Since 2004, advocates across the country have observed National Stalking Awareness Month in January, in an effort to educate society about this pervasive crime. According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately 1 in 6 women (16.2% or 19.3 million) and in in 19 men (5.2% or 5.9 million) in the United States has experienced stalking at some point in her lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed as a result (Black et al., 2011). Stalkers may be strangers to their victims but, too often, they are acquaintances, friends, and intimate partners. In fact, the same report indicates that for both female and male victims, stalking was often committed by people they knew or with whom they had a relationship. Two-thirds of female victims of stalking were stalked by intimate partners, and male victims were primarily stalked by intimate partners or acquaintances. More than half of female victims and more than one-third of male victims were stalked before the age of 25 (Black et al., 2011).
(…) intimate partner stalking is a serious criminal justice problem, and States should continue to develop constitutionally sound and effective antistalking statutes and intervention strategies.” (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000)
How has stalking changed with the increased availability of new technologies?
Cell phone ownership has grown tremendously in the last several years. Furthermore, advancements in wireless technology have led to Internet access that is no longer dependent upon the use of home or business computers. For many people, these technologies provide greater convenience and easier accessibility to others; however, this growth in technology may have also increased the ease of engaging in certain stalking behaviors, such as manipulation of public records, tracking of online or computer-based activities, using hidden cameras or GPS technology to find the victim or track where she goes, and harassment through repeated phone calls, text messages, emails, or other forms of electronic communication. Findings from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey revealed higher prevalence estimates of stalking than previous national surveys, which may largely be due to the inclusion of stalking tactics related to newer technologies that did not exist as a stalking modality when some of the previous studies were conducted. Research indicates that approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims report some form of cyber stalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%) (Baum, Catalano, Rand, 2009).
What steps can we take to help prevent and respond to this dangerous crime?
The NRCDV guides callers to a variety of resources and tools available to increase victims’ safety, hold perpetrators accountable, and build awareness about this crime. Individuals who are being stalked by their current or former intimate partners are encouraged to contact a local domestic violence program for emotional support, safety planning, referrals to community services, and information about state statutes and legal remedies available in their area. WomensLaw.org offers information about legal statutes and remedies in addition to safety tips for stalking victims.
The Stalking Resource Center (SRC) provides information about how different technologies can be used to stalk, as well as measures that victims can take to keep safe. Interestingly, technology can also help victims and their children successfully flee and protect themselves from stalkers.
How much do you know about Stalking? Take the SRC’s quiz to learn more.
The Safety Net Project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence addresses how technology impacts the safety, privacy, accessibility, and civil rights of victims by 1) educating victims, their advocates and the general public on ways to use technology strategically to help find safety and escape domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, stalking and abuse; 2) training law enforcement, social services, coordinated community response teams and others how to hold perpetrators accountable for misusing technology to impersonate, harass, stalk, surveil, and threaten; and 3) advocating for strong local, state, national and international policies and practices that ensure the safety, privacy and civil rights of all victims and survivors.
What types of events or activities are you developing in your community to educate the public about stalking and promote National Stalking Awareness Month?