Fitness Facts: Stalking Awareness Month
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
January is Stalking Awareness Month. An estimated 6 million to 7.5 million people are stalked yearly in the United States. Nearly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking at some point in their lifetime. And about half of all victims of stalking indicate they were stalked before the age of 25.
Stalkers use many tactics, including:
- Approaching the victim or showing up in places when the victim didn’t want them to be there
- Making unwanted telephone calls or unwanted messages (text or voice)
- Watching or following the victim from a distance
- Spying on the victim with a listening device, camera or GPS
- They are usually stalked by someone they know. Many victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner
- People ages 18-24 have the highest rate of stalking victimization
Stalkers often engage in multiple behaviors:
- 78% of stalkers use more than one means of approach.
- 66% of stalkers pursue their victim at least once per week.
- 20% of stalkers use weapons to threaten or harm victims.
- Knives are the most common weapon that stalkers use – it’s more intimate.
- Many stalking cases involve other crimes, such as property damage, assault and/or attacking a pet.
- Stalking also may co-occur with sexual assault and/or domestic violence.
- Our criminal justice system tends to be incident-based – in other words, there’s a single incident (like property damage) and the police respond.
- It’s important to realize that these individual crimes may be part of a larger pattern of behavior that makes up the crime of stalking.
What is the definition of stalking?
The behavioral definition of stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
Fear is how we differentiate stalking from other crimes, such as harassment. Harassment generally describes behavior that is irritating, while stalking describes behaviors that cause fear.
Stalking is a pattern of behavior that requires two or more behaviors. The behaviors can vary or be the same. Some behaviors are criminal on their own (such as property damage) while others become criminal only when part of a stalking case (such as excessive texting).
- Like domestic violence, stalking is NOT just one incident. It is a pattern.
- When you’re looking at the stalking statute, realize that most legal definitions of stalking use the term “course of conduct.” This is a synonym for “pattern of behavior.”
- Many different behaviors can be part of a stalking pattern/course of conduct.
- Some stalking behaviors are criminal (for example, property damage).
- Others are not crimes on their own (for example, sending gifts) but can become criminal when part of a stalking course of conduct.
Stalking is directed at a specific person.
- Stalking is directed at a specific individual, not a group.
- However, stalkers may target other people close to the primary victim – such as family members or a new boyfriend or girlfriend.
Stalking has serious impacts on victims.
- Many experience mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, insomnia and social dysfunction.
- Lost time from work
- 1 in 7 need to relocate to avoid the stalker.
What can you do about stalking?
- Continue to educate yourself on stalking
- Get the word out: Educating your community on stalking can make victims more aware of when they are being stalked and more likely to take the threat seriously and seek help
- Recognize the signs when you see them.
- Talk with your friends, loved ones and community about healthy relationships and stalking.
- Get involved in anti-stalking efforts in your community.
What should you do if you believe you are being stalked?
- Trust your instincts. Victims of stalking often feel pressured by friends or family to downplay the stalker’s behavior, but stalking poses a real threat of harm. Your safety is paramount.
- Call the police if you think you are in any immediate danger. Explain why the stalker’s actions are causing you fear.
- Keep a record or log of each contact with the stalker. Be sure to also document any police reports.
- Stalkers often use technology to contact their victims. Save all emails, text messages, photos and postings on social networking sites as evidence of the stalking behavior. You also may want to consider how to use your technology and your devices in a safer manner. For more information, please visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence Safety Net Project’s Tech Safety Site.
- Get connected with a local victim service provider who can assist you in exploring your options as well as discuss safety planning.
For additional assistance, contact:
- Victim Connect: 1-855-4VICTIM(1-855-484-2846)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224 en Español
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
The information contained in this article was provided by SPARC (Stalking, Prevention, Awareness and Resource Center). Please learn more at www.StalkingAwareness.org.