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Chapter 22 Special Topics (Section 2 Supplement)


Statistical Overview

  • In the Third Annual Report to Congress under the Violence Against Women Act, researchers stated that, contrary to common belief, only 23% of female victims are stalked by strangers. Thirty-eight percent of female stalking victims are stalked by current or former husbands, 10% by current or former cohabiting partners, and 14% by current or former boyfriends (NIJ 2001).

  • The National College Women Sexual Victimization (NCWSV) study reported a stalking incidence rate of 156.5 per 1,000 female students or 13% during the seven-month period following the beginning of the 1996 school year. A stalker in this study was defined as someone who repeatedly followed, watched, phoned, wrote, e-mailed, or communicated in other ways that appeared obsessive and made the individual afraid or concerned for her safety (Fisher, Cullen, and Turner 2000).

  • In the NCWSV study, four out of five victims knew their stalkers: 42.5% were boyfriends or ex-boyfriends; 24.5% were classmates; 10.3% were acquaintances; 5.6% were friends; and 5.6% were co-workers. Stalking incidents lasted an average of sixty days. Two-thirds of the sample reported being stalked two to six times a week (Ibid.).

  • In the NCWSV survey, some victims reported being physically injured by the stalker; 10.3% were forced into a sexual or an attempted sexual contact. Over 15% reported that the stalker threatened or attempted to harm them, and 30% felt injured emotionally and psychologically from being stalked (Ibid.).

Significant Legislation

On April 1, 2001, amendments to the Michigan criminal stalking law were signed that make it illegal for a person to post a message through an electronic medium, including the Internet, if the sender intends to make the victim feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or harassed, and the action causes the victim to suffer emotional distress or feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or harassed. Violations of the law constitute felonies and can carry prison sentences of up to two years or fines of up to $2000. The new law also provides more stringent penalties, up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines, if the message is a violation of a restraining order, injunction, or condition of release (NCVC 2002).

California Assembly Bill 2425 enacted on September 24, 2000, increases sentences for convicted stalkers, streamlines notification to victims of offender release, and sets up a public telephone number which victims and the general public can call to inquire about a stalker's bail arrangements or release. Stalkers with a high risk of reoffending will be placed under intensive parole supervision (California AB 2425).

SB 192 went into effect in West Virginia on July 13, 2001, to establish felony penalties for a subsequent conviction for stalking within five years of a prior conviction and for stalking that is in violation of a protection order. Both acts are punishable by incarceration in a state correctional facility for one to five years or a fine of $3000 to $10,000 (NCVC 2000).

On July 13, 2001, the Rhode Island legislature passed several laws to address stalking. Senate 193A provides for a civil cause of action for stalking. House 5248 permits an employer to obtain a restraining order on behalf of an employee who is being harassed or stalked at the workplace. House 5466A criminalizes cyberstalking and provides for felony penalties for second convictions and cyberstalking in violation of a restraining order (Ibid.).

Current Stalking Issues

In addition to new laws and policies enacted to address cyberstalking and to increase punishment for repeat offenders, states are grappling with other issues concerning victim safety once the stalker has been apprehended by the police.

Strengthening Antistalking Statutes, published by the Office for Victims of Crime (2002), reports that many states are currently addressing pretrial release conditions for stalkers and safety concerns for victims. Stalkers who have been charged are usually released on bail and may continue to be dangerous to victims during the pretrial phase. Some states are seeking means to protect victims during this phase of the criminal justice process by allowing the courts to attach a no-contact order as a condition of pretrial release or giving the court the discretion to deny bail if it can be determined that the stalker presents a threat to the physical safety of the victim. The state of Illinois calls for a hearing to determine if a stalker presents a real and present threat to the physical safety of a victim and if so, bail can be denied to prevent the fulfillment of the threat.

Some stalkers have lifetime obsessions about their targets so that when they reach the end of their sentence, at-risk victims must go through the process of reapplication for protection orders, sometimes for the rest of their lives. The application process is not only traumatic to victims but also may reveal to the stalker their whereabouts. Therefore, states are looking at such remedies as post-adjudication lifetime protection orders. The state of New Jersey has addressed this problem by linking a conviction for stalking in the state to an application for a permanent restraining order so that once the stalker is found guilty, the permanent restraining order is issued and can only be revoked by request from the victim (OVC 2002).

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Chapter 22 Special Topics June 2002
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