This module is a resource for lecturers

Key issues

Interpersonal cybercrime refers to those cybercrimes committed by individuals against other individuals with whom they are interacting, communicating, and/or having some form of real or imagined relationship (Maras, 2016). Victims and offenders of interpersonal cybercrime can be of any age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious background, cultural background, as well as any socioeconomic and relationship status, with a few exceptions (e.g., child sexual exploitation and abuse victims are children) (Maras, 2016). However, research has found that patterns of victimization in interpersonal cybercrimes, particularly technology-facilitated sexual violence, reflect those of offline sexual victimization experiences, and may be more prominent in marginalized groups (see e.g., Powell, Henry and Flynn, 2018). There can be one or more perpetrators of interpersonal cybercrime targeting one or more victims anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, making the policing of such crimes particularly complicated (Henry, Flynn and Powell, 2018). The acts can be directed at the victims and/or directed at people close to the victims.

Interpersonal cybercrime can have significant adverse psychological, social, political (depending on the person's position), and economic impacts on victims, including (but not limited to): stress; fear; anxiety; depression; shame; loss of social standing and reputational harm; loss of human dignity, personal autonomy, and privacy; and financial burden from medical and counselling services, legal support, and online protection services and software and offline security measures (Williford, et al., 2013; Marcum, Higgins, and Ricketts, 2014; UNODC, 2015; Maras, 2016). Furthermore, there have been many instances of interpersonal cybercrime in various parts of the world where victims have committed suicide in response to these cybercrimes (UNODC, 2015; Maras, 2016; ECPAT International, 2018; Powell, Henry and Flynn, 2018). These cybercrimes, therefore, require special attention not only because their impacts on victims are severe, but also because in many cases their consequences are irreversible.

In the following sections, this Module focuses on interpersonal cybercrimes, such as online child sexual exploitation and abuse, cyberstalking, cyberharassment, cyberbullying, and gender-based cybercrimes that involve technology-facilitated abuse and violence (see e.g., Patchin and Hinduja, 2011; Ryens, Henson and Fisher, 2011; Cracker and March, 2016; Henry, Powell and Flynn, 2017; McGlynn, Rackley and Houghton, 2017; Gillett, 2018; Powell, Henry and Flynn, 2018). Special attention is paid to the ways in which these cybercrimes are perpetrated, including a discussion of Cohen and Felson's (1979) routine activity theory as a potential theoretical framework to understand interpersonal cybercrime perpetration, the laws targeting these cybercrimes, and global response and prevention efforts.

Next: Online child sexual exploitation and abuse
Back to top