January is National Stalking Awareness Month
Do you know what constitutes stalking? Stalking is a behavior in which an individual willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly engages in a knowing course of conduct directed at a specific person which reasonably and seriously alarms, torments, or terrorizes the person. Stalking creates fear.
Many people do not realize the clear link between sexual assault and stalking. The Stalking Resource Center has done research that clearly and methodically developed the link between the two crimes. They have found in their research and victim testimony the stalking behaviors utilized by offenders. What has been found is that offenders routinely engage in following, surveillance, information gathering and voyeurism prior to a sexual assault. After an assault, the rapist frequently threatens the victim, attempts to frame the incident (e.g. thinks and talks about the incident as if it were consensual), and maintains social contact.
Thirty-one percent of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also sexually assaulted by that partner. The Stalking Resource Center has found that the typical offender/rapist, (stranger and non-stranger), premeditates and plans his attack and uses multiple strategies to make the victim vulnerable such as alcohol or increasing levels of violence. FBI research with incarcerated offenders revealed that the offenders picked victims based on observation (voyeurism) and stalked several women at a time waiting for an opportunity to commit a sexual assault.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics completed the Largest Study of Stalking Conducted to Date. They recently released a supplemental report to the National Crime Victimization Survey focused on Stalking Victimization in the United States. This study confirms that stalking is pervasive, that women are at higher risk of being stalked, and there is a dangerous intersection between stalking and more violent crimes.
What to Do if You are Stalked
Get Help. Report to law enforcement and file criminal charges and/or obtain a protective order. Request that law enforcement agencies log your complaint each time you call and Request a copy of your report.
Tell your stalker to stop. Have a registered letter to the stalker stating that he/she must stop the behavior immediately.
Tell someone. Do not attempt to deal with the situation alone. Tell a friend or family member about the stalking and document the stalker’s behavior. List date, time, place, what happened, any witnesses, and give a copy of the information to a friend or relative for safekeeping.
Develop a support system. Keep in touch with friends who are supportive and understanding. Give friends, co-workers, relatives, and neighbors a description of the stalker. Ask them to watch for the stalker, document everything they see, and give a written account to you.
Never underestimate the stalker’s potential for violence. Take all threats seriously. Not all threats are verbal; some nonverbal threats may be the sending of unwanted notes, cards, or gifts.
Do not attempt to communicate with the stalker at all. The stalker may misinterpret this communication as a form of encouragement.
Screen your calls: Have emergency numbers readily available. Remember to keep your cell phone charged and to have it with you at all times.
If you are being followed, go to a safe area, DO NOT DRIVE HOME. Drive to the nearest police station or a busy place. Use your horn to attract attention.