What is Stalking?
Characteristics of a Stalker
  • Waiting at the victim’s workplace, home or neighbourhood
  • Persistent phone calls, text messages, emails, letters or notes
  • The sending of gifts – from the seemingly “romantic” (i.e. flowers and/or chocolates) to the bizarre
  • Breaking into the victim’s home or car
  • Gathering information on the victim: contacting people who know the victim; searching public or personal records, even the dustbin, for information.
  • Surveillance: persistently watching the individual, using cameras, audio equipment, phone tapping, or bugging the victim’s home or workplace
  • Manipulative behaviour : threatening to commit suicide in order to coerce the victim to intervene– forcing contact with the stalker)
  • Defamation of character: the stalker will lie to others about the victim, trying to limit their options and weaken their support network. In an attempt to isolate the victim, making them appear more vulnerable, and giving the stalker a sense of power and control.
  • “Objectification”: the stalker derogates the victim, thus reducing them to an object which allows the stalker to feel angry with them without experiencing empathy. It helps the stalker feel they are entitled to behave as they please toward the victim. Viewing her/him as “lesser,” “weak” or
    otherwise seriously flawed can support delusions that the victim needs to be rescued, or punished, by the stalker.
  • Threats and violence: the stalker uses threats to frighten the victim; vandalism and property damage (usually to the victim’s car); physical attacks that leave abrasions and bruises (mostly meant to frighten); less common–physical attacks that leave serious physical injuries, or sexual assaults.
  • Cyberstalking: using the internet to pursue, harass or contact another in an unsolicited fashion.
  • During a 12-month period, an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking.
  • About half (46%) of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11% of victims said they had been stalked for 5 years or more.
  • The risk of stalking victimization was highest for individuals who were divorced or separated—34 per 1,000 individuals.
  • Women were at greater risk than men for stalking.
  • About 43% of victims stated that police were contacted at least once regarding the stalking.
  • Male (37%) and female (41%) stalking victimizations were equally likely to be reported to the police.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%)or instant messaging (35%). Electronic monitoring was used to stalk 1 in 13 victims (i.e. GPS monitoring, bugs, phone tapping, video).
  • 46% of stalking victims felt a fear of not knowing what would happen next.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.
  • Often Stalking isn’t taken seriously
Profile of a stalker
Stalking is a crime of power and control. Stalkers tend to obsess about their victim. They may make many plans for the future that involve their victim.
  • Stalkers tend to have very weak social skills, and see nothing wrong with their behaviour.
  • Few stalkers see how their actions are hurting others, and they do not believe society’s rules apply to them.
  • They don’t believe they are threatening, intimidating, or even stalking someone.
  • Most stalkers see their actions simply as attempts to get closer to their target, help them, or to gain their love
  • Stalkers often ‘research’ their victims via public records for information or manipulating the victims’ family and friends.
  • Stalkers often obtain information from the victim’s friends, their workplace and from the victim’s family.
  • Romantically obsessed stalkers refuse to believe the victim does not want a relationship with them.
  • Stalking can be a form of retaliation because of some perceived slight. Indeed, many sexual harassment victims report being stalked in retaliation for reporting their harassers.
  • A stalker may be so subtle that the victim may not even aware that it is happening.
  • It is not always just the initial victim who is stalked. A stalker may also harass family, friends and fellow workers.
Am I at Risk?
If you think you have become a victim of stalking we urge you to tell your family and friends and contact your local police.
Q1. Are you very frightened?
The victim is the best assessor of risk posed to them. Stalking often consists of behaviours that, when taken at face value, may appear to be quite ordinary (e.g. walking past the victim’s house, asking the victim to go out on dates). With repetition, however, these behaviours can become menacing, and the victim can feel unsafe and threatened. In all cases (even those where no direct threat has been made or where the victim does not yet have a great deal of evidence) it is important that the extent of the victim’s fear is recorded.
Q2. Has the suspect(s) engaged in harassment on previous occasions(s)? (You and/or anyone else)
One of the best predictors of future behaviour is past behaviour, and stalkers are no exception to this general rule. Those who stalk strangers and public figures are particularly prone to serial stalking. Even though the victim may not know the stalker very well, she/he may be aware of a local reputation the stalker has for this type of behaviour. Stalkers may also seem to stop stalking their victim (usually for reasons unclear to anyone but the stalker), only to suddenly resume the harassment at a later date.
Q3. Has the suspect(s) ever destroyed or vandalised your property?
Various studies have identified that a sizeable proportion of stalkers (up to two-thirds) will damage their victim’s property and this includes stalking engaged in by adolescents. Property damage may be associated with rage or frustration, revenge, a desire to harm something the victim cares about (i.e. destroying wedding photographs), a wish to undermine their belief in a safe environment (i.e. by cutting brake cables), as a form of threat, or it may be connected with breaking and entering the victim’s property or spying on the victim. Property damage has been known to be a pre cursor to physical attacks on the victim.
Q4. Does the suspect(s) visit you at work, home, etc., more than three times per week?
Stalking rarely takes place entirely at a distance. Nearly all stalking cases will ultimately involve face-to-face contact between victim and stalker. Some stalkers may approach their victims regularly (i.e. on the victim’s daily route to work). Others, particularly stalkers with an obvious mental illness, will appear in diverse places at unpredictable times. Research has shown that those stalkers who visit the victim’s home, workplace, or other places frequented by the victim more than three times in a week are those who are most likely to attack. It should be borne in mind, however, that some stalkers will have no regular pattern of harassment and in such cases, an average of stalker visits could be estimated.
Q5. Has the suspect(s) loitered around your home, workplace etc.?
Most stalkers will be seen by their victims. The positive aspect of this is that evidence can be collected, particularly if the victim keeps a log of stalker sightings and behaviour. Stalkers who loiter around places frequented by the victim tend to be those who are most likely to attack their victim. Such stalkers may be compiling victim-related information or tracking the victim’s habits. Whether secretive or overt, whether mentally disordered or not, most stalkers will share a belief that their behaviour is an appropriate response to circumstances.
Q6. Has the suspect(s) made any threats of physical or sexual violence in the current harassment incidents?
Stalkers frequently threaten their victims, either directly or indirectly. Examples of indirect threats include sending wreaths or violent images to the victim (often anonymously). Stalkers will often make specific written or verbal threats, which should be taken particularly seriously. Stalkers have been known to threaten violence months or even years into the future and have indeed followed through on their threats.
Q7. Has the suspect(s) harassed any third party since the harassment began? (I.e. friends, family, children, colleagues, partners or neighbours of the victim)
In the majority of stalking cases, secondary victims will be identified. Although stalkers may stalk more than one person at a time, this question relates to associates of a primary victim. Stalkers will involve third parties for several reasons, principally to upset the victim (i.e. by harassing the victim’s children), to obtain information on the victim (i.e. by hounding the victim’s friends), to remove perceived obstacles between the stalker and victim (i.e. by harassing the victim’s partner), and to punish those perceived as helping or shielding the victim (i.e. work colleagues who state that the victim is not available).
Q8. Has the suspect(s) acted out violently towards other people within the current stalking incidents?
As noted immediately above, secondary victims will be identified in a majority of stalking cases, and these can be a valuable source of evidential information. Research suggests that third parties will be physically attacked by the stalker in between 6% and 17% of cases. Stalkers who attack those associated with the victim are more likely to also attack the primary victim. Persons perceived as preventing access to the victim or protecting the victim are at particular risk.
Q9. Has the suspect(s) persuaded other people to help him/her? (Wittingly or unwittingly)
The abilities of a stalker to pose as other persons and/or to draw information out of third parties should never be under-estimated. Many stalkers will devote hours each day to their stalking campaign, and are capable of stalking their victims for many years. New technologies can facilitate harassment, enabling stalkers to impersonate another on-line; to send or post hostile material, misinformation and to trick other internet users into harassing or threatening a victim (i.e. by posting the victim’s personal details on a bulletin board along with a controversial invitation or message)
Q10. Is the suspect(s) known to be abusing drugs and/or alcohol?
Substance abuse by the stalker has been found to be associated with the physical assault on the victim in a significant number of cases. The abuse of various substances by stalkers can contribute both to the basis from which the stalking occurs and to individual violent episodes. Binge drinking or drug taking may directly precede an attack, fuelling obsessive, yearning or angry thought patterns, or by lending the stalker the confidence to approach or attack the victim. It is well known that substance abuse compounds the violence risk among those who are already mentally ill, although non-mentally ill stalkers may also abuse alcohol and drugs.
Q11. Is the suspect(s) known to have been violent in the past? (Physical or psychological)
One of the best predictors of future behaviour is past behaviour. It may not always be physical violence but could include the psychological impact as well. This might be in terms of coercive control and/or jealous surveillance of the victim if the suspect(s) feels a real sense of entitlement or ownership of the victim. Generally speaking, stalkers who have been violent before – whether as part of a stalking campaign or in relation to separate offences – are more likely to be violent again. It should be noted, however, that some of the most seriously violent stalkers identified in the past had no recorded criminal history.
There is still limited knowledge, awareness and education about stalking, even though the problem is getting bigger. Many people and agencies, including law enforcement, still do not fully understand stalking and harassment behaviours and the risks.
They may not understand how frightening it is when it is happening to you. Many will expect to see physical violence and think it is not so serious until this happens. However, a lot of the stalking behaviour is about coercive control and jealous surveillance i.e. psychological abuse/violence. This does not make it any less dangerous.
  • Keep a record of what happened, where, when every time you were followed, phoned, received post or e-mail.
  • The more details you have the better, how the offender looked or sounded, what they were wearing, the make, and number plate or colour of their car.
  • Keep letters, and parcels as evidence: even if they contain frightening or upsetting messages, do not throw them away and handle them as little as possible.
  • Keep copies of e-mails on disk and print out hard copies, do not delete the original.
  • Making notes in a diary is a good idea. Write the information down as soon as possible, when events are still fresh in your mind.
  • Tape record telephone conversations if you can and keep the tape.
  • If you recognise the handwriting, you can keep letters or parcels as evidence without having to open them.
  • Make sure you keep any stored messages (including text messages) or telephone numbers that you have received on your mobile phone and caller ID units.
  • Use 1471 on the phone and write down details of calls received, including the time received, and the telephone numbers (even unanswered calls).
  • Tell your friends, neighbours and work colleagues about what is happening.
  • Do not speak or engage with them in any way if they’re seen taking photos as this may lead to a confrontation.
  • Contact your telephone company to see what action they can take against malicious callers Print pages of evidence from social networking sites and times messages were posted.
  • Avoiding unwanted calls:
  • Answer the phone by saying ‘hello’, not your name or number.
  • Try to keep calm and not show emotion, many callers will give up if they don’t think they’re making an impression on you or your feelings.
  • Use an answer machine to screen out calls and only talk to people you want to.
  • If the caller rings again, put the handset down on a table for a few minutes – the caller will think you’re listening. After a few minutes replace the handset, you do not have to listen to what the caller has to say.
  • Use 1471 on the phone and write down details of calls received, including the time received, and the telephone numbers (even unanswered calls).
  • If you know or find out who is stalking you:
  • Do not confront your stalker or even engage them in conversation.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, agree to a meeting to talk about how you feel about them constantly bothering you.
  • Do not respond in any way to calls, letters, or conversations. If you ignore the phone nine times and pick it up on the tenth, you will send the message that persistence pays. Once they have your attention, they will be encouraged to carry on.
  • Seek advice from the police, a solicitor or the National Stalking Helpline about what you should do.

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