For many people “stalking” is a word that is heard on television, movies, in popular song and in casual conversation. Although it may seem like a joke or a harmless show of devotion, it is not. Stalking is a crime in all 50 states. The National Center for Victims of Crime defines stalking as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” and estimates 3.4 million American stalking victims every year!
Here are five things you probably don’t know, but should know about stalking:
1. You don’t have to be famous. Stalking is not primarily about a rabid fan following a celebrity as it is often portrayed in the media. Only 10% of stalkers are strangers to their victims. The other 90% are people the victim knows, with 30% being a former intimate partner.
2. It’s not a “one-time thing”. Many people who use stalking to scare and control someone have done this before. Between 10-15% of victims are stalked for 5 years or more. Most reported stalking occurs several times a day and typical stalker uses a variety of methods to contact their victim.
3. It’s really dangerous! 89% of female murder victims that were physically abused by their killer were also stalked by that killer. 54% of those victims reported the stalking to the police before their death.
4. Being stalked can cause long-term problems. The stress and anxiety of being a victim of this type of crime can affect a person’s lifestyle, self-esteem, ability to be employed. Many victims have to move, quit their jobs and seek counseling on a continuing basis.
5. It’s not your fault. If you or someone you know is being stalked, the person committing the crime is the stalker, not the victim. If you need more information on stalking you can visit www.stalkingawarenssmonth.com and download their stalking fact sheet. If you need help obtaining a domestic abuse protective order or just need someone to talk with you about your options call the S.A.F.E., Inc. 24 Hour Crisis Line 1-800-527-7233.