Leeds teenager targeted by online stalker opens up about her ordeal

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A teenager targeted by an internet stalker who set up fake dates in her name - even advertising her services as an escort online - has opened up about her ordeal for the first time.

Eighteen-year-old Jessica*, a video blogger from Leeds with a huge online following, has been sent death threats and explicit rape threats, with fake pictures of her dancing topless posted on social media for all her friends to see.

Picture posed by a model

Picture posed by a model

Just seven months ago she was an outgoing, bubbly teenager. Now, she says, she has been left terrified after becoming the target of an internet stalker, with strange men turning up at her door for late night ‘dates’.

“I’m afraid to go outside, when I do my heart just races,” she said. “I’ve always got to look behind me, to check if anybody’s following me.

“I don’t hang out with my friends any more. There are times when I just hide in my room, and don’t talk to anybody. I feel trapped in my own house.

“I’m not the person I used to be. I never used to let anything get to me, now it just weighs on my shoulders.”

Jessica - not her real name - is from Farnley. She’s a video blogger, and has a following of 43,000. Every day she would stream a video, chatting with friends and just talking about her life.

Occasionally, she says, she would get nasty comments, but she would always brush it off. In December, just after her 18th birthday, the posts from one man became particularly worrying.

“He started posting pictures of me, videos, sending hate messages. I just brushed it off. Then he leaked my address online. My mind just shut down.”

The posts escalated. Soon there were deaths threats, explicit rape threats detailing what he wanted to do. He was outside her house, he would say, waiting for her. Once he sent a picture which had been taken from inside her garden.

Picture posed by models

Picture posed by models

“I was so scared,” she said. “My sister told me to brush it off, but then it got worse. He started saying he wanted to rape me.”

Jessica called the police in, and showed them everything she had been sent. But it didn’t deter him and soon, it seemed, it wasn’t enough for him to frighten her online. He seemed, Jessica said, to want to make her life a misery and prove how much damage he could do.

“He put a post on Gumtree, giving away a free sofa, and we had people turning up at the house to pick it up,” she said. “He’s called the council, saying we’re having wild parties. He took a picture from what looks like a drone above the house.

“Once, a man turned up, thinking he was going on a date with me, after a dating profile was set up with my name.

“We don’t know what he wanted. It was late at night. I was in bed, and I heard someone shouting my name. A friend came in and said he’d chased a lad off who was sat outside.

“I had people adding me on Snapchat, asking for nude photos. One guy messaged, he said we’d arranged to meet after chatting on a dating website. Another said he’d been searching for naughty teens and my name came up.

“Then there was an escorting profile - he even put my address on it, and old photos of me.”

The worst incident came when a fake Instagram account was set up in her name, with pictures posted of a woman dancing topless.

Jessica, who had just finished college and was applying for jobs when the stalking started, has put her dreams on hold and now rarely leaves the house.

“I feel hopeless,” said Jessica. “I’ve no confidence left in myself. All my friends have seen the fake Instagram account of me. Mostly, I don’t go out because I worry people will think it was me.”

Natalie Starr.

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