In 2004, January was declared National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM) by the Stalking Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime, and the Office on Violence Against Women of the U.S. Department of Justice.
These agencies defined stalking as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written or implied threats or a combination thereof that would cause a reasonable person to fear.”
The stalker’s purpose is to control and scare the victim, sometimes with the intention of keeping them in a relationship with the stalker. Stalking is about POWER and CONTROL.
Sexual violence does not discriminate; both women and men are stalked. However, a higher percentage of victims are women, with 1 out of 12 women and 1 out of 45 men being victims of stalking. The majority of stalkers are men, making up 87% of perpetrators.
The stalker usually knows their victim: they might be an intimate partner, an acquaintance or a friend. One study found that 77% of females and 64% of male victims were stalked by someone they knew, with 3 out of 5 female victims and 3 out of 10 male victims stalked by an intimate partner. Only 10% of victims are stalked by a stranger.
Unfortunately, technology has helped facilitate more sophisticated methods of stalking. One in four victims report being stalked through technology, with about 10% of victims reporting being monitored by GPS and 8% reporting being monitored through video cameras or listening devices.
Stalking takes a high toll on its victims. The immediate and long-term stress on stalking victims is significant. It can cause acute, chronic fear and severely disrupt victims’ lives. The uncertainty of the situation and sense that the stalking will never end can become extremely overwhelming and cause anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression as well as lead victims to miss work and even leave their jobs or relocate entirely.
Furthermore, stalking is extremely dangerous; it can escalate to violence and murder, especially when it is perpetrated by an intimate partner. Studies indicate that three out of four women killed by their partners were also previously stalked by them. Over half of these women reported the stalking to the police before they were killed. Although stalking is a crime in all U.S. states and territories, less than a third of states classify stalking as a felony upon first offense.
The Center is always available to support victims of stalking, whether involving intimate partners or strangers. We can also assist survivors of sexual violence with filing restraining orders (50Cs: Civil No-Contact Orders for Stalking and Non-Consensual Sexual Conduct). And we can help stalking victims who elect to participate in the Address Confidentiality Program.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of stalking, contact our free and confidential 24-Hour Help Line at 1-866-WE LISTEN or 919-967-7273.
Maria Morales Levy is our Latino Services Coordinator. She provides services, education programs, and outreach to Spanish speakers in our community.