Brad Reyns, who is an assistant professor in criminal justice, wanted to find out if cyberstalking is a unique crime or a variation of traditional stalking.
“Similarities in the study showed both groups [of victims] experienced fear, acknowledged they were victims and had out-of-pocket costs. The difference was in the level of fear and money spent to protect themselves,” Reyns said in a news release.
The study showed victims of cyberstalking felt less fear than victims of physical stalking, yet cyberstalking victims spent more than twice the amount of money on self-protection measures. Those measures include changing jobs, buying guns and taking time off work.
The study, called “Protection Against Pursuit: A Conceptual and Empirical Comparison of Cyberstalking and Stalking Victimization Among a National Sample” was published in Justice Quarterly after two years of research and peer review.
Reyns said he has heard Weber State University students casually mention that they had engaged in cyberstalking.
“Facebook stalking is part of their vernacular, you know, it’s kind of like ‘no big deal.’ Well, it really is a big deal. It can be. It can escalate,” Reyns said.
Reyns and his co-authors are writing a follow-up report that focuses on interviews with college students, the vast majority of whom use some form of social media.
“All of us have Facebook, twitter, something. Our photos are out there. They’re exposed,” said Breka Garcia, a sophomore at Weber State University. “I don’t even have my job put on there. I don’t have, specifically, where I live because anyone could see it and it’s very scary.”
Dr. Reyns and his colleagues hope to publish their new findings within the next year.