforts establishing cyberstalking as a crime in over 20 states.
“Cyberstalking and harassment are hideous online crimes because victims often suffer in fearful silence without knowing where to turn for help or even that help is available. Jayne has brought this problem out in the open and her commitment has saved lives and kept the industry focused on working together to find solutions,” said Chris Roosenraad, M3AAWG chairman of the Board.
About half the cases submitted to WHO@, a volunteer nonprofit organization fighting online harassment, are perpetuated by someone the victim knows, such as a friend, ex-spouse or previous work colleague. The other half usually results from “road rage” when an online disagreement escalates to dangerous proportions, Hitchcock noted in her acceptance speech at the M3AAWG meeting.
“When a communication becomes threatening or harassing, you should respond just once by succinctly telling the perpetuator to stop contacting you. Don’t get pulled into their emotional manipulation or accusations. After that, don’t reply to their emails or other communications but keep a copy of everything. Also be sure to contact the abuse department where the agitation started, such as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat,” Hitchcock said.
To help protect yourself from being harassed, Hitchcock suggested:
Use a gender-neutral email address.
Use an email address from a free provider, such as Gmail or Yahoo!, rather then one supplied by your online service provider. This will make it harder for a stalker to discover where you live.
Avoid heated online arguments – just step away before the discussion becomes toxic.
Do not help friends who are being stalked or harassed by engaging with the perpetrators on their behalf. Instead, support their efforts to stop the crime by directing them to contact the appropriate authorities and abuse desks.
In her middle and high school educational programs for students, she shows how the students’ supposedly innocuous social media posts and profiles can make them vulnerable to threats and harassment. Although teenagers are sophisticated in their use of technology, many are shocked at the personal details Hitchcock finds that they thought were private.
Teenagers also need to understand that cyberbullying can be a crime and there are nonjudgmental people and organizations to protect them. Hitchcock encourages students to report abuse by talking with a trusted adult such as teacher or coach, direct messaging Phoebe the Cyber Crime Dog, WHO@’s mascot (and her Siberian Husky who is also a certified therapy dog), or completing the WHO@ harassment reporting form at www.haltabuse.org, among other resources.
“Bullied students often have no clue where to go for help and many are desperate. Students can be very reluctant to tell their parents, even those with good family relationships, because they’re afraid the first line of defense will be to take away their Internet privileges.” Hitchcock said.
Since its founding in 1997, WHO@ has helped over 4,000 victims and now has a staff of 28 advocates. Hitchcock also has written three books about cyber crime, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors first and second edition, and True Crime Online (truecrime-online.com). A book on cyberbullying will be published in late 2016.
The M3AAWG Mary Litynski Award is presented annually to someone who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years to help protect online users.
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