Dowagiac couple stalked onlinePublished 1:44pm Monday, March 11, 2013
Mocking messages started showing up on Facebook around Elizabeth’s 21st birthday on Jan. 5.
“It just escalated from there,” according to her husband, Kerry Parks, 23.
The special-needs couple live at Indian Hills Apartments and are expecting a child in April.
Malevolent messages have persisted for two months.
“Just the other day they added an edited picture,” he said. “It got so bad we made ourselves a new Facebook (account) with a fake name. At one point, they threatened our (unborn) baby and said they would dance on her grave. This person knows where we live and knows things about us. That’s why there are only a few people we believe it could be. They have a strong hatred for her. We’ve reported it to the police. It happened every other day, at night or early in the morning. They’re educated, and we’re not able to come up with good comebacks. They’re mean.”
Cyberbullying uses the internet to harm other people in a deliberate, repeated and hostile manner.
As it has become more prevalent, particularly among young people, legislation and awareness campaigns have arisen to combat it.
Facebook and other types of social media are a frequent topic in Cass County courts. Text messaging and Facebook are being attached to applications for personal protection orders (PPOs).
When perpetrated by adults, toward adults, cyberstalking or cyberharassment tries to damage the victim’s reputation and turn other people against them.
“I tried all the Facebook security settings, but, still, they somehow seemed to get messages in with stupid names. They don’t use real names,” Parks said. “We’ve been together almost two years. We met online and clicked instantly. It was meant to be. She invited me to go to church with her. We thought about getting off Facebook, but she likes to get on there because all of her family is in Elkhart.”
Kerry, who has cerebral palsy, dropped out of high school in Cassopolis when he realized “I wasn’t going to graduate. I couldn’t keep up. I know I made a mistake not getting my education.”
Elizabeth attended Edwardsburg and the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District special education program at Ross Beatty Junior-Senior High School, though they didn’t know each other there.
They get by on SSI, the Supplemental Security Income program that pays benefits to disabled adults with limited income and resources. Neither drives.
“It just hurts us that someone could do this to us,” Parks said. “We’re quiet, happy people. We don’t bother our neighbors. We stay to ourselves, go on walks, cook dinner and go to church on Sundays. And this person, whoever it is, even threatens, ‘I’ll see you at church.’
“Stop talking to us if you’re not going to come to us face-to-face. She likes (ventriloquist) Jeff Dunham and her favorite puppet is Peanut. Almost every profile they make, there is a picture of that character. They don’t message us anymore, they post pictures.
“They took a picture of our apartment from right over there, across the street. What’s their game? Are they trying to upset her to the point where she loses the baby? Whoever it is has really pushed my buttons and upset me. How low can you go to threaten a defenseless baby who’s not even here yet?”