The results of a new survey by the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that an unprecedented number of Americans have reported being stalked in recent years with stalking by texting on the rise.
Cindy Dyer, director of the federal Office on Violence Against Women told the Associated Press,
"The prevalence of these electronic devices gives a stalker another tool in his tool kit, makes it easier to stalk and increases victims' fear. It doesn't increase the number of stalking offenders, but it sure makes their job easier."
Anyone who has ever sent a series of unanswered text-messages to someone in a short length of time may be guilty of overtexting. But if a person's texts are also overtly demanding or threatening, they might have escalated to the crime of stalking by texting.
Whether or not you've ever been guilty of this crime, many have been its victim. Often the text stalker is someone familiar. He or she may know where their victims live, work, and even who their friends are, all elements which can lend to text-induced fear, panic and paranoia.
Further, unlike email and telephone calls, there is virtually no way to block a text. It pops up on your cell phone unsolicited and unwanted. It causes the red message alert light to blink incessantly until you're forced to check it. And although you don't have to open it, you might as well because unless you have an unlimited text-message plan you've already paid for it.
The site WiredSafety.org offers a few suggestions on how to get rid of a text stalker-either contact your wireless carrier to find out if you can block messages from specific numbers or remove the text-messaging option from your phone service altogether.
If the harassment is more extreme, you can also change your telephone number. Some networks will let you change to a new number free of charge, and then will place your old number in quarantine for a while so that you can change it back once the problem has been resolved.
Lately, police say they've seen more reports from people claiming they've been threatened or harassed in a text message, and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures eighteen states now have laws targeting cyber-stalking. For example, in Georgia improper text messages are classified under the harassing telephone calls statute. That means a conviction would be a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 12 months' confinement, up to a $1,000 fine, or both.
So be warned: if your text comes across as a threat, or even if you text an annoying message repeatedly, the police could come knocking on your door.