Legal

Stalking

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.