If you read my first blog on co-parenting and the television program Love Life, you will probably have picked up on the fact that I love my girly tv shows. Another one I recently discovered (after a recommendation from my mother) is The Bold Type. Mum’s recommendation was spot on, because it is a great show.
The show is about three young ladies in their mid 20’s living and working in Manhattan. They all work for a magazine called Scarlett. In the first episode Jane, a junior journalist, is tasked with writing an article about “how to stalk your unstalkable ex.” As the episode unfolds we see Jane attempt to monitor what her ex has been doing via social media.
This got me thinking, if being stalked in person by your ex (your ex driving past your house regularly, turning up at your work regularly, or following you around) is grounds for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order, what is the situation with someone stalking you on social media or online? Would this be grounds for an ADVO?
An Apprehended Domestic Violence Order is a Court Order which is put in place to protect someone from a person they have a domestic relationship with (often a partner or former partner). The NSW Police website informs that Apprehended Violence Orders are available to any person who is or has been the victim of physical assault, threats of physical harm, stalking, intimidation or harassment and has a reasonable fear to believe that this behaviour will continue. So, if you are aware your ex has been keeping you under close surveillance online, could you have an ADVO taken out?
Section 13 of The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act NSW defines stalking to be an act done with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm. Looking up, searching, locating and monitoring someone through social media or online is unlikely to be grounds for an ADVO. However if someone was to use that information from social media to engage in an activity and through doing an activity make the monitored person aware of what is known about them, it could be. For instance if you post a photo of yourself a café on your Instagram, and your ex turned up at the café ten minutes later to watch you or speak to you, this could constitute stalking, particularly if there were several incidents of this occurring.
According to The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 stalking can take place on the internet. In deciding whether or not stalking has taken place a Court would look not only at the online conduct, but also the person’s other behaviour and conduct. Simply viewing public information on social media or online is unlikely on its own to result in an ADVO. If the online surveillance was part of ongoing conduct, such as calling, texting etc, then it could be grounds for an ADVO.
So, in summary, a few comments on your Facebook, or direct messages on Instagram, or even regular surveillance of your social media posts wouldn’t constitute stalking. However, if those comments or messages were of a threatening nature, or the regular surveillance lead to in person stalking, or also involved unwanted communication by other methods, then that may be grounds for an ADVO.
But what should you do if you are being stalked online? It is important that you keep a record of the incidents, for instance in a diary, notebook, word document on a laptop or in your notes section of your phone. You should record dates, times and details of what occurs, and also keep screenshots of any examples of the behaviour. If you are in fear for your safety it is important that you contact the police for assistance, as soon as possible.
If the person stalking you is an ex-partner and you have not received advice from a family law and domestic violence solicitor, it is important that you do so, not only to try to put an end to the stalking, but to make sure all of your bases are covered. The bottom line is that stalking is a form of domestic violence, and domestic violence can have significant impacts on what parenting arrangements are suitable post separation, and even what each party is entitled to from your joint assets.
I think that is enough serious advice from me for today. If you need any assistance with a family law or domestic violence matter, please contact our office for a consultation or book online today. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and start watching The Bold Type.