Reality reads ... "I was stalked online"

I was stalked online

14-- Claire, had heard all the warnings and horror stories, but never thought internet stalking would happen to her ...

I'd been using the internet for about four years, mostly for study and to talk to friends on MSN, mainly people I already knew. I'd never met up with anyone I'd chatted to online, and before Jack* I'd never had any bad online experiences.

It all started innocently when I was home from school one day last term with glandular fever and was chatting to a friend from San Francisco. Suddenly, an unknown email address added me as a contact to their MSN list. The email address gave me the impression that the person was a teenager, so I added them to mine, assuming that it was a friend or someone I'd met at a party. A few days later, Jack, started talking to me. He started off asking normal stuff such as, "Hey, ASL?" (Age/Sex/Location), and I replied saying 14/F/Australia. His display picture was of a guy that looked about 16 with no shirt on and holding a rugby ball. He replied saying, "Cool. I'm 17/M/QLD."

He kept asking me questions over the next few days such as where I lived exactly, how far I had gone sexually and asking for photos of me at school, with friends, and to go on webcam and flash or have cyber sex with him. Of course I wouldn't tell him, and said no to all his requests, as this guy seemed a bit edgy and I was definitely not going to do anything with him. Something I thought was a bit odd at the time was how he kept calling me names like "Darl" and "Honey", which seemed to be things that my grandpa would call me, not some random teenager I'd just met over the net. It was when he asked me to meet up with him, that I thought something was really up, so I blocked him and deleted him off my list.

Things just got weirder from there. I was on the phone to my good friend Bec one night while we were both on MSN, and she told me, "Claire, someone's logged onto my account and signed me off". On my contact list her account was still up as online so I begun talking to "her". The person then asked me to send him or her photos of me and friends in bikinis, and for cyber sex, and I immediately said no, and then the person replied saying, "Come on Darl". I knew then that it was Jack.

The next day about 20 other girls in my grade said they'd also had problems with the exact same guy, all being pressured into stripping for him, asked for photos, cyber sex and to meet up with him. We realised that he must've hacked into someone's account (six girls thought that their account had been hacked into) and gotten the list of all the girls' contacts and started talking to them. We were all pretty scared and talked about it amongst ourselves before confiding in our parents.

We eventually told our head of year and vice principal, and she organised the youth liaison officers from the local police station to come around and talk to us. As we all gave statements, using the information we had about this guy and the copies of all the conversations we had with Jack, we were warned never to send photos to anyone you don't know. The officers told us that it's very common for people to cut out the faces from photos and place them on pictures of naked bodies for pornographic websites. The police were suspicious about Jack's real age. He just had lots of things about himself that didn't add up, such as the use of old fashioned language. Jack didn't seem to be up to date with any common slang, for example I would say "G2G" (Got To Go), which most people who use MSN are familiar with, and he would say, "What?" as if he was confused. After we'd given our statements, we left it up to the police, but we held a year meeting telling everyone to block and delete Jack's address.

A few weeks later, the police notified us that Jack had been caught, and turned out to be a 50- year old man from Queensland, who had been harassing young girls over the internet. We weren't told whether he had committed any crimes beyond harassment, but he was charged with various offences against us (we weren't told what category the crimes he had committed were under either). And even though we don't know if he's been convicted, we're all happy that this sick man has been punished for what he's done.

If anything, I'm glad that what happened has taught everyone at my school a very valuable lesson - don't trust ANYONE you meet on the internet. They can be the complete opposite to what you expect and can cause you serious harm. The internet isn't always safe, and there are a lot of scary people out there.

*names have been changed

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