When we talk about technology, we like to focus on the innumerable benefits afforded to us, our businesses and our clients, but it’s worth remembering that technology is a double-edged sword. Joining host Laurence Colletti at this year’s Florida Bar’s Annual Conference, victim’s rights attorney Stephanie Cagnet Myron provides a chilling portrait of the dangers technology poses not only to our children but to all of us, in the form of cyberstalking, harassment, and more. They also discuss ways we, and parents especially, can work to protect ourselves and the ones we love from the potentially lasting impacts of bad actors online.
Stephanie Cagnet Myron is an attorney and founder of Cagnet Myron Law.
The Florida Bar Podcast
Florida Bar Annual Convention 2019: Victim’s Rights with Stephanie Cagnet Myron
Intro: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, where we highlight the latest trends in law office and legal practice management to help you run your firm, brought to you by The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Center. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Laurence Colletti: Hello and welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, recorded from the 2019 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. This is Laurence Colletti and I am the host for today’s show.
I’m substituting in for the illustrious and much more famous Christine Bilbrey and also her partner in crime Karla Eckardt, so hopefully I do it justice. But joining me now with a surprise show, the boss was what — the boss was somewhere around and brought over a victim’s right’s attorney, this is an area of law that’s at new to me. So welcome to show Stephanie.
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.
Laurence Colletti: So your full name just so everybody knows who you are at Stephanie Cagnet Myron and before we talk about this area of law that you practice in, why don’t you tell the listeners where you work, what you do?
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: So I opened my own firm Cagnet Myron Law about four years ago now. I exclusively represent victims of stalking, cyberstalking, revenge porn and sexual violence. And I represent them — I’m a one-stop shop for victims because I’m not only in family court handling the injunctions restraining orders, I work with law enforcement the state attorney’s office. I represent the victim throughout the criminal process and then I also handle the civil litigation issues that come up.
Laurence Colletti: We’ve covered revenge porn issues on our network before and I got to say when I see stuff like revenge porn, cyberstalking, harassing, doxing, I’m so glad that I’m beyond a certain age where this was not a factor when I was growing up and just with much relief I don’t know how some of my younger cousins deal with this and it’s just it’s very scary world.
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: Yeah we see a lot of issues, yeah with the youth a lot of parents who are — they come to us and they’re in tears because their children are — they found themselves in these issues with smartphones. I mean you have the ability to put something on the Internet with a touch of a button and that’s something, there’s no — you can’t take it back and once it’s out there, I mean there’s no controlling it.
We do what we can to minimize the damage but that’s very dangerous and the implications that it has, it’s hard to grasp even as an adult but as a minor dealing with these implications and that’s why you see the rise in suicide and the real trauma that it causes. And now the law is catching up and they’re providing remedies so that people can do something about it.
Laurence Colletti: Yeah, that’s the — I think that’s just the darndest thing about it is not being able to reverse a mistake. It’s just online forever and I just — my heart breaks for all the young people out there when this happens and everybody’s armed with something that brings us so much convenience, so much service and so much joy but also breaks is so much hardship.
You’ve got your mobile device on with a camera and a microphone and you can be a mobile reporter but you can also be a really creepy person. And so let’s talk about some of the clients that you represent just kind of and I think this is really valuable not just for young people but for parents, you’re bringing the kids into a world of mobile devices a tablet, their first cell phone but tell us a little bit about kind of your typical client.
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: So most of my clients when you have these stalking issues, it’s some type of an ex, an ex-spouse and there was some type of emotional attachment and so it’s after that relationship ends, what happens next and there may be a brief period of time where you don’t hear from them and then you start dating someone else and that you are on their radar and there’s targeting you, they’re targeting that new person that you’re dating. Those issues are the majority of cases that we see.
But now we see a lot of youth who and even adults and professionals who they have a relationship with someone they meet online and they trust that person but you have no idea what is on the other side of that screen. And so, they build this relationship, they think that they know this person and they share images and then they turn around and they don’t know what’s — there is extortion where’s pay me this money or else I’m going to share this with your spouse or your boss.
And so you have no idea you build this trust and they groom them. They know how to groom these victims to manipulate them and get them to trust them and then you have no idea what’s going to be done with those images. So it is a scary world and technology that we live in, so.
Laurence Colletti: We do a lot of social media with the network and one of the things that’s never lost on me is dropping the GPS coordinate on your post.
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: Oh yes.
Laurence Colletti: And I always found this little bit off-putting but we put it in there just because we’ve got other friends at the event and we’re doing this publicly. So we’re not trying to be private but just that whole idea of like the cyberstalking that you’re talking about, now someone knows where you are and you got a picture, they know what restaurants you’re at, they know who you’re with I mean it’s terrifying that that kind of information how easy it is to find.
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: Exactly. And when you are out an event, you always want to tag yourself at the event but even beyond that things you don’t think about are the GPS tracking that occurs even on your images.
So you upload a photograph on to social media and someone who knows what they’re doing, they can find your location based on that photograph that you put. And so there’s all of these things that can be used as a tool, and it’s very frightening and you have to be aware because these are things you have to go in and turn off, it’s not standard. So there’s all of these different ways that people who know what they’re doing and they don’t even have to be that savvy, they can track and find people.
But a lot of the harassment through social media occurs just it’s not that they’re going to that physical location but that’s always something you have to be cognizant of and aware of but how much information you really are putting out there, and a lot of times we say if you’re going on vacation post when you get back, you’re going to event, post after you leave and that way, there’s someone who you may have an issue with, they’re not going to show up there knowing that you’re there. And so those are the things that you have to be more cognizant of in this day and age.
Laurence Colletti: Do you get to get some clients come in and talk a little bit about cyberbullying, I mean this is an issue I’ve seen on the news, it’s very sad I mean poor kids, my kids grow up with enough burdens as it is but to be public online for the whole world to see and someone calls that a fly, kids can be mean and they’re growing up and but just the harassment it’s just so much pile on. So do you get your children coming in or even adults coming that are being bullied by people online?
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: Exactly yes, and even professionals. I mean online reviews or people who create fake profiles to target a competitor. I mean there’s all kinds of issues or an ex who creates fake reviews to harm that person’s business or there’s all kinds of online harassment and people will say and do things online behind, hiding behind a screen that they would never do in person.
And now especially with children, they leave school and say there was a bully at school, whenever they would leave school they used to get a break, they would get to go home and relax. Now, they’re constantly getting alerted, they have it on them on their person, in their pocket and so they’re getting alerted constantly when they’re being tagged or getting messages from this bully who can keep harassing them even in their own home in the privacy of their own room. There is no free space anymore, there is no safe space and you have to make a conscious effort to create that for your family for yourself and give yourself that buffer.
Laurence Colletti: How about doxing, I have been reading about a lot of this in the news, doxing, the episode that comes up the last time I think probably the most prominent example I have right now is the Covington Catholic school kids out in DC for the Pro-Life March and there was an altercation with a Native American gentleman out there and there was — I thought media professionals, I was surprised but they were calling out information and kind of asking for somebody’s kids be punched in the face.
And I was pretty taken back by just the fervor that was going against these children basically. And they’re like, they’re putting out their personal contact information, their address is that it calls the school down because they got bomb threats, I mean it’s crazy. And so are you getting clients that people are like releasing their information so that people can track them to where they are it becomes a dangerous situation?
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: Definitely yes. So people and that’s one way that people are targeted. They’re put out there with an image that may have been taken out of context and this image goes viral on Twitter, on social media and then their private contact information, their real name is put out there, their address, their work information. These are tools to manipulate and they know that’s where they’re going to get them because there are people out there who will go that extra step to harass them, even though they weren’t directly involved, they come into it and especially with minors and children.
It’s — you don’t understand the implications of what you’re doing and you see one perspective but you don’t really know what’s going on and especially for minors, there is a level of protection which must — we must provide them with that ability to have some anonymity.
I mean if you file even in a case you have to file under Jane Doe or John Doe you don’t put the minor’s name in the pleadings and so there’s a reason for that. You have to provide them that protection. I mean it’s a lot emotionally even dealing with that whatever the underlying issue is alone but you compound that with now putting their information out there if you google your name and this information comes up, that’s going to be — that’s going to follow them forever.
And so down the road, it’s going to have serious implications and we really need to give them that privacy that level of protection.
Laurence Colletti: Yeah that’s I think that’s a good advice and so let’s transition from the different gloom to something a little more happy. So proactively dealing with this or just the access to the Internet, the access to world we have through our mobile devices, the loss of privacy and all that that that’s the glooms side of it.
But obviously you are working with clients and you have resources and as a lawyer you are reaching out, trying to help your clients. So let’s give advice to parents, let’s give advice to young people out there that find themselves in this world, what can they do to protect themselves?
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: So especially whenever you have children and they have smartphones, I mean you need to know what apps are on their phones, how to use them, how to monitor them. You need to be monitoring the content that’s on those phones. I mean you could be liable if your name is on that bill, if they’re doing something. I mean even if it’s a minor with a minor, you see now it’s so easy to take a photograph or people take photographs and they may — I’ve had cases where they didn’t even know the photographs are being taken of them that are out there now.
And so, it’s really important to monitor what’s on the cloud, what messaging, their text messages being able to monitor that, and know what’s going on, because they don’t understand the long-term effects of what they’re doing, and it’s our job and responsibility as parents to provide them with that guidance and to make sure that if we see any red flags that we — I mean you have to be able to restrict it and block it, and talk with them and explain what the implications are.
I mean there are tons of cases now with minors who — and even it’s one of the leading causes of suicide in teenagers because of these issues. I mean whenever a photograph goes viral in a school, I mean that person, they have to go there and face that situation, that has serious impacts and trauma on that victim and on the individuals involved, and even the person who posted it.
I mean their lives could be ruined. They could go after them for child pornography charges for having that on their device, even though they’re a minor who is in possession of it, it doesn’t matter. There are serious long-term effects. They could be a registered sex offender.
So I mean these are things you don’t think about when you’re in it, but these are consequences that you have to talk through with your children and make sure that you’re doing what you can to protect them and yourself. I mean people send you a message and you get this on your device, you didn’t have control over them sending it to you, but what do you do with it, and so how do you respond.
You need to speak up if you’re seeing this happen and say this isn’t appropriate. I don’t support this, you could get in trouble for doing this or for having this. And speak up and say something about it.
Laurence Colletti: Any recommended services or apps that that you prefer?
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: So as far as services for victims, we’re really lucky here in Palm Beach County specifically. The resources that are available for victims through the Legal Aid Society, the Sexual Assault Response Team. I was the head of a collaborative here in Palm Beach County, we worked with law enforcement, providing training with victim advocates, getting everybody together, communicating about what your roles are, how can we best provide services for victims and really address the needs on a holistic level.
So there are organizations that are pushing to provide those services for victims and one thing I did when I started my firm is I created a series of short clips of videos on what hot topics are, so that people can quickly go and see what do I do whenever I have this issue if someone’s harassing me, what are my options, so that they’re empowered to make those decisions on their own.
Laurence Colletti: Well Stephanie, I just have one last question for you. You have been so kind to give us a little bit of your time here at the Annual Convention, but if our listeners they want to follow up on a little bit more, ask you some questions, if there are some kiddos that get ready to buy a cell phone for, how can they find you?
Stephanie Cagnet Myron: So on our website cagnetmyronlaw.com and also even through Twitter @CagnetMyronLaw, any social media, we have our Facebook page, Cagnet Myron Law, we’re very responsive and we provide a free initial consultation because our goal is to empower victims and so really put them in a place to know what resources are available to them and then they can make the decision of what’s best for them at that time.
So we offer that free initial consultation and to see if we’re able to assist them and what they want to do to help give them the justice that they deserve.
Laurence Colletti: Well, that’s all the time we have for this episode of The Florida Bar podcast. But I want to thank our listeners for tuning in.
If you like what you heard today, please rate and review us in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or best yet, your favorite podcasting app. I am Laurence Colletti, until next time, thank you for listening.
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