What is stalking?
Stalking is defined as the willful and repeated following, watching, and/or harassing of another person. This may include either physical stalking or cyberstalking. Physical stalking may consist of following someone, appearing at a person's home or work, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages, or vandalizing one's property. Cyberstalking involves using the Internet or other electronic means as a way to harass someone.
Stalking behaviors include:
- Constantly following or watching you either in person or via surveillance or other types of observation
- Non-consensual communication, including face-to-face, telephone calls, voice messages, electronic mail, written letters, unwanted gifts, etc.
- Damaging your property
- Repeatedly appearing at places where you are for no justifiable reason
- Threatening or obscene gestures
- Non-consensual touching
Myth: Only celebrities are stalked.
Fact: 1.4 million people are stalked every year in the U.S. The majority of stalking victims are everyday citizens.
Myth: Stalking is not illegal.
Fact: Stalking is considered a crime in all 50 states.
Myth: You can't be stalked by your current girlfriend or boyfriend.
Fact: It is considered stalking if your boyfriend or girlfriend keeps track of your every move or follows you in a way that causes you fear.
Myth: If you confront the stalker, he or she will go away.
Fact: Confronting or trying to reason with a stalker can be dangerous since stalkers are likely to be irrational and unpredictable.
Myth: Stalking is not a problem on college campuses.
Fact: Research indicates that between one-quarter and one-third of college students have been stalked.
Myth: Stalkers are mostly harmless.
Fact: There are cases of stalking that last for years and never turn violent and others that turn deadly quickly. The cases that seem harmless may be the most deadly. In addition, 75 percent of women who were murdered by their partners were previously stalked by them.
Myth: If a stalking victim has not been threatened, the victim is likely in no danger.
Fact: Study after study indicates that whether or not a stalker makes a threat has no bearing on whether or not the stalker poses a threat. Any threat should be taken seriously, but there are other indicators that cannot be ignored when assessing a stalker's potential for violence.
Myth: Stalking is no big deal and doesn't really impact the life of a stalking victim.
Fact: 25-30% of stalking victims sought psychological counseling as a result of their victimization. The average stalking case lasts 1.8 years, and nearly one fifth of the victims are so fearful, they move to new homes to escape their stalkers.
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Nearly 90% of stalkers are male. Most stalkers know their victims (75% of whom are female); 60% are current or former intimate partners (Tjaden, 1998). Male victims tend to be stalked by strangers and acquaintances rather than intimates. Most stalkers are late teens to middle-aged individuals. Most have above-average intelligence. They come from every socio-economic background. Many stalkers are anti-social, manipulative, deceptive, obsessive-compulsive, and have a history of failed relationships. Historically, psychologists have divided stalkers into three broad categories, based on the apparent motivation of the stalker. These categories are:
- Love Obsession – This type of stalker develops a fixation on another person with whom they have no personal relationship. The target may be a casual acquaintance or even a complete stranger. Stalkers who fall in love' with a student in their class or a professor fall into this category. These stalkers seem to want to live out a fantasy with their victims.
- Erotomania – This type of stalker holds a delusional belief (a paranoid disorder) that they are being loved by their target, even if it is not expressed. The target is often a well-known person, such as a student-leader or acclaimed athlete
- Simple Obsession – This type of stalker has some previous or current personal or romantic relationship with the victim. These include all domestic violence cases, as well as intimate and casual dating relationships, co-workers, and casual friends. Rejection often triggers this type of stalking. Stalkers turn to threats and violence as a means of reestablishing control of the victim.
It is important to note that these are clinical classifications of stalkers. In addition to the clinical classifications, stalkers also may be classified based on their relationship with the victim.
- Intimate or former intimate stalking – The stalker and victim may be married or divorced, current or former cohabitants, serious or casual sexual partners, or former sexual partners. A history of domestic violence may exist.
- Acquaintance stalking – The stalker and victim may know each other casually, either through formal or informal contact. For example, they may be co-workers or neighbors, or they may have dated once or twice but were not sexual partners.
- Stranger stalking – The stalker and victim do not know each other at all. Cases involving celebrities and other public figures generally fall into this category.
- Call the police immediately if you feel you are in danger
- Go to a safe place, such as public safety, the nearest police station, fire station, or domestic violence shelter.
- Firmly tell the stalker to leave you alone. Do not negotiate with your stalker.
- Keep a log of incidences including dates, time, and any witnesses. If you have a restraining order, make several copies and have one on you at all times. Save any packages, gifts, messages, voice mails, or letters from your stalker.
(1) A person commits the offense of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person. For the purpose of this article, the terms "computer" and "computer network" shall have the same meanings as set out in Code Section 16-9-92; the term "contact" shall mean any communication including without being limited to communication in person, by telephone, by mail, by broadcast, by computer, by computer network, or by any other electronic device; and the place or places that contact by telephone, mail, broadcast, computer, computer network, or any other electronic device is deemed to occur shall be the place or places where such communication is received. For the purpose of this article, the term "place or places" shall include any public or private property occupied by the victim other than the residence of the defendant. For the purposes of this article, the term "harassing and intimidating" means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear for such person's safety or the safety of a member of his or her immediate family, by establishing a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, and which serves no legitimate purpose. This Code section shall not be construed to require that an overt threat of death or bodily injury has been made.
(2) A person commits the offense of stalking when such person, in violation of a bond to keep the peace posted pursuant to Code Section 17-6-110, standing order issued under Code Section 19-1-1, temporary restraining order, temporary protective order, permanent restraining order, permanent protective order, preliminary injunction, or permanent injunction or condition of pretrial release, condition of probation, or condition of parole in effect prohibiting the harassment or intimidation of another person, broadcasts or publishes, including electronic publication, the picture, name, address, or phone number of a person for whose benefit the bond, order, or condition was made and without such person's consent in such a manner that causes other persons to harass or intimidate such person and the person making the broadcast or publication knew or had reason to believe that such broadcast or publication would cause such person to be harassed or intimidated by others.
(a) A person commits the offense of aggravated stalking when such person, in violation of a bond to keep the peace posted pursuant to Code Section 17-6-110, temporary restraining order, temporary protective order, permanent restraining order, permanent protective order, preliminary injunction, good behavior bond, or permanent injunction or condition of pretrial release, condition of probation, or condition of parole in effect prohibiting the behavior described in this subsection, follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.
(b) Any person convicted of a violation of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years and by a fine of not more than $10,000.00. The provisions of subsection (d) of Code Section 16-5-90 apply to sentencing for conviction of aggravated stalking.
The National Center For Victims of Crime www.nsvrc.org/resources
Safe Horizon www.safehorizon.org
Vanderbilt Women's Center