Stalking is a crime. Stalking is a knowing repeated, purposeful course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person mental injury or emotional distress, the threat of bodily injury, bodily injury, or death to him or herself or a member of her/his immediate family. It happens when someone repeatedly approaches, pursues or follows, threatens, harasses, trespasses on someone's property, vandalizes, conducts surveillance, shows a weapon, restrains, or commits bodily injury against the victim. A stalker does these things to make the victims afraid – afraid that he or she will hurt, rape, kidnap or kill them or someone they love.
A stalker might follow the victim when she/he drives to work. He or she might wait for the victim outside of her/his home or office. A stalker might call the victim on the phone and make threats or hang up when the victim answers. Some stalkers slash tires, vandalize homes and threaten their victims with weapons. Some stalkers send flowers, gifts and cards.
Can Stalking Be Dangerous?
Yes. While a stalker's harassment and threats might at first seem just annoying and a little scary, they often lead to serious violence. Someone who stalks is someone who could be dangerous. Stalkers have beaten, raped, and murdered the people they stalked. Take the threats seriously.
Although there is no standard way to assess the seriousness of a case, there are some factors that should be considered:
- History of violence exhibited by the stalker.
- Presence of physical abuse or domestic violence.
- Presence or absence of threats. Verbal or written threats very frequently precede acts of violence.
- Obsession with the same or similar victims over a period of time.
- Destruction of property.
- Access and approach behaviors of the stalker (Letter writing or face to face contact).
- Knowing the mental status of the stalker.
- Meaning or value the stalker places on the victim.
- Knowledge of the relationship between the stalker and the victim.
Who Is Stalked?
80 % of stalking victims are women. Very often, battered women are stalked by their abusers, especially if they try to end the relationship. Most often, stalking involves people who have had a prior relationship. This relationship may have been a former spouse, employer, intimate partner or neighbor. In most cases the stalking began after the relationship had ended or when there was a perception by the stalker that he/she was mistreated. The stalking is an attempt to rectify the problem or seek revenge. Sometimes people stalk strangers or mere acquaintances.
Who Are Stalkers?
Stalkers can be black or white, rich or poor, employed or unemployed. Most stalkers are men, but women stalk, too. The best way to tell whether someone might stalk you is the way he or she acts. If someone you know or are close to shows several of the following dangers signs, consider taking precautions to protect yourself:
- Frequent loss of temper
- Extreme jealousy and controlling behavior
- A belief that destiny led him or her to you, so you belong to the stalker in some way
- Few close friendships and an over-dependence on you as a link to the world
- Failure to accept responsibility for his or her own behavior, feelings and mistakes
- Repeated discussions of death, suicide and weapons
- Refusing to accept "no"
- Vandalizing or destroying your property
(Information in this section taken from West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, www.fris.org)