Stalking Is A Crime

 WARNING: Anyone can track your computer activity. If you are in danger,
please call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE). 
Consider using a safer computer such as one from the library or a friend's house.

 Taking Stalking Seriously

For most people, stalking evokes images of a stranger with evil intentions lurking around corners or behind bushes. Others think of lions or tigers stalking their prey. We know that stalking can cause intense fear. So why don’t people take stalking seriously? We’ve all heard people joke that friends who they keep running into have been “stalking” them. We joke about “stalking” potential love interests until they reciprocate our feelings. And some popular films romanticize or find humor in stalking. Consider Ben Stiller in the highly successful “There’s Something about Mary,” who stalks Cameron Diaz in a way that makes us all laugh.  We also laughed at Ellen DeGeneres being pestered by Bill Pullman in “Mr. Wrong” and Jim Carrey as a stalker in “Cable Guy.” But we forget that such humor trivializes victims’ experience.  If we stop to think how stalking victims really feel, the picture changes dramatically.

Stalking victims live in prisons built by their stalkers. No place—not even home—is safe if a stalker knows where a victim lives.  Victims may spend their whole lives looking over their shoulder—moving, changing jobs, or altering their appearance to escape the stalker. The terrifying plight of Julia Roberts in “Sleeping with the Enemy” and Jennifer Lopez in “Enough” more realistically reveals the nightmares that many stalking victims face as they struggle to escape determined, dangerous stalkers.  Experts on crime take stalking seriously. Domestic violence fatality review teams know that killers often stalk their victims before they murder them. One highly respected study, “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,” found that more than 3 of 4 women murdered by an intimate partner had been stalked by that partner before the homicide.1 And a study published recently in the Journal of Forensic Sciences found that intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets (most using more than one means of approach) and that their behaviors escalate quickly. Twenty percent of the time, weapons are used to harm or threaten victims.2  Such statistics remind us that stalking is more sobering than humorous. 

If your office distributes information about domestic violence, sexual assault, or other crimes, you can also offer free, downloadable information on stalking from the Stalking Resource Center site. You might also assess your local services for stalking victims. If there are none, find out if domestic violence programs or other services can help stalking victims. You might partner with such programs to make sure stalking victims are served.  You can also inquire about common sentences and conditions of probation imposed on convicted stalkers and work to make safety for stalking victims a priority throughout the criminal justice system. Educating as many people as possible about stalking is the best way to dispel ignorance about the crime.  No one wants to spoil a good joke, and we at the Stalking Resource Center have never been accused of being humorless. But as we are learning every day, stalking is no laughing matter. We need to respect that.  For more information, visit the Stalking Resource Center Web Site: www.ncvc.org/src.

1 McFarlane et al., “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,” Homicide Studies, (1991).
2 Mohandie et al., “The RECON Typology of Stalking: Reliability and Validity Based upon a Large Sample of North American Stalkers,” In Press, Journal of Forensic Sciences (2006).