A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.



When I was in 8th grade, my girlfriend and I began writing to a couple of male pen pals we had found in a magazine. Neither of us were very popular in school, so we jumped at the opportunity to portray ourselves as someone we were not. I remember that my pen pal, at 19, was from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, not really that far from Sussex County, New Jersey as I realize now, but at that time, it seemed to be a million miles away.  So, with him I could be as pretty, as old, as popular, as I wanted.  
We wrote back and forth for almost a year, and during that time, the tone of his letters had changed from one of friendship, to one of declaring his undying love and plans for our future. In fact, his letters were actually beginning to concern me, and I was getting a 'bad' feeling. We never did exchange pictures, but when he wrote and told me he was planning a trip to meet me, I knew I had to break it off, so I wrote and rather than lying and telling him I met someone else, I told him the truth, thinking that when he read that I was actually a rather unpopular high school freshman, he would back off, but instead, he became all the more interested in meeting me. 

Finally, I took his letters to my mom who proceeded to 'chew me out' for putting myself in that situation and told me that I was NEVER to write him again, one direct order that I definitely chose to obey.  Fortunately for me, he eventually gave up writing and never did appear at my doorstep, but for a long stretch of time, I lived in fear.  Stalkers love to instill fear in their victim.  This fills their need for power and control. Today we would call him a stalker, but back then, I don't think we even knew what the word meant.

Stalking is now easier than ever due to the increased use of  internet communication which can be used to threaten or intimidate. Stalkers are now using email and the internet to prey upon their victims. Known as cyberstalking, online stalking, or internet stalking, the acts include sending unsolicited e-mail of a threatening nature, posting pictures or personal information and negative messages in live chat rooms,  posting false information, computer viruses, and the spreading of malicious rumors on social sites. 

The rapid growth of the online dating industry has opened new avenues for stalkers. This is b
ecause of the anonymity that the internet provides; the stalker can, from the safety of his/her home, trace, track and find out personal details of the victim. Not too long ago I read where it is estimated that there are some 750,000 predators online every day, trolling through blog sites, chat rooms, and online dating services.  That is very frightening...and dangerous. As an example, there is the case of Christina Long, a 13 year old girl from Connecticut who became the first confirmed death in the United States by an internet sexual predator. 

Christina was born into a dysfunctional. Her parents had split when she was only two years old due to her parents alcohol and drug addiction problems. Christina went to live with an aunt  who loved her very much and, for all appearances, seemed to be well, but she lived a double life. On one hand, she was a sixth grade honor student, an altar girl, and led the cheerleading squad, but the other Christina  was playing a fatal game on the internet.  While on the internet in chat rooms, she used provocative screen names and routinely had sex with men she met online. Sadly, it led to the loss of her life.

Although most of us will not engage as Christina did, that doesn't necessarily mean that we are totally safe.  In fact, we don't even have to participate in chat rooms or dating services to become the target of a stalker.  There is far too much of our personal information out there dangling in cyberspace for anyone cares to look for it.  For example, I am a survivor of domestic violence.  In 1991 I left my abusive ex and entered into a battered women's program.  Once settled in an entirely new borough, I contacted the phone company and had my phone installed.  I asked for and was given an unlisted number because he had threatened my life.

Now, all these years later, I entered onto a genealogy website and find myself...my unlisted number, plus my address.  Not only did I move from there quite awhile ago, but my ex died in 1986.  My question is...what if he hadn't died?  And what if I had loved that place so much that I continued to live there?  What then?  It would have been so easy for him to find me.

So, what can we do to minimize the risk of falling victim to cyberstalking? Here are a few tips:

1.  When creating your email address, don’t use your full name. 

2.  Do not use your full name as your screen name or ID on online dating profiles or dating chat rooms, and by all means, use different email addresses for each social network you belong to.  I know it can become mind-boggling trying to remember so many addresses, but remember,  this can save your life.

3.  Use as little personal information as possible about on online profiles.. This means no pictures, information or anything. Keep your screen names to ones that are not gender related to even protect the truth of your gender. 
Do not publish your phone number, or address.

4.  Be sure to use whatever privacy controls are available on sites you visit in order to limit disclosure of information about you. 

5.  Don't accept online 'wants you as a friend' invitations unless you know them or have checked them out.  I get many of  these, and lately I've been receiving tons of invitations to be friends with someone on Yahoo Messenger.  I don't even  use it. And on that note, even be wary if it is a name of someone you know.  Lately, hackers have been using address lists to gain entry into your cyber life.  

6.  Never forget the 'lurkers' in chat rooms and other groups you may belong to. Although you may feel you know everyone and are safe to disclose, there are others there you don't know about.

7.  It goes without saying that if you decide to break up with someone you met through an online dating service, it would be wise to change all your passwords, secret questions etc. 

8.  Record all incidents of stalking, no matter how small or trivial they may seem to you.  In the future, they may escalate.

9.  If you are find that you are being cyberstalked, stop all contact with the perpetrator. Do not try to argue with them; just cut off all ties with them  and contact your internet service provider (ISP) for help. In addition, alert the administration of your dating site as well so he can be removed from the site.

10. If the stalking continues, and you believe that you are in danger, collect all the evidence you accumulated and do not hesitate report the stalker to your local police. If you are a minor, please, I cannot stress how important it is for you to contact an adult immediately. This is the kind of that  you should keep as  a secret. Let your parents know right away.  This could mean the difference between life and death.

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