Special Feature: Stalking
Stalking is a crime of power and control. Acts that appear meaningless or non-threatening to many people may be terrifying to victims. Context is critical to understanding stalking.
Stalkers vary considerably in the types and frequency of stalking tactics. Physical surveillance is often the most frequently cited tactic, followed by phone calls, and then by other unwanted contact.
Stalking is generally defined as a series of actions that make a victim feel afraid or in danger. This may include behaviors that seem innocent, such as phone calls, sending letters or gifts, and showing up at public places.
Abusers stalk for many reasons. They gather information, harass, intimidate, and even attempt to maintain or regain control over the victim. Offenders will frequently use any means available, including a wide variety of technologies.
While both men and women can be victims of stalking, women are stalked at a rate three times higher than men. According to the 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately 1 in 6 women (16 percent) and 1 in 17 men (5.8 percent) experienced stalking at some point in their lifetime. Nearly 3 in 4 victims know their offender in some capacity, and most often they are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
Research has shown a strong correlation between domestic violence and stalking. More than 80 percent of stalking victims who had been stalked by their current or former intimate partner reported that they had also been physically assaulted by that partner, and 31 percent were also sexually assaulted by that partner.
Victims of stalking experience a wide range of negative effects. 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.
All 50 states have stalking laws, but statutes and definitions of stalking and related crimes vary from state to state.
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