Legally speaking, stalking definitions vary by state but there are similarities across the board. Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention, harassment, and contact. Usually stalking is done with malicious intent of causing harm in some form to the victim. The harm can be as simple as causing embarrassment to the victim all the way to the extreme of causing bodily harm or even death.
According to the National Institute of Justice report of statistics in 1997, 1 million American women and about 400,000 (four hundred thousand) men report stalking instances annually. Another staggering statistic is it is estimated that 8 million women and 2 million men will be stalked at some point in their lives. Amazing, yet scary at the same time. Most stalkers are someone the victim is familiar with such as spouses, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-roommates. It is rare that a stalker is a stranger. While 78% of victims are women, 90% of stalkers are men.
A lot of people assume stalkers are mentally ill in some forms. I think this is because when we hear news reports of a stalker causing harm to someone, the media will delve into the past of the person and make the assumption that they are mentally disturbed. Usually celebrity stalkers are indeed mentally ill. Stalkers tend to be obsessed with their victim. Like perpetrators of domestic violence, they may be jealous, wish to exert power and control of their victims, insecure individually, sometimes not socially adjusted, and emotionally immature. The stalker may display any number of those characteristics. The stranger to the victim stalkers has been reported to be schizophrenic or manic depressive.
So just what is stalking? In general terms, stalking is:
• Following the victim or laying in wait where you know the victim will be at a given time
• Approaching the victim continually at their place of work, home, or out in public (example, the stalker is waiting on your front porch everyday to talk to you, or they “show up” at the restaurant you and your friends go to
Friday night, etc.
• Continually making unwanted contact with the victim via phone, email, or postal mail
• Repeatedly sending unwanted gifts to the victim
• Making direct or indirect threats to the victim
• Even digging for information about someone may constitute stalking especially if you are considering using this information to cause some kind of physical or emotional harm to a person
To someone who knows the victim, it may be hard to believe that the victim is indeed being stalked because the stalker may be leaving so many gifts or contacting the victim with what seems like flattering messages and compliments. When the victim shows fear from these, you may wonder what is going on that you aren’t seeing. Whatever ways a stalker uses, it always induces fear or panic in the victim.
Next week we will look at understanding stalking more, how to protect ourselves and what steps to take to end someone stalking you. Meanwhile, do you have a story to share with others about being a victim of a stalker? Please share your experience in the forum.