What is stalking?
Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention, harassment, and contact. It is a course of conduct that can include:
- Following or laying in wait for the victim
- Repeated unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or e-mail
- Damaging the victim’s property
- Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim’s children, relatives, friends, or pets
- Repeatedly sending the victim unwanted gifts
- Harassment through the Internet, known as cyberstalking, online stalking, or Internet stalking
- Securing personal information about the victim by: accessing public records (land records, phone listings, driver or voter registration), using Internet search services, hiring private investigators, contacting friends, family, work, or neighbors, going through the victim’s garbage, following the victim, etc.
How is stalking defined in law?
Legal definitions vary but many states define stalking as willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassment.
- Isolated acts may not fall under this type of law, but where there is a pattern, the behavior is generally illegal.
- In some states, for stalking laws to apply, the commission of the offense requires an explicit threat of violence against the victim, but elsewhere an implied threat is sufficient.
- Under most state laws, the victim’s fearful response is built into the legal definition of stalking. This recognizes that the perpetrator’s repeated, uninvited pursuit of the victim is by its nature frightening and threatening.
Is the threatening nature of stalking always apparent?
- To an outsider, the stalker’s behavior can appear friendly and unthreatening, for example, showering the victim with gifts or flattering messages. But, these acts are intrusive and frightening if they are unwelcome to the victim.
- Whatever means stalkers use, stalking induces fear and disrupts the lives of victims.
Who are the victims of stalking?
- The overwhelming majority of victims (78 percent) are women.
- Most female victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners such as spouses, cohabiting partners, or dating partners.
- A minority of victims are stalked by strangers.
Who are the perpetrators?
- Nearly 90 percent of stalkers are men.
- Stalkers can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, co-workers, or current or former intimate partners, including spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, and dates.
- Current or former intimate partners stalk the majority of female victims.
- A minority of stalkers target victims with whom they have no prior connection or relationship.
- Stalkers are often socially maladjusted, emotionally immature, insecure and jealous by nature. Like perpetrators of domestic violence, who often stalk their partners, they seek to exert power and control over the victim.
- The majority of stalkers are not mentally ill. A minority (usually stranger stalkers) suffer from mental health disorders (such as paranoid schizophrenia or manic depression) and exhibit delusional thought patterns or behaviors.