An unidentified mother of three from Linden, Utah, has been receiving e-mails threatening her with assault and rape since 2006—and a police investigation revealed that they were coming from her husband.
According to The Associated Press, the woman (whose name has been withheld because she’s a victim of sexual assault) turned to her husband for protection when she started receiving the e-mails—sometimes as many as 40 in one day.
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He later admitted that he'd set up multiple fake e-mail accounts to cover his tracks.
Why the heck would anyone do that? Apparently, he was pissed that she reportedly had an affair at one point in their relationship.
The couple is now separated, and the woman has a protective order against her estranged husband. He faces 10 counts of stalking and is due back in court in August.
Unfortunately, online harassment happens. According to recent data collected by the Pew Research Center, nearly 75 percent of American adults say they’ve been harassed online at some point.
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Of course, there are varying degrees of online harassment. The majority of people who have been harassed say they’ve experienced “less severe” forms of harassment, like being called offensive names or embarrassed.
But 18 percent of all Internet users say they’ve been the victim of “more severe” forms of online harassment: Eight percent have been physically threatened, eight percent have been stalked, seven percent have been harassed for a sustained period of time, and six percent have been sexually harassed.
There are laws in the U.S. to protect victims of online harassment, but distinguishing between online abuse and free speech is so difficult that many women don’t realize they have options.
In December, the Supreme Court heard arguments in U.S. v. Elonis, a case in which Anthony Elonis was arrested after he posted on Facebook that he would murder his ex (his attorneys say he’s protected under free speech laws). A decision in the case could decide the legal future of online harassment.
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If you are the victim of more severe forms of online harassment—stalking, threats, and sexual harassment—contact your local authorities. Just because harassment happens online doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.