Although it is tempting to dismiss stalking behavior in the hopes it will stop,
stalking can be a very serious and potentially dangerous offence. Even without
the possible threat of violence, stalkers can instill fear and anxiety in those
who they stalk, and can completely disrupt someone's life. Please remember that
if you are being stalked, it is not your fault in any way.
So far research has been unsuccessful in revealing what exactly leads someone
to become a stalker, and what the research has shown is that internal characteristics
of the stalkers themselves are the only factors that can be used to form a profile
of a potential stalker. It is possible to write a profile of someone who is likely
to be a stalker, but it is not possible to write a profile of someone who is likely
to be a stalking victim. Therefore, once again, if you are being stalked it is
not your fault in any way; anyone can be stalked for any reason.
What is stalking
Statistics on stalking
Victim survey information
Common characteristics of a stalker
Stalking and domestic violence
Are you being stalked
Dealing with a stalker
Reducing your risk
What is Stalking
Currently all 50 US states and Canada have anti-stalking laws in place. Let’s
take a look at the legal definition and law in Canada:
Criminal harassment is the legal term for stalking, which is a form of behavior.
Prior to 1993, stalking behavior was not against the law in Canada. In April 1993,
the Criminal Code was amended to include section 264, which deals with criminal
harassment. It is defined asfollows:
(1) Criminal harassment: No person shall, without lawful
Statistics on Stalking
authority and knowing that another person is harassed or
recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed,
engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person
reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety
of anyone known to them.
(2) Prohibited conduct: The conduct mentioned in subsection
(1) consists of:
(a) repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known
to them; (b) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the
other person known to them; (c) besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or
place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries
on business or happens to be; or (d) engaging in threatening conduct directed
at the other person or any member of their family.
On September 23, 1996 President Clinton signed into law the Interstate Stalking
Punishment and Prevention Act of 1996 making it a federal offense to stalk across
state lines. Most violent crimes begin with stalking. People, including children,
are typically stalked prior to being abducted. Stalking is prolonged criminal
behavior that endangers the victim, their family, the community, and also poses
a very real threat for workplace violence.
Millions of innocent citizens are secondary targets to stalking. They suffer
the repercussions of the criminal acts - either directly or indirectly. More
than 45% of all stalking cases involve disruption within the workplace and have
devastating effects on the productivity of
organizations and on the quality of life of employees.
- Your chances of being stalked are close to 1 in 10.
- 1 in 12 women are stalked at some point in their life.
- A woman is 3 times more likely to be stalked than raped.
- Each year an estimated one million women and 371,000 men are stalked annually
in the US.
- Primary targets of stalkers are women (80%), most stalkers (88%) are male
((Bunge and Levett 1998) 8% of all women and 2% of all men are stalked at
some time in their life.
- 10% of female victims and 12% of male victims are less than 18 years old.
- Approximately 50% of all stalking victims never report their victimization
to law enforcement.
- 25% attain restraining orders against their assailant. / 80% of Orders attained
against stalkers are violated.
Victims reported that their stalkers abused alcohol in 57.8% of cases,
and abused drugs in 51.3% of cases.
Characteristics of a Stalker
Slightly more than 13% of the female students in a study of college women had
been victims of stalking. However, if the definition of stalking must include
a threat of harm (as is the case in many states) the extent of stalking among
college females of stalking declines to 1.96%.
Four in five college stalking victims know their offender. Of known stalkers,
42.5% were boyfriends or former boyfriends, 24.5% classmates, 10.3% were acquaintances,
5.6% friends, and 5.6% co-workers.
The most common forms of stalking of college women were being unwantedly contacted
by telephone (77.7%); having an offender waiting outside or inside buildings
(47.9%); being watched from afar (44%); being followed (42%); being sent letters
(30.7%); and being e-mailed (24.7%). As a consequence of stalking 3 in 10 victims
reported emotional or psychological injuries.
A stalker may be a prior intimate partner, an acquaintance, or even a stranger.
Although the majority of stalking cases (75-80%) involve men stalking women, stalking
is a crime with both male and female perpetrators and victims. (ie. women stalking
men, women stalking women, men stalking men, and men stalking women.) Some common
characteristics may include:
Stalking and Domestic Violence
- Does not believe his behavior warrants consequences.
- Extraordinarily cunning and manipulative Lack of social conscience, empathy,
or for the concern for the welfare of others.
- Exudes charm that is not easily discernable as superficial.
- Fails to display anxiety in situations that would normally produce those
- Unreliable / irresponsible / Insincere / untruthful
- Displays lack of remorse / Displays poor judgement about how to obtain what
- Has an inability to identify with others, hard to form meaningful relationships.
- Decides not to follow the law, conform to social norms.
- Chronically refuses to deter gratification, tolerate frustration or control
- Becomes irrational and destructive - use of drugs and alcohol will only
amplify these behaviors.
- Unreasonable need to control partner, overly jealous
57% of stalkers are intimate / ex-partners of their victims &
most victims know their stalkers.
Are You Being Stalked
Of women who had been stalked by former husbands and
partners, 21% said the stalking occurred before the relationship ended, 43%
said it occurred after the relationship ended, and 36% said that it occurred
both before and after the relationship ended. (Tjaden & Thoennes,1998)
81% of women who were stalked by a current or former partner were also physically
assaulted by that partner and 31% were also sexually assaulted by that partner.
(Violence Against Women Grants Office, 1998)
Stalking cases which emerge from domestic violence situations constitute the
most common and potentially lethal class of stalking cases. (Tjaden & Thoennes)
30% of female homicide victims were killed by ex-lovers or husbands, 90% of
these women were stalked before being killed (Violence
Against Women Grants Office,1998)
Stalking has been referred to as a "building block crime" because it
usually starts with small incidents that can get more and more serious. These
incidents can include such behaviors as:
Stalking behavior patterns are very similar to those behavior patterns in domestic
- repeated phone calls, emails, or letters
- Leaves repeated, obscene, harassing or threatening messages
- Following, watching, spying, and tracking someone
- Sending unwanted gifts
- Stealing from someone's property (including mail)
- Vandalizing someone's property
- Threatening someone and/or their loved ones
- Showing up uninvited
- Assaulting or threatening to assault someone verbally, physically, or sexually
- Having friends or acquaintances do any of the above for them
- Calls your home and/or work after you've told him or her to stop.
- Appears unexpectedly at places that you frequent
The pattern usually begins when the stalker is rejected in some way. This rejection
often leads to attempts to "woo" their victim into a relationship; this
"wooing" may involve giving gifts or acting in a particular way to "prove
When these attempts are spurned the stalker often begins to harass his/her victim.
This harassment can have many different forms, such as frequent phone calls, following,
watching, and uttering threats, and often it becomes more and more frequent and
escalates in severity.
A serious concern becomes the possibility that the stalker may turn to violence,
as 25% of stalkers do. It is important to remember that each stalker is different,
and his/her actions cannot be predicted. Some stalkers will never turn to violence,
and others will become violent soon after the stalking has begun.
Another concern is that the stalker may become frustrated if he/she cannot reach
the intended victim, and thus might transfer his/her anger to someone else in
that individual's life. This person may be seen as what is keeping the stalker
from the intended victim, and so the stalker may react violently or threateningly
towards this person.
Dealing with a Stalker
Have a plan in advance of a safe place you and your family can go (police or fire
station, home of relative, friend, partner, etc.), if you become frightened or
threatened. Acquaint yourself with stores in your area that are opened 24-hours,
and that normally have a lot of people. Prevention and the safety of you and your
family is the goal.
Know in advance where you will go and what to do in an emergency situation. You
may want to keep a packed overnight bag and important records located at a friend
or relatives house. You may even want to consider keeping important original documents
in a safety deposit box at a bank.
Never underestimate the stalker or the potential for danger.
Treat all threats, either in person, by phone, or mail, as
legitimate. Remember that a threat does not require words. An
implied threat of black roses, a dead animal received in the mail, or a photograph
with your image crossed out conveys a message loud and clear. Notify law enforcement
Never attempt to return any correspondence or "gifts" you receive from
the stalker. This can further escalate the situation.
Even if you have decided not to prosecute, keep all correspondence or offerings
as evidence. Place evidence in zip lock bags, date the bad, and handle the evidence
as little as possible. Make sure to make copies of all correspondence and the
envelope before you turn it over to law enforcement. Take photographs of larger
items and print the date on the back.
To determine if you are being followed while driving, make four
left-hand or four right-hand turns. If you are being followed, lock all car doors
and never get out of the car.
Do not drive directly home if you are being followed. If the stalker did not know
where you live, he/she will if you take him/her there. If you have a cellular
phone, call the police immediately and let them know your destination. If you
do not have a cellular phone, drive to the closest police or fire station and
sound your car horn to attract attention.
If possible, get the automobile tag number and description of the car, but don't
put yourself or someone else in danger!
If you suspect your auto may be tampered with, check for missing hubcaps, loosened
lug nuts, slow leaks in tires, and check under the hood prior to driving. Look
for anything out of the ordinary or suspicious. Also, pump your brakes and look
under the car for brake fluid. If your suspicions are correct, get to a safe location
and call law enforcement immediately. Do not attempt to drive the car, or tamper
If you have children, or if your child is being stalked, inform day
care, school authorities, and/or their teachers of the potentially
dangerous situation your child is in. If available, show them a
picture of the stalker or provide a detailed description and include vehicle information.
Tell them who has permission to pick up your child, and to be suspicious of strangers
loitering nearby, or anyone asking questions.
Never think twice about sounding your car horn to attract
attention, deter a perpetrator, and get help.
Always travel in groups or with a friend if possible. Inform everyone - your employer,
coworkers, office security,
apartment security, neighbors, friends, and family members about the stalker and
events taking place. Everyone needs to know in order to help. Other people can
be essential to catch the stalker, be a witness to authorities, and give you emotional
If you have a picture of the stalker, show it to neighbors, family, security,
police, etc., and ask them to call law enforcement. If you don't have a picture,
get a good description of the perpetrator, or consider keeping an inexpensive
pocket camera handy in case he/she comes near you again.
Never pursue or stalk the stalker to get a picture. A witness is much better proof
and less potential danger.
Tell all personal friends, family members, coworkers, and
household members, not to release information about you, your
address, or telephone number to anyone. Also, ask them to inform you of hang-up
calls or suspicious people.
If your mail is delivered to your residence, and you suspect mail
tampering, purchase a locking mailbox or use a mail service. Also, notify the
postal service and law enforcement. Mail theft and mail tampering is a federal
Ask law enforcement to periodically drive by your home. If you suspect the stalker
may come to your home or attempt a break-in, keep a cellular phone with you at
all times. This will prevent you from becoming cut off from help if telephone
down or are cut.
Always carry some type of personal safety device, i.e. mace,
pepper spray, aluminum flash light, etc. A C-cell "police type"
aluminum flash light, holding 4 or 5 batteries, can be used not
only for visibility at night but also as a personal safety weapon.
It's a good idea to have one under the front seat of your car, in
your home near the front door, or in your bedroom.
Realize that the stalker does not want to be seen, heard, or
discovered by anyone. They usually work in silence and behind a
wall of secrecy. The temptation for you to withdrawal and isolate is natural,
but can be deadly, and works against you. - Document everything, keep a journal.
Reduce your risk
When meeting someone new
Try not to reveal too much about you, at the same time try to learn as much as
you can about them (i.e., what kind of relationships they have had and why they
ended, how many female friends do they have)
When ending a relationship
Do not stay in a relationship that is wrong for you. The less emotional
investment the stalker has in you , the less likely he will be focus on you
Be direct, types of statements that were meant to end relationships that are
mis-understood by the stalker are as follows:
"I am note ready for a serious relationship yet" stalker's
interpretation: "she wants me to wait"
- " I already have a boyfriend" stalker's interpretation "She wants
me to get rid of that guy she's seeing"
- "I just like you as a friend" stalker's interpretation "I can make
her love me"