January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). Like sexual violence, stalking is an under-reported crime that affects every community. It is estimated that 7.5 million people are stalked in 1 year in the United States, and about half of all victims of stalking victims indicate that were stalked before the age of 25.
What is stalking?
According to the Department of Justice, “Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear”.
Lifetime movies and weekly crime dramas have given our society the impression that stalking is a crime committed by shadowy figures whose victims are unaware of their behavior. In reality, stalking is usually committed by someone the victim knows and they are very aware of their behavior.
However, it is important to understand even though a survivor might be aware of their perpetrator’s harassing behavior, they might not know that it is considered stalking and that they have legal options to prevent it. Furthermore, stalking can be difficult to recognize because many of the actions and/or behaviors that perpetrators do are not illegal – such as leaving unwanted messages, sending gifts, etc. But it is important to recognize that stalking is a pattern of unwanted behavior, and that pattern makes stalking illegal.
What to do if you’re being stalked
- Consider contacting your local sexual assault center for emotional and crisis support, assistance with filing reports and other interactions with law enforcement, and help finding other resources
- Inform your family, friends, supervisors, and co-workers for their safety and yours.
- Keep a log detailing all incidents, behaviors, and interactions with your perpetrator.
- Keep any evidence received from the stalker such as text messages, voicemails, letters, packages, emails, etc.
Key Facts About Stalking
- Similar to crimes of sexual violence, stalking is about power and control.
- Perpetrators of sexual violence often “groom” victims through voyeurism, surveillance, and information gathering.
- Females are nearly 3 times more likely to experience stalking than males.
- 76% of femicide cases involved at least one episode of stalking within 12 months prior to the murder
- 31% of women stalked by their intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by that partner.
The best way to help survivors and preventing sexual violence is to be informed! We encourage you to see our recorded webinar: Stalking and Sexual Assault. This webinar was presented by Elaina Roberts and Sue Ryan from the Stalking Resource Center. The viewer will gain more understanding about the links between stalking and sexual assault, as well as how understanding the intersection can help validate victim experiences, enhance opportunities for interventions and increase offender accountability.