My special guest is Susan Fensten who's here to recount her frightening true story of being stalked by way of the internet. Get her book 'You Have a Very Soft Voice Susan' on Amazon.

A firsthand look at a notorious Internet stalking campaign that the FBI described as a case “in a category by itself”—in the words of the victim herself.

 

After her father died in 2003, Susan Fensten turned to a genealogy message board to search for surviving relatives. Days later, she was delighted to receive an email from someone claiming to be a distant cousin. In fact, Susan had just been ensnared by a relentless sociopath.

 

She soon became the target of an elaborate cyber-hoax involving dozens of frightening characters, including known sex offenders, who made threats of kidnapping, murder, rape, torture, and cannibalism. Remarkable in its complexity, this story of Internet stalking is also a harrowing tale of courage in the face of madness.

 

This is a story about the search for family, the Internet Age, and a journey into the underbelly of American crime. Beyond raising questions about safety online, it forces us to question our perceptions of reality.

 

"Quite possibly the most twisted and surreal case of stalking I have ever encountered. Well written and gripping. Just when you think it can't get any more bizarre, it does." —Patrick Quinlan, Los Angeles Times–bestselling author of All Those Moments and Sexbot

 

Stalking is unwanted and/or repeated surveillance by an individual or group toward another person.[1]Stalking behaviors are interrelated to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person or monitoring them. The term stalking is used with some differing definitions in psychiatry and psychology, as well as in some legal jurisdictions as a term for a criminal offense.[2][3]

According to a 2002 report by the U.S. National Center for Victims of Crime, "virtually any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking",[4] although in practice the legal standard is usually somewhat stricter

 

In 1995 a research paper titled "Stalking Strangers and Lovers" was among the first to use the term "stalking" to describe the common occurrence of males after a breakup who aggressively pursue their female former partner.[5][6] Prior to that paper instead of the term "stalking", people more commonly used the terms "female harassment", "obsessive following" or "psychological rape".[6][7][8]

The difficulties associated with defining this term exactly (or defining it at all) are well documented.[9]

Having been used since at least the 16th century to refer to a prowler or a poacher (Oxford English Dictionary), the term stalker was initially used by media in the 20th century to describe people who pester and harass others, initially with specific reference to the harassment of celebrities by strangers who were described as being "obsessed".[10] This use of the word appears to have been coined by the tabloid press in the United States.[11] With time, the meaning of stalking changed and incorporated individuals being harassed by their former partners.[12] Pathé and Mullen describe stalking as "a constellation of behaviours in which an individual inflicts upon another repeated unwanted intrusions and communications".[13] Stalking can be defined as the willful and repeated following, watching or harassing of another person.[14] Unlike other crimes, which usually involve one act, stalking is a series of actions that occur over a period of time.

Although stalking is illegal in most areas of the world, some of the actions that contribute to stalking may be legal, such as gathering information, calling someone on the phone, texting, sending gifts, emailing, or instant messaging. They become illegal when they breach the legal definition of harassment (e.g., an action such as sending a text is not usually illegal, but is illegal when frequently repeated to an unwilling recipient). In fact, United Kingdom law states the incident only has to happen twice when the harasser should be aware their behavior is unacceptable (e.g., two phone calls to a stranger, two gifts, following the victim then phoning them, etc.).[15]

Cultural norms and meaning affect the way stalking is defined. Scholars note that the majority of men and women admit engaging in various stalking-like behaviors following a breakup, but stop such behaviors over time, suggesting that "engagement in low levels of unwanted pursuit behaviors for a relatively short amount of time, particularly in the context of a relationship break-up, may be normative for heterosexual dating relationships occurring within U.S. culture

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