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Friday February 26 3:55 PM ET Gore Wants 'Cyber Stalking' Fought

Gore Wants 'Cyber Stalking' Fought

By SONYA ROSS Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Al Gore called Friday for a fight against ``cyber stalking,'' saying the Internet has inadvertently become a sinister new avenue for carrying out violence against women.

During a news conference in the Roosevelt Room, Gore asked Attorney General Janet Reno to study cyber stalking, the practice of using the Internet's vast reach to harass someone, and report back in 90 days on how to guard against it without infringing on First Amendment rights to free expression.

``The Internet is presenting us with some cases we have never seen before,'' Gore said. ``And make no mistake - this kind of harassment can be as frightening and as real as being followed and watched in your neighborhood or in your home.''

He told the story of a California man who, angry that a woman spurned him, retaliated by assuming her identity and distributing personal information about her in a number of sex chat rooms on the Internet.

``He ... listed directions to her house, gave details of her social plans, and even provided advice on how to short-circuit her alarm system,'' Gore said. ``Within days, this terrified woman was not only receiving lewd phone calls, she had men showing up on her doorstep. She could have been sexually assaulted or even worse.''

Gore called for the cyber stalking report after announcing $223 million in grants to communities to help them provide services to victims of domestic violence and foster collaboration between victims' advocates, prosecutors, police officers and judges in handling domestic abuse cases.

``These are not just family matters, these are crimes,'' Gore said. ``As a society, as a country, as a national family, we don't have to put up with this kind of abuse, and we will not.''

He was joined by Reno and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who both said there has been a sea change in authorities' attitudes toward battered women but that much work remains to be done.

``It is so important that times have changed,'' Reno said. But, ``we cannot become complacent.''

Gore said $138 million will go to 56 states and territories under the S.T.O.P. Violence Against Women program, to strengthen the criminal justice system's response to violence against women. States must allocate at least 25 percent of the money to law enforcement, prosecutors and victim services.

Another $62 million will go to battered women's shelters, through HHS, for counseling, legal assistance, emergency aid such as transportation or meals and referral services for women and children seeking to escape a violent home.

Also, $23 million will go to 32 states and five territories to coordinate criminal justice efforts against domestic violence such as creating centralized units of police, prosecutors and judiciary officials to handle those cases.

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