Cyberstalkers are often internet addicts who have lost touch with the real world, according to a new study.The National Centre for Cyberstalking Research has found that people who spend a lot of time online may struggle to form healthy real-world relationships, and this can lead to a fixation on people with whom they have only a virtual relationship.
Psychologist Dr Short, one of the co-authors of the research, said: “It (stalking) can be a consequence of internet addiction, so your cyberstalker’s ability to form normal healthy relationships is compromised.
“If you are spending all your time online, your relationships largely become online. That bit of your life starts breaking down and you become more invested in online relationships and more likely to become fixated on those.”
The findings come as campaigners say the crime is still treated too much like a joke.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust said fear of being laughed at prevents people from seeking help with stalkers and leaving them at higher risk of being attacked or suffering serious psychological damage.
It hit out at T-shirts being offered for sale with slogans like “You Call It Love I Call It Stalking” and “You’re No One Til You Have Your First Stalker” saying they make light of a problem affecting one in six women and one in 12 men.
Kristiana Wrixon, manager of the National Stalking Helpline, said: “Stalking is a very common and sinister problem in the UK but there are still a lot of myths around it that need to be dispelled, which is why this film is so important.
“We know victims who have contacted the National Stalking Helpline tell us they felt unable to seek help early on because of a fear of being called dramatic, laughed at or dismissed.
“If a victim of stalking is unable to seek help early then they are at higher risk of experiencing psychological distress, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or being physically assaulted or even murdered.
“Coming forward can be difficult in any situation but is made worse by a society in which stalking is often seen as something of a joke and is often misunderstood by the public and professionals alike.”