Stalking is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Stalking can be carried out in a number of different ways, so it’s important for teens and adults to be aware of the warning signs of physical and digital stalking, and how to address it.
2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily, using more than one method. With the existence of technology like cell phones, GPS and social sites, stalking has more routes than ever.
Stalking can escalate into violent situations that can get more severe over time – so make sure you know the facts. Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases. Stalking is also highly linked with intimate partner femicide – 76% of intimate partner femicide victims have been stalked by their intimate partner.
Some things stalkers do:
- Any actions that control, track, or frighten you.
- Follow you and show up wherever you are.
- Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails.
- Damage your home, car, or other property.
- Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
- Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
- Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
- Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
- Find out about you by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
- Posting information or spreading rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
How common is stalking, and who are the perpetrators?
7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the United States, with 18-24 year olds experiencing the highest rate. Over 85% of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know – with 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims stalked by a current or former intimate partner. About 1 in 5 of stalking victims are stalked by a stranger.
Impact on Victims
Victims are never to blame for a stalker’s behavior. Nobody should live in fear for what their stalker will do, or feel vulnerable or unsafe throughout the day. Stalking victims experience anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression at a higher rate than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed.
What can be done about stalking?
There are laws to protect victims of stalking. Stalking is a crime under the laws of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and the Federal government. Stalkers might also be charged with crimes such as trespassing, intimidation of a witness, breaking and entering, and others. Check your state code or consult with your local prosecutor about other charges that might apply in a particular case. Click here for a compilation of state, territory, tribal, and federal laws.