January is Stalking Awareness Month, this year marks the eighth annual occurrence of the event.
Stalking can be defined as ‘any repeated unwanted contact between two or more people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear.’ This consists of following someone, repeatedly calling, sending obscene/threatening emails, text messages, instant messages, vandalizing property.
A lot of times we tend to not take stalking seriously, we’ll even say to each other that we ‘facebook stalked’ them. Stalking is serious, and its effects are damaging to victims. While everyone is vulnerable to being stalked, more often it is women who are stalked by someone they know (usually a current/former intimate partner) whereas men are often stalked by someone they don’t know (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Studies show that those who stalk their partners are more likely to be physically violent towards and sexually assault their partners than non-stalkers (St. George, 2001).
Here are some stalking facts:
- 3.4 million people over the age of 18 are stalked each year in the United States.
- 3 in 4 stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.
- 30% of stalking victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
- 10% of stalking victims are stalked by a stranger.
- Persons aged 18-24 years experience the highest rate of stalking.
- 11% of stalking victims have been stalked for 5 years or more.
- 46% of stalking victims experience at least one unwanted contact per week.
- 1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology (such as email or instant messaging).
- 10% of victims report being monitored with global positioning systems (GPS), and 8% report being monitored through video or digital cameras, or listening devices.
[Katrina Baum et al., “Stalking Victimization in the United States,” (Washington, DC:BJS, 2009).]
Technology Makes Stalking Easier and More Dangerous
Increasing technological advances have been utilized by stalkers making stalking easier and more discreet. This includes the usage of global positioning systems (GPS) in cars and recently cell phones to track individuals. Tiny cameras have made ‘peeping’ more sophisticated and the stalker can be miles away and still monitor their victims’ movements. The usage of social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace, make monitoring easy and can give victim location and plans available to others. Ironically, these new technologies also make reporting easier as well as there can by records of emails, texts, and phone calls/messages for police and prosecutors to use in court.
What can you do if you’re being stalked?
- Call the police.
- Keep an incident log (a pdf log can be found here).
- Resist going out alone.
- Let trusted others know where you are.
- Resist confronting your stalker (may perceive attention as positive).
- Always carry your phone.
- Trust your instincts, if you’re afraid call the police.
- Resist showing emotion to the stalker.
What are the legal options available to victims?
In Virginia, there are three types of protective order’s; Emergency Protective Order’s [EPO], Preliminary Protective Order’s [PPO], and ‘Permanent’ Protective Order’s [PO].
- EPO’s are issued by a Magistrate or Judge, usually at the request of law enforcement, and is effective for 72 hours until the ‘case’ can be seen by a judge in court.
- Issued by a judge when victim is in danger.
- Lasts usually only 15 days.
- Issued for up to 2 years
Before seeking a protective order there are a few things to be decided first:
- Is a protective order right for you?
- What is the procedure to obtain one?
- Where can you fill out the forms?
- What you might expect in court?
- What is your safety plan?
Remember, if you are able to obtain a protective order to ALWAYS keep a copy with you should you need to call the police.
You can find out more information from the Action Alliances’ 24 hour hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
Stalking prevention begins when we take it seriously and are proactive in seeking help. If someone you know is being stalked, listen to them (it may seem overblown to you, but it’s very real to them and often incidents can escalate very rapidly) and offer support. If they don’t appear to be taking it seriously, let them know that you’re worried about their safety and encourage them to seek assistance and come up with a safety plan with them.
Also, you can help RCASA address stalking among our youth population by voting for our idea for the Pepsi Refresh Project here.