What Is Stalking?
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. All 50 states have stalking laws, but statutes and definitions of stalking and related crimes vary from state to state. More information on the laws of states and other jurisdictions is available at the Stalking Resource Center Web site, www.ncvc.org/src.
What Are Stalking Behaviors?
The crime of stalking may comprise behaviors that, in and of themselves, are not criminal, such as making phone calls, sending letters or gifts, and showing up at public places. Threats may be explicit or implicit or conveyed without words. Acts that appear meaningless or non-threatening to many people may be terrifying to victims. For instance, a rose left on the doorstep—a seemingly non-threatening gesture—may indicate to a victim that her offender has discovered where she lives. Context is critical to understanding stalking.
How Common Is Stalking?
Each year, 3.4 million people are stalked in the United States. While both men and women can be victims of stalking, women are nearly three times more likely to be stalked than men. Nearly 3 in 4 victims know their offender in some capacity, and 30 percent are stalked by a current or former intimate partner (i.e., spouse, boy/girlfriend).
What Do We Know About Stalkers?
- 67 percent of female victims are stalked by men; 41 percent of male victims are stalked by men.
- 23 percent of female victims are stalked by women; 43 percent of male victims are stalked by women.
- 46 percent of offenders pursue their victims at least once a week.
- 78 percent of offenders use more than one means of approach, such as: following or spying on the victims; placing unwanted phone calls or sending unwanted letters or items; vandalism; killing or threatening pets.
- Intimate partner stalkers are more likely than other types of stalkers to physically approach the victim and to use a weapon; they are also more likely to reoffend.
- Stalkers often use technology, such as e-mail, instant messaging, cameras, listening devices, and global positioning systems (GPS).
- 20 percent of cases involve the use of weapons to threaten or harm the victim.
- Recidivism occurs in approximately 60 percent of cases.
What Can Victims Do?
Many victims struggle with how to respond to the stalker. Some victims try to reason with the stalker, try to "let them down easy," or "be nice" in hopes of getting the stalker to stop the behavior. Some victims tell themselves that the behavior "isn't that bad" or other sentiments that minimize the stalking behavior. Other victims may confront or threaten the stalker. These methods rarely work because stalkers are actually encouraged by any contact with the victim, even negative interactions.
Victims of stalking cannot predict what stalkers will do but can determine their own responses to the stalking behavior. Personal safety and harm prevention is of the utmost importance for victims. While victims cannot control the stalking behavior, they can be empowered to take steps to keep themselves, family, and loved ones safe. The creation of a safety plan can assist victims in doing this.
Stalking Safety Planning - What Is It?
A safety plan is a combination of suggestioned steps, precautions, and responses intended to help victims reduce their risk of harm. It is a tool designed in response to the victim's specific situation that evaluates what the victim is currently experiencing, incorporates the pattern of previous behavior, and examines options that will positively impact the victim's safety
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Stalking: Fast Facts
Stalking is real. It’s dangerous and it’s a crime. Stalking is any series of actions that makes you feel afraid or in danger. Stalking can happen to anyone:
- 3.4 million people in the U.S. are stalked each year.
- 1 in 12 women will be stalked in their lives.
- 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lives.
IN AN EMERGENCY, CALL 911 FOR HELP.
Things Stalkers Do
- Call and text you repeatedly.
- Send unwanted emails, text messages, cards, or notes.
- Leave unwanted items, presents, flowers, or cards.
- Follow or spy on you.
- Threaten you, your family, friends, or pets.
- Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
- Post information or spread rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
- Use technology like hidden cameras or GPS to track you.
- Find out about you through on-line searches or by contacting your friends, family or co-workers.
What YOU Can Do If You're Being Stalked
- Dial 911 if you’re in immediate danger.
- Contact the police and file a report.
- Trust your instincts.
- Develop a safety plan.
- Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
- Let family, friends, and co-workers know about the stalking and seek their support.
- Seek support from your local victim service program.
- Keep any evidence of the stalking.
- Record the dates and times when the stalker contacts you.
- Save emails, phone messages and notes.
- Photograph text messages.
- Photograph any injuries the stalker causes.
- Photograph anything the stalker damages.
- Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.
Help Is Available
In Bucks County
24-Hour Hotline: 1.800.675.6900
A Woman's Place
24-Hour Hotline: 1.800.220.8116
For More Information
National Crime Victim Helpline
National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center