On this day in 2006, Barbi Benton was found dead on the shores of a Long Island canal after an attempt to commit suicide. She was 37. News reports said she had been on the phone with her husband, Brian, in the 30 minutes before she drowned. Her husband called his wife back, but then Barbi died. Brian is now suing officials in Nassau County for refusing to get her into a medical facility. His lawyer said at the time: “The harassment that Barbi suffered over the course of a week could easily have, by their own words, ended the marriage.” The Post called the investigation into Benton’s death “haphazard.”
This chart, from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, illustrates how we encounter Internet stalking and harassment. You can see that, according to the report, people who have had an online encounter face similar risks of stalking over time, even if their online experience isn’t perceived as threatening.
The Berkman Center suggests that “investigators, peers, other medical professionals, police, or family members should consider how an individual in distress might feel and consider or create a realistic scenario if a scenario similar to this occurs in the future.” You can get a more detailed discussion of what this means in real world scenarios here.
Before we jump to the answer to the first person in your life who complains, lets consider some important caveats:
The thing about your own life is that, despite decades of scientific research and technology on how to avoid it, as with any kind of relationship, it may all come down to willpower. Psychologists, lawyers, social workers — the ones offering advice are all busy people who could only speak from a position of weakness. (Like this person.)
Some people suspect more is going on than they have the evidence to prove. But there’s no evidence of that, either. And, to put it bluntly, something very strange is going on that has ruined so many marriages.