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Stalking and cyberstalking

Media Release

07 December 2000

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

Law enforcement agencies, as well as law makers, need to understand the importance of stalking and the different ways in which the Internet can be used for stalking, the Minister for Justice and Customs Senator Amanda Vanstone said today.

The Minister was commenting on releasing two research papers from the Australian Institute of Criminology: Stalking, Policing and Prosecuting Practices in three Australian Jurisdictions, and Cyberstalking.

The Minister is speaking today via video link to an AIC conference in Sydney: Stalking: Criminal Justice Responses.

"Stalking is a common and serious crime and, like other crimes against the person, stalking can have life-long effects on victims," Senator Vanstone said.

"Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that 2.4 percent of women aged over 18 years having been stalked by a man in the last 12 months, and 15 percent have been stalked by a man at least once in their lifetime - making stalking more common for women than robbery and sexual assault."

"Many victims live in fear for their personal safety and a large proportion change their lifestyles by increasing their security and curtailing social activities. In some cases they move house, quit jobs, and change their names and appearance in an effort to hide from their stalkers."

"Stalking is a vivid example of how the Internet can provide new opportunities for committing crimes and can create completely new forms of crime."

"Victims can be stalked on the Internet through a variety of means. Receiving unsolicited e-mails containing obscene or threatening messages, having invasive, defamatory or even pornographic images posted on the web or distributed widely through e-mails or even taking over a victims' computer are all means used to stalk in cyber-space."

"Like traditional stalking through the post, telephone or physically following someone, cyber-stalking can be as dramatic in the trauma caused to the victim."

"Everyone has the right to conduct their business and personal lives free of harassment and threats. It should make no difference if we are conducting our business in cyberspace."

"The Institute's research highlights lack of consistency in law across jurisdictions. Whether these differences result in differing levels of protection for victims across Australia is a matter that needs to be examined."

"The crime of stalking is like domestic violence two decades ago, when we didn't know the extent of the problem and the effects on victims were largely ignored."

"Today, there is an increasing awareness of stalking as a crime and this is essential to prevention and helping victims, whether they be victims of cyber-stalking or more traditional stalking."