National Stalking Awareness Month
Section: Making a Difference
Stalking is defined as 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. It’s estimated to effect 6.6 million adults in the United States per year. In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships. Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and 1 in 8 lose time from work and 1 in 7 have to move as a result of their victimization.
One in 6 women and one in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. Using a less conservative definition of stalking, which considers any amount of fear (i.e., a little fearful, somewhat fearful, or very fearful), one in four women and one in 13 men reported being a victim of stalking in their lifetime. The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know. 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims of stalking are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. More than half of female victims and more than 1/3 of male victims of stalking indicated that they were stalked before the age of 25. About one in five female victims and one in fourteen male victims experienced stalking between the ages of 11 and 17.
According to 1999 statistics (the last available), 76% of intimate partner femicide victims have been stalked by their intimate partner. 67% had been physically abused by their intimate partner. 89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder. 79% of abused femicide victims reported being stalked during the same period that they were abused. 11% of stalking victims have been stalked for 5 years or more. 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers.
Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before. Intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets, and their behaviors escalate quickly. Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases.
Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits. One in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, such as computers, global positioning system devices, or hidden cameras, to track the victim’s daily activities. Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes.
Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime. If more people learn to recognize stalking, we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies.
According to the stalking awareness center
Stalking can include:
Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or email.
Repeatedly leaving or sending victim unwanted items, presents, or flowers.
Following or laying in wait for the victim at places such as home, school, work, or recreation place.
Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim’s children, relatives, friends, or pets.
Damaging or threatening to damage the victim’s property.
Harassing victim through the internet.
Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
Obtaining personal information about the victim by accessing public records, using internet search services, hiring private investigators, going through the victim’s garbage, following the victim, contacting victim’s friends, family work, or neighbors, etc.
Less than 1/3 of states classify stalking as a felony upon first offense. Although stalking is not a joke it’s often treated as a joke, “not that big of a deal.” or even more disturbingly it’s treated as being romantic. Since the reality of this crime is often denied, President Obama proclaimed January as stalking awareness month. The theme was “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” He proclaimed
Each year, millions of Americans face the fear, isolation, and danger of being victims of stalking. At some point in their lives, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked, and many of these crimes will go unreported and unprosecuted. During National Stalking Awareness Month, we rededicate ourselves to supporting victims of stalking and sharpen our resolve to bring perpetrators to justice.
Stalking is a pattern of unwanted contact that causes victims to fear for their safety or the safety of family members. It can include implied or explicit threats; harassment; or nonconsensual communication through phone calls, text messages, or emails. The perpetrator is usually someone the victim knows. Stalking behaviors may appear innocuous to outside observers, but victims often endure intense physical and emotional distress that affects every aspect of their lives. Many feel forced to move, or change jobs. Tragically, stalking tends to escalate over time, and it is sometimes followed by sexual assault or homicide.
My Administration remains committed to building a robust criminal justice response to stalking — one that holds offenders accountable, offers protection and support to all victims of violence, and empowers them to break the cycle of abuse. In January 2012, we held the first-ever White House stalking roundtable with survivors, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, and researchers. We have built partnerships with communities across the Nation to implement anti-stalking efforts. And we continue to support nonprofit organizations and local, State, and tribal governments as they develop more effective responses to violence against women — including direct services, crisis intervention, transitional housing, legal assistance to victims, court improvement, and training for law enforcement and courts.
We are also working to address the threat of cyberstalking. While advances in technology are making this crime more prevalent, they can also pose unique opportunities to address it. Communities are developing new tools that help connect victims to local services, and State governments are updating statutes to further protect people from cyberstalking. Through our Apps Against Abuse challenge, my Administration recognized mobile applications that are empowering people to defend themselves against dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Thanks to the dedicated work of law enforcement officials, community leaders, advocates, organizations, and survivors, our country has made great strides in combating stalking. During National Stalking Awareness Month, we resolve to keep building on this momentum until no American lives in fear of this crime.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 2013 as National Stalking Awareness Month. I call upon all Americans to recognize the signs of stalking, acknowledge stalking as a serious crime, and urge those impacted not to be afraid to speak out or ask for help. Let us also resolve to support victims and survivors, and to create communities that are secure and supportive for all Americans.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
Office on Violence Against Women Acting Director Bea Hanson Speaks at the D.C. Office of Victim Services’ National Stalking Awareness Month Event
“I try to start each day by combing the news for articles relevant to the work of my office. I thought I’d begin my comments by sharing a few of the stories I came across recently:
In Park Ridge, IL, a 31-year-old man was arrested and charged with cyber stalking. According to police, he sent more than 1,000 social media or text messages to the victim, some of which were inappropriate. He would also call the woman from her backyard and ask her to look outside while partially clothed, police said. Officers made an arrest the same day as the complaint.
In Cleveland, OH after ignoring several warnings from police, an 18-year-old man was charged with both felony and misdemeanor crimes for stalking his ex-girlfriend. The man repeatedly called and sent text messages to the 17-year-old girl. He also went to a home where she was babysitting and tried to force his way into the home. Both attend the same high school.
Athens-Clarke, GA police arrested a man for aggravated stalking after he tried to kick in the door of his victim’s residence in a housing project where he had been banned for two years, according to a police report. A police officer handling the case noted in the report that he will ask a judge to keep the suspect in jail until his court date because of his unwillingness to stay away from the victim.
Stalking is a complex crime that is often missed, misunderstood, and underestimated. Results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), found that, conservatively, 6.6 million U.S. citizens were stalked in a year and that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men were stalked at some point in their lives. For those of you unfamiliar with this study or the alarming rates of stalking perpetration, I’ll review a few more facts. Although anyone can be a victim of stalking, females are nearly three times more likely to be stalked than males, and young adults have the highest rates of stalking victimization. For the overwhelming majority of victims, the stalker is someone known to them — an acquaintance, a family member, or, most often, a current or former intimate partner. The NISVS report also confirmed what law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers, and other professionals have been hearing from victims for years — that most stalking cases involve some form of technology.
These realities indicate that stalking is a serious issue for every community across the United States that requires a multidisciplinary approach – Fortunately, many of the agencies that are needed to appropriately address and respond to the crime of stalking are represented on this panel today.
We all know that stalking victims often require a broad range of services. A multidisciplinary approach encourages faster customized responses from the most appropriate providers. This, in turn, helps to improve the investigation and prosecution of cases, as well as victim safety. Community resources that may be necessary to address stalking include:
• law enforcement and the courts,
• victim advocacy organizations,
• mental health treatment providers,
• housing associations,
• local businesses and employers,
• telephone and internet service providers,
• schools and colleges,
• faith-based organizations, and
• domestic violence shelters.
The Department of Justice has focused on strengthening the criminal justice response to stalking through its implementation of the Violence Against Women Act. Since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, we have made significant strides in enhancing the criminal justice system’s response to stalking. Today, stalking is a crime under Federal law and under the laws of all 50 states, the U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
At the Office on Violence Against Women or OVW, we know that stalking is often a precursor to other forms of violence, including rape, sexual assault, and homicide. We have made stalking one of our four priority areas (the others being domestic violence, sexual assault, and dating violence). Because stalking can be challenging to recognize, OVW saw a pressing need to do more to train law enforcement, prosecutors, parole/probation officers, and victim service providers to recognize stalking, to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases, and to work to ensure victim safety and support.
To meet this need, in 2000 we launched a partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center (SRC) – and that partnership is ongoing. Their work has been phenomenal and critical for the field. Their training and technical assistance has aided many thousands and the “STALKING: KNOW IT. NAME IT. STOP IT.” awareness campaign has helped to maintain an ongoing dialogue, increase recognition of stalking as an important issue, and provide resources to those in need.
OVW and the Stalking Resource Center felt this forum would be an appropriate place to introduce a series of tip sheets we’ve developed for specific audiences including law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services. We have copies of these one-pagers at this event, and we will post them on the SRC and OVW web sites. We will also work with OVW’s stakeholders and national partners to distribute these to our constituents nationally. I want to thank the SRC publicly for this latest example of our very productive and proactive partnership.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to recognize DC’s Office of Victim Services for their pioneering work in this area. I look to DC as an example of coordination and collaboration and hope that communities across the country that have not deliberately tackled this issue will follow DC’s lead. I’m going to let the panel tell the story of how they got to where they are today and their charge in addressing, deterring, and one day we hope PREVENTING the crime of stalking.
We know the serious toll that stalking can take on the victims — emotionally, psychologically, physically, financially — every aspect of their lives can be impacted and jeopardized. But stalking does not impact the victims alone. Their families, neighbors, friends, and indeed their entire communities can feel the negative impacts of their experience. That is why we all must come together and be resolute in our commitment to ending this crime. If we are going to prevent stalking, we first have to put it on the nation’s radar. The stakeholders that I mentioned earlier need to be better educated about how to appropriately deter or respond to this crime and help protect potential victims.
I stand proudly with the SRC, DC’s Office of Victim Services, the esteemed panel members, every person in the room who took time out of your busy schedules to attend this important event, and the President himself in recognizing January as National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). As the first President to proclaim January as NSAM, I’ll close with a quote from President Obama: “Though stalking can occur in any community, shame, fear of retribution, or concerns that they will not be supported lead many victims to forego reporting the crime to the police. As we strive to reverse this trend, we must do more to promote public awareness and support for survivors of stalking.”
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