Stalking: KNOW IT, NAME IT, STOP IT

As readers know, I run a rape crisis center and incorporate art therapy in the counseling program in Fredericksburg.   What people often don’t know is that stalking is linked to sexual assault as well as domestic violence.

Statistics put out by the Stalking Resource Center, The National Center for Victims of Crime and the Office on Violence Against Women, The U.S. Department of Justice report that 3.4 million adults in the United States are victims of stalking.

What is stalking?  While every jurisdiction varies some in their legal definition, the working definition used is:  a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

What do you know about stalking?  Take an online quiz:  http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org/quiz

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.

How does stalking relate to sexual violence and assault?  It is a clear link in fact. Rapists 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.

Research indicates that the typical 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 rapists revealed that the rapists picked victims based on observation (voyeurism) and stalked several women at a time waiting for an opportunity to commit a sexual assault.

Some stats:

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 e-mail or instant messaging).

• 29% of stalking victims fear the stalking will never stop. [Baum et al.]

• 1 in 8 employed stalking victims lose time from work as a result of their victimization and more than half lose 5 days of work or more. [Baum et al.]

• 1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of their victimization. [Baum et al.]

• The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al., “The Toll of Stalking,” Journal of InterpersonalViolence, 17, no. 1 (2002):50-63.]

• 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily, using more than one method.

• 78% of stalkers use more than one means of approach.

• Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases.

• Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before.

• Intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets, and their behaviors escalate quickly.

• 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.

• 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers.

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.

Sexual and Domestic Violence centers like the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault can offer education to promote awareness about stalking. For more information, please contact your local center to request an outreach event, a training, or an educational presentation.

For additional resources to help promote National Stalking Awareness Month, please visit http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org and www.ovw.usdoj.gov

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