This month is National Stalking Awareness Month. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, stalking is defined as a “pattern of behavior that makes you feel afraid, nervous, harassed, or in danger” and can involve repeated physical or verbal contact, unwanted gifts, communication as well as threats and other harmful conduct. The National Center for Victims of Crime started Stalking Awareness Month in 2004.
Every year, an average of 7.5 million people experience stalking in the United States alone. The majority of stalking victims are women, as women are three times more likely to be stalked in their lifetime compared to men.
Stalking is most often committed by someone the victim knows personally, such as a previous or current intimate partner. The Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report found that 3 out of 4 victims knew their stalker on a personal level.
Since the rise of technology, stalking has expanded into multiple forms and medias. More than a quarter of stalking victims report the use of technology in their victimization. Stalkers not only employ social media and texting as a means to contact the victim, they can also monitor their victim’s computer use and internet history through spyware software. Furthermore, GPS technology enables location tracking. While technology is utilized as a mechanism of harm by stalkers, it can also act as a tool to stop the offender. Law enforcement is often able to trace the digital evidence and use it for conviction.
Stalking is a crime punishable by law in all 50 states. Victims can access support and help from victim services support agencies, crisis hotlines, police, protection from abuse court orders, domestic violence programs and sexual assault programs.
Additionally, stalking is a direct violation of Title IX, the federal law explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex within schooling and education systems. College students being stalked on their campus can utilize their Title IX office to receive an on-campus No Contact Order as well as other resources and services.
If you or someone you know is experiencing stalking, you can contact the Victim Connect Helpline (855-484-2846) or visit http://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center/help-for-victims for more resources and information.
Media Resources: National Center for Victims of Crime 2012, The Stalking Resource Center 1/2015, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs 1/2015, National Network to End Domestic Violence 2010, ABC News 1/12/09, Know Your IX