Legal

Stalking

Although researchers have known for years that domestic violence and child maltreatment often coexist in families, only recently have communities and individuals from all professions begun to question the wisdom of responding to these forms of violence as if they were separate, unrelated issues. Across the country, many courts, policymakers, and service providers are struggling to find answers to such questions as: How can child protection services work together with domestic violence service providers to enhance the safety of multiple victims in violent homes? How can juvenile courts protect children when their mothers are being battered without revictimizing the mother? How can communities protect battered mothers and their children and hold batterers accountable for their violence?

The Stalking Resource Center defines stalking as "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person fear"

Stalking can take a variety of forms. Stalkers may:

  • Physically follow their victims
  • Call the victim on the phone repeatedly
  • Send unwanted letters or packages through the mail or through a third party
  • Bombard their victim with emails, texts, or instant messages
  • Photograph the victim from a distance or with hidden cameras or videos
  • Install surveillance software on the victim’s computer
  • Use readily available, inexpensive global positioning systems (GPS) to track victims in their vehicle
  • Park outside the victim’s home, office, or place of worship
  • Drive past the victim’s home or office to conduct surveillance
  • Access the victim’s email and/or social networking accounts
  • Spreading false rumors about a victim

How common is stalking? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Supplemental Victimization Survey on Stalking, approximately 3.4 million Americans (age eighteen or older) were victims of stalking during a one year period. Persons ages 18 to 24 experience the highest rate of stalking in the United States while American Indian/Alaska Native women suffer the highest rates of stalking of any population. American Indian/Alaska Native women are stalked at a rate more than twice that of any other group.

Stalking is a serious crime and is frequently committed as a component of domestic violence. Many rapists also stalk their victim prior to committing crimes of sexual violence.

Unlike the images of stalking perpetuated by the media, a recent study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that three out of four victims knew their stalkers prior to being stalked.  Research shows that perpetrators who stalk their intimate or former partners are four times more likely to physically assault their partners than non‐stalkers. Stalkers are six times more likely to sexually assault their intimate partners.  Seventy-six percent of all women murdered by their intimate partner had been stalked during the year prior to their murder. Moreover, 81% of women stalked by a current or former husband or cohabitation partner were physically assaulted by that partner. Weapons were used to harm or threaten stalking victims in about 1 in 5 cases.

By: Hallie Bongar White and Marielle Dirkx
© 2013 Southwest Center for Law and Policy and Office on Violence Against Women, United States Department of Justice

Stalking

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*NICCSA is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-SA-AX-K001, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.