The legal definition of “stalking” may vary from one jurisdiction to another. According to the conservative definition, it is a repetitive act of following or harassing, or any malicious behavior directed at a specific person. If you are being followed, getting unwanted calls and texts, and being tormented by any other kind of intrusive behavior that causes you to feel fear, annoyance, or harassment, that qualifies as stalking.
Stalking is a frequently occurring case these days, since it can be done without leaving the comfort of home using today’s readily available electronic communication media. Stalking is not often pondered upon unless it is experienced firsthand, but it has been the root of many violent crimes that eat away at our society. It is the duty of any responsible citizen to educate themselves and others about it.
Here, we’ve listed a few things everyone needs to know about stalking to understand and be able to help themselves and others.
1. Stalking is a crime.
Stalking violates many rights and threatens the safety of the person who is the focus of the behavior. It involves actions that are deemed wrong by the law. Stalking not only causes the victim to feel fear, but it can turn into violence and lead to more vicious crimes. Thus, under many legislations, stalking is defined as a crime.
The gravity of stalking might not feel strong to the perpetrator or the person being stalked in the beginning, but over time it tends to escalate.
2. Stalking can be dangerous.
Stalking is harmful and intrusive. It harms every part of a victim’s life. Reports have shown that victims of stalking often suffer from anxiety and other stress problems. Victims have to live in the constant fear of being stalked, and at times, it can become hard to determine if the stalker is real or imaginary.
The constant fear of the threat turning into a violent reality leads to conditions such as depression, insomnia, and social dysfunction that affects the victim’s social, personal, and professional life.
Victims of stalking are found to miss work, drop out of school, and move constantly in attempts to get rid of the stalker when confronting them is no option. Stalkers can be dangerous — in more than 40% of cases, the victims are reported to be physically violated. Police reports reveal 3 out of 4 women who were murdered by intimate partners had previously been stalked by the killer.
3. There are five types of stalkers.
Experts say there are five types of stalkers fueled by different motives and with different behaviors.
The first kind are the rejected stalkers who engage in stalking after the unsatisfactory end of a romantic relationship, seeking to have influence over their victim. The second kind of stalkers are the intimacy seekers who take to stalking with hopes of intimacy with the victim.
The third type of stalker is the socially awkward stalker who prefers stalking to actually trying to have a normal relationship. The fourth type is the resentful stalker who feels that he or she has been wronged by the victim and seeks revenge on them.
The fifth type of stalker is the predatory stalker, who wants power and control over the victim and is more likely to use fear and violence to achieve it. The fourth and the fifth kind of stalkers tend to be more dangerous than the rest.
4. Technology can be used to stalk.
Several different kinds of surveillance hardware and software are used by stalkers. These days, stalkers make use of technology like GPS and hidden cameras to track the activities of their victim.
With much of our activities now publically available on the internet and social media, stalkers can monitor the victim’s social media use on a computer. A new term has been coined for that: cyberstalking.
Cyberstalkers gather information about their victims using electronic communication and harass, bully, threaten, pursue, and even blackmail their victims.
5. Stalkers are more prone to committing violence than most other individuals.
In many situations, stalkers tend to commit acts of violence against their victims. Studies on violence have shown that over 50% stalkers commit violent acts, while the figure is about 30% for other criminals.
6. Most stalking is committed by somebody known to the victim in some way.
Statistics show that in more than 80% of stalking cases, the perpetrators are in some way known to the victim. Most of the time, the stalker is someone who the victim is or was in an intimate relationship with.
The other times, the perpetrator is either an acquaintance or a family member. In less than 25% of the cases, the perpetrators of stalking are strangers, according to CDC. Based on the findings, stalking is divided into three broad categories: intimate or former intimate partner stalking, acquaintance stalking, and stranger stalking.
7. Many people are stalked.
Although the only stalking cases that garner the attention of media are about celebrities, stalking is not confined to the world of famous people. Anyone can be stalked. In the US, almost 6 million people are stalked in one year.
Both males and females are stalked, but 4 out of every 5 stalking victims are women and most stalking is committed by men. The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAW) reported that in the US, 8% of women (i.e. 1 out of every 12 women) and 2% of men (i.e. 1 out of every 45 men) have become the victim of stalking at some point during their lifetime.
8. Most cases of stalking go unreported.
Despite the horrors of stalking the victims have to endure, it is largely underreported to law enforcement. Less than 40% of stalking cases actually reach law enforcement officials because many believe that law enforcement is ineffective in matters of stalking.
Some victims feel that it is a personal matter and should be taken care of personally, which is why it goes unreported to law enforcement. Sometimes the victims are threatened with their lives or the lives of their loved ones, which leaves them in a helpless situation where neither reporting nor confronting is the option.
9. Stalkers can be treated.
Most stalkers feel that stalking is not wrong. Studies have shown that many stalkers suffer from mental problems like depression, personality disorder, and substance abuse, although most of them are not psychotic. While predatory stalkers deliberately commit acts of violence, many other stalkers are unhealthily obsessed with their victims.
The latter type of stalkers can be rehabilitated. They can be treated to see the error of their ways and horrible consequences of their destructive behavior.
10. Individuals and communities both have roles to play in stopping such acts.
Victims of stalking experience psychological trauma. Providing support and validation alone helps a lot to minimize the effect. As individuals, the least we can do to prevent the crime is to inform law enforcement about stalking and help them with evidence to support the case. Educating how to help a victim or yourself if you are a victim pays off.
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