It is estimated that over 85% of victims of abuse experience some form of stalking. The issue of stalking varies from state to state based on definition, but the most accepted definition (from the U.S. Department of Justice) defines stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for [their] safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.” Unfortunately, if a victim’s abuse does not match the legally accepted definition of stalking, it is not considered stalking – even if the victim is in fear.
Consider these statistics:
- The Centers for Disease Control (2014) indicate that 16% of women and 6% of men are victims of stalking.
- 66% of women were stalked by a current or former partner.
- Stalking is a crime in all 50 states.
- Women between 16 and 24 are at a higher risk of being stalked.
- 52% of stalkers are current or former intimate partners. (1)
- 43% of victims are stalked after the relationship ends; 21% during the relationship and 36% both during and after the relationship. (2)
- 76% of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first, while 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked. Additionally, 89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted before their murder were stalked in the last year prior to their murder. (3)
Even considering these facts, there is a misperception that once a victim leaves, the abuse stops. However, it is estimated that over 85% of all domestic violence cases also involve stalking. Once a victim is able to escape the relationship, the abuse doesn’t necessarily stop, the tactics of the abuser simply shift to stalking. In a report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that law enforcement does not arrest under stalking laws but uses the issue of harassment instead. (4)
An underutilized resource for victims is the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is a Federal program that allows victims to take up 12 weeks/year of unpaid leave. Resources include counseling, shelter services, assistance with court appearances, and more to assure victims’ safety and/or recovery. Since stalking is a serious crime, it is important that victims/survivors seek safety, and FMLA offers many helpful resources.
Victims also need to be aware of technology issues that abusers in stalking. For example, stalkers often install programs on a victim’s computer in order to obtain passwords. Other useful knowledge includes deleting browser history or turning off GPS location services on cell phones. Abusers also track social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram to know what a victim is doing and where they are going (so disabling location services for these specific apps is important). The National Network to End Domestic Violence has helpful information regarding technology use and stalking on their website.
Safety planning is always a priority in keeping victims safe. A few sites providing safety information are:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Futures Without Violence
If you believe you are being stalked, make a plan for your safety and document anything you can – this will assist in prosecuting your case or at the very least help you obtain a restraining order.
1. Stalkingawareness.org. (n.d.). Stalking and domestic violence: Understanding the connections. Stalking__DV_Infographic.pdf (stalkingawareness.org)
3. National Domestic Violence Hotline. (n.d.). Stalking safety planning. http://www.thehotline.org/resources/stalking-safety-planning
4. U.S. Department of Justice. (1998). Stalking and domestic violence: The third annual report to Congress under the Violence Against Women Act. www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ovw/172204.pdf