Stalking
Stalking is a pattern of harassing or threatening behaviors. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) defines stalking as “repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”[1] In a 2006 study, the DOJ defined “conduct” as: “making unwanted phone calls, sending unsolicited or unwanted letters or emails, following or spying on the victim, showing up at places without a legitimate reason, waiting at places for the victim, leaving unwanted items, presents, or flowers, [and] posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth”.[2] Other behaviors that can qualify as stalking include, but are not limited to, looking through the victim’s property, taking the victim’s property, collecting information on the victim, or taking pictures of the victim.
 
Naming these behaviors "stalking" is useful in a number of ways. First, it acknowledges that the stalking itself, and not just a subsequent assault, is a form of violence. The batterer is taking specific actions, such as calling or appearing at a place of work, that are designed to intimidate and coerce his former partner. Second, the term "stalking" identifies a pattern of behaviors that often leads to serious or fatal attacks. Identifying the pattern of behaviors can therefore be useful in taking steps to prevent an assault. Third, naming this pattern of behaviors helps to convey the seriousness of these behaviors. Individually, the acts that constitute stalking, such as telephone calls, may appear to be relatively innocent. Taken together, however, they indicate the presence of a severe threat to the victim. In a 2011 United States study, a total of 6.6 million people reported being victims of stalking over a span of twelve months. [3] Stalking may lead to abuse or death, and thus should be taken seriously by law enforcement and quickly addressed.
 
Victim Support

Victims of stalking should act with the priority of ensuring their safety. There is no one recommended course of action for victims of stalking as each situation and stalker differs. One resource for victims is the Victim Stalking DASH survey. This can help victims decide if they should seek professional protection. If a victim is in immediate danger it is important to engage a police response by calling the local emergency number, for example 911.[4] Victims may find precautionary measures helpful. Some examples of these actions are changing phones, phone numbers and house keys, email accounts, varying schedules and routes to regularly frequented locations, and informing anybody with the new contact information (including employers, family and friends) not to give it out to the stalker. General information on escaping abusers can be found at http://www.stopvaw.org/safety_planning.html. A number of other useful resources can be found at:
 

Trends in Stalking
 
There are certain visible, though not universal, trends in reported instances of stalking. The majority of stalkers are male and the majority of victims are female. Although stalking of strangers does occur, in the vast majority of cases, the stalker and victim know each other. Statistics from a 2012 DOJ report indicate that approximately 45% of cases involved an acquaintance stalker. An acquaintance stalker could be a neighbor, coworker, classmate, or any person the victim has briefly encountered.[5]
 
Stalking is often directly linked to domestic violence, as they are both crimes fueled by a need for power.[6] Stalkers and their victims are often current or former intimate partners. According to the DOJ report, approximately 30% of stalking cases fall into this category. In many instances, former partners will stalk women after they leave or attempt to leave the abuser.[7] Male stalkers who target former intimate partners are likely than others to become violent.[8]
 
According to the DOJ report:
“Stalking not only closely correlates with relationship violence, relationship violence significantly correlates with homicides of women. One third of the women killed each year in America die at the hands of a current or former intimate [partner]. In light of these facts, there is good reason to treat every domestic violence case as a potential stalking case, and in many instances, to treat domestic violence cases as high risk, potentially lethal stalking cases.”[9]

 


[1] United States Department of Justice. “Stalking.” Last modified February, 2013. http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/aboutstalking.htm.
[2]Shannan Catalano, Ph.D.. “Special Report: Stalking Victims in the United States Revised.” Unite States Department of Justice. Last modified September 2012. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/svus_rev.pdf.
[3] National Center for Victims of Crime. “Stalking.” Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.victimsofcrime.org/library/crime-information-and-statistics/stalking.
[4] Womenshealth.gov. “Violence Against Women: Stalking.” Last modified on May 18, 2011.http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/types-of-violence/stalking.cfm
[5] Baum, Katrina PHD, Shannan Catalano PHD and Michael Rand. “Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Stalking Victimization in the United States." U.S. Department of Justice. Last updated January 13, 2009. http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/docs/stalking-victimization.pdf.
[6] National Institute of Justice. “Stalking.” Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/stalking/.
[7] U.S. Department of Justice. “Stalking and Domestic Violence Report to Congress.” Last modified on May 2001. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojp/186157.pdf.
[8] National Institute of Justice, “Intimate Partner Stalking.” Last Modified April 20, 2012. http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/intimate-partner-violence/stalking/.
[9] U.S. Department of Justice. “Creating an Effective Stalking Protocol.” Last Modified April, 2001. http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/creating-an-effective-stalking-protocol.pdf?sfvrsn=2 (9).