What is Stalking?
While legal definitions of stalking vary from one jurisdiction to another, a good working definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.Stalking is a crime that can be committed against anyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or geographic location.
- 13% of college women were stalked during one six to nine month period.
- 80% of campus stalking victims knew their stalkers.
- 3 in 10 college women reported being injured.
*Statistics supplied by the National Institute of Justice, the National Violence Against Women survey conducted by the Center for Policy Research, and the National Center for Victim's of Crime.
Old Dominion University Stalking Policy
Stalking is defined as repeatedly contacting, following, or remaining in the physical presence of another person when the contacting person knows or should know that:
- the contact is unwanted; or
- the contacting causes the other reasonable expectation of imminent physical harm; or
- the contact causes substantial impairment of the other person's ability to perform the activities of daily life.
Contacting includes but is not limited to: telephoning, transmitting letters or notes, or contacting through the use of electronic media.
Students or employees charged with a violation of the stalking policy can be disciplined under the appropriate standards of conduct.
If You Are a Victim of Stalking
Imperative Step Number One: Find an ally. Do not deal with this potentially dangerous situation by yourself. You must tell your parents or another trusted adult immediately.
Pay attention, to the stalker - and to yourself. Never ignore the first signs of stalking. You have a creepy feeling about someone? Sit up and take notice. Always, always trust your instincts. It beats someday saying, "I knew there was something wrong...I wish I'd paid attention."
Talk to the police. Don't put it off. The longer the behavior continues, the harder it may be to stop because the stalker may have become more obsessive. No one can accurately predict if a stalker will actually become violent. A confrontation with a police officer stops most stalkers.
Document thoroughly. Write down all of the stalker's behavior in detail. Keep answering machine tapes, letters, e-mails, gifts, photos, etc.
Consider a restraining order. Although some experts believe a restraining order will make a bad situation worse, Stephen Thompson, sexual assault services coordinator at Central Michigan University, disagrees. He says, "A restraining order gives notice, which is essential for legal action. It will frequently stop the offending behavior.
Help Lines for Victims
National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE
The National Center for Victims of Crime (800) FYI-CALL
Emergency Police 911
Typologies of Stalkers*
- Simple obsessional stalkers are the most common type. They have some prior relationship with the victim, usuallly an intimate one. These cases most often occur in the context of domestic violence.
- Love obsessional stalkers have had no existing relationship with the victim. Many of these stalkers target celebrities.
- Erotomaniac stalkers delusionally believe that they are loved by the victim. This is the rarest category of stalkers.
*Individual perpertrators may not precisely fit any single stalker category, and often exhibit characteristics associated with more than one category; it is important to remember that these typologies are merely guides. Meloy. (1998). "The Psychology of Stalking," AP.
Women stalk, but most stalkers are men. A stalker is much more likely to be someone you know than someone you don't. These are the people who can become stalkers, from most likely (your ex) to least likely (a stranger):
- your ex
- a casual date
- an acquaintance
- a stranger
The Impact of Stalking
- 56% of women stalked took some type of self-protective measure; often as drastics as relocating (11%). (Tjaden & Thoennes. (1998). "Stalking in America," NIJ)
- 26% of stalking victims lost time from work as a result of their victimization, and 7% never returned to work. (Tjaden & Thoennes)
- 30% of female victims and 20% of male victims sought psychological counseling. (Tjaden & Thoennes)
- The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one's property destroyed. (Blaauw et. al. (2002). "The Toll of Stalking," J. Interpersonal Viol.)
Stalking & Intimate Partner Femicide*
- 76% of femicide victims had been stalked by the person who killed them.
- 67% had been physically abused by their intimate partner. v
- 89% of femicide victims who had been physically abused had also been stalked in the 12 months before the murder.
- 79% of abused femicide victims reported stalking during the same period that they reported abuse.
- 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers.
*The murder of a woman (McFarlane et al. (1999). "Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide," Homicide Studies.)
- A U.S. Department of Justice report estimates that there may be tens or even hundreds of thousands of cyberstalking victims in the United States (Report on Cyberstalking, 1999).
- A 1997 nationwide survey conducted by the University of Cincinnati found that almost 25% of stalking incidents among college age women involved cyberstaking (Report on Cyberstalking, 1999).
Cyberstalking can be defined as threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of online and computer communications
Cyberstalking is a relatively new phenomenon. With the decreasing expense and thereby increased availability of computers and online services, more individual are purchasing computers and "logging onto" the Internet, making another form of communication vulnerable to abuse by stalkers.
Cyberstalkers target their victims through chat rooms, message boards, discussion forums, and e-mail. Cyberstalking takes many forms such as: threatening or obscene e-mail; spamming (in which a stalker sends a victim a multitude of junk e-mail); live chat harassment or flaming (online verbal abuse); leaving improper messages on message boards or in guest books; sending electronic viruses; sending unsolicited e-mail; tracing another person's computer and Internet activity, and electronic identity theft.
Similar to stalking off-line, online stalking can be a terrifying experience for victims, placing them at risk of psychological trauma, and possible physical harm. Many cyberstalking situations do evolve into off-line stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault.
If You Are a Victim of Cyberstalking
Victims who are under the age of 18 should tell their parents or another adult they trust about any harassments and/or threats.
Experts suggest that in cases where the offender is known, victims should send the stalker a clear written warning. Specifically, victims should communicate that the contact is unwanted, and ask the perpetrator to cease sending communications of any kind. Victims should do this only once. Then, no matter the response, victims should under no circumstances ever communicate with the stalker again. Victims should save copies of this communication in both electronic and hard copy form.
If the harassment continues, the victim may wish to file a complaint with the stalker's Internet service provider, as well as with their own service provider. Many Internet service providers offertools that filter or block communications from specific individuals.
As soon as individuals suspect they are victims or online harassment or cyberstalking, they should start collecting all evidence and hard-copy form. If possible, save all of the header information from e-mails and newsgroup postings. Record the dates and times of any contact with the stalker.
Victims may also want to start a log of each communication explaining the situation in more detail. Victims may want to document how the harassment is affecting their lives and what steps they have taken to stop the harassment.
Victims who are being continually harassed may want to consider changing their e-mail address, Internet service provider, a home hone number, and should examine the possibility of using encrytion software or privacy protection programs. Any local computer store can offer a variety of protective software, options and suggestions. Victims may also want to learn how to use the filtering capabilities of e-mail programs to block e-mails from certain addresses.
Furthermore, victims should contact online directory listings to request removal from their directory.
Finally, under no circumstances should victims agree to meet with the perpetrator face to face to "work it out," or "talk." No contact should ever be made with the stalker. Meeting a stalker in person can be very dangerous.
- 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the United States
- 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime.
- 77% of female and 64% of male victims know their stalker.
- 87% of stalkers are men.
- 59% of female victims and 30% of male victims are stalked by an intimate partner.
- 81% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner.
- 31% or women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also sexually assaulted by that partner.
- The average duration of stalking is 1.8 years.
- If stalking involves intimate partners, the average duration of stalking increases to 2.2 years.
- 61% of stalkers made unwanted phone calls; 33% sent or left unwanted letters or items; 29% vandalized property; and 9% killed or threatened to kill a pet.
- 28% of female victims and 10% of male victims obtained protective order. 69% of female victims and 81% of male victims had the protection order violated.
- Stalking is a crime under the laws of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Government.
- 13 states classify stalking as a felony upon the first offense.*
- 35 states classify stalking as a felony upon the second offense and/or when the crime involves aggravating factors.*
- Aggravating factors may include: posession of a deadly weapon; violation of a court order or condition of probation/parole; victim under 16; same victim as prior occasions.
- 1.4 million people are stalked annually.
- Only one half of stalking cases are reported to authorities, and 25% receive a restraining order.
- 1 in 20 women will be stalked in their lifetime.
- 79% of women know their stalkers; 50% were in an intimate relationship with their stalker; 80% of these relationships were abusive.