Being swatted no longer conjures the image of a rolled up newspaper and a fly. It refers to people who open their front doors to find a swat team in full gear. Swatting is the latest form of cyber bullying after Gamegate (Bog 12/9/14), harassment originally aimed at “uppity” females who dared become video game designers.
Representative Katherine Clark, Democrat from Massachusetts, was recently swatted for her attempt to bring cyber bullies to justice. The Violence Against Women Act, (VAWA) was passed in 2006 but has received little attention or funding. That’s why only “10 out of an estimated 2.5 million instances of cyber stalking between 2010 and 2013” have been prosecuted. (“Targeting The Trolls,” by Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones, Sept/Oct 2016, pg 9.) Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies treat these offenses the way they once treated family battering – as a private matter rather than a public one. Clark has introduced several bills in the Congress to correct that impression and to give law enforcement the means to pursue prosecution. At the moment, however, her bills are languishing in committee.
The problem lacks urgency because “virtual threats” are not perceived to be real ones. But to the person on the receiving end, the danger is real. Clark reports having heard from women who have “spent thousands of dollars on security after law enforcement didn’t adequately respond to online threats they’d received.” (Ibid pg. 9.) How can these women do otherwise than protect themselves, not knowing if the intimidation is toothless or a warning about the future? The menace, itself, is a crime because it creates an atmosphere of mental and financial instability.
Once again, women are confronted by a power structure, largely male, that fails to see the destructive nature of cyber stalking. Worse, some law enforcement officials, also largely male, have admitted an influx of money would be spent elsewhere. (Ibid pg. 9)
If women want cyber bullying front and center on the national agenda, they will have to put it there, just as they’ve done for rape victims and battered spouses. No one else is going to ride to the rescue.