Stalking

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
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.
Statistics on Stalking
  • 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.
    (source: USDOJ)
Victim Survey Information
Victims reported that their stalkers abused alcohol in 57.8% of cases, and abused drugs in 51.3% of cases.

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.
(source: NCVC)
Common Characteristics of a Stalker

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:
  • 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 feelings.
  • Unreliable / irresponsible / Insincere / untruthful
  • Displays lack of remorse / Displays poor judgement about how to obtain what they want.
  • 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 impulses.
  • Becomes irrational and destructive - use of drugs and alcohol will only amplify these behaviors.
  • Unreasonable need to control partner, overly jealous
Stalking and Domestic Violence
57% of stalkers are intimate / ex-partners of their victims & most victims know their stalkers.

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)
Are You Being Stalked

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:
  • 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
Stalking behavior patterns are very similar to those behavior patterns in domestic violence.

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 their love."

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 immediately.

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 with evidence.

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 support.

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 crime.

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 lines go
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"