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If Kathy Griffin Can Do It…

In her recent Bravo TV special, “Tired Hooker,” pop icon and staunch GLBT advocate Kathy Griffin boasts about the fun she has with her phony profile on the popular smartphone application, Grindr.

Funny though Kathy’s stand-up performance was, under the Texas Penal Code, it is a felony to create a false persona on a social networking site, or use your real one, with the intent to harass, embarrass, intimidate, or threaten any person. In 2009, the law was enacted due to an explosion of cyberstalking cases. At least one person already has been arrested under the law, and there’s every indication that law enforcement will continue to pursue these cases.

Grindr is one of the GPS networking sites that men use to locate other men, often for a hook-up (see our article about hook-up safety in the January 2011 newsletter).

It is so popular that in 2011, Grindr boasted 1.8 million subscribers. As January is Stalking Awareness Month, we wanted to draw a very distinct point that an application like Grindr also is being used in ways that meet the legal definition of stalking.

Now we aren’t still talking about the way Kathy Griffin is using it. We are talking about an acquaintance from a previous hook-up or former intimate partner who uses Grindr with the intention of intimidating you by watching/following/keeping tabs on you. According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, “A stalker may follow a victim off and on for a period of days, weeks, or even years…Stalking can be perpetrated by the stalker or by someone acting on her/his behalf. Stalking can take the form of verbal threats or threats conveyed by the stalker’s conduct, threatening mail, property damage, surveillance of the victim, or by following the victim.”

If this sounds familiar because you’re doing it to someone else, you are committing a crime. If this sounds familiar because someone is doing it to you, you may be a stalking victim. Texas law is gender neutral in terms of the perpetrator and victim, which means that the law applies equally to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. If you are being stalked and need help, the law protects you. You have every right to report this behavior to the police.

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