Did You Know?
Stalking is a dangerous crime that affects an estimated 6.6 million women and men each year here in the US.
As many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 13 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime. Most of the time, the stalker is someone the victim knows; an acquaintance, a relative, a current or former intimate partner. Stalking is unpredictable and dangerous. No two stalking situations are alike. There are no guarantees that what works for one person, will work for another.
Stalkers will approach their victim or just show up at places, where and when the victim didn’t want them to be there. They will make unwanted telephone calls; leave unwanted text and/or voice messages. Both female and male victims have reported that their stalker used listening devices and cameras to spy on them, as well as, would watch or followed from a far.
Almost half of stalking victims feared not knowing what would happen next and a quarter of them were fearful that the stalking would not ever end. Stalking is different from other crimes in the since, that its purpose is to create fear in another person and does not require the victim come into direct contact with the stalker. An example, a victim may receive repeated threatening correspondence without knowing the source.
Studies show that 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, to many times a day and will use more than one method to stalk their victims. Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases. Almost a 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before. Intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets, and their behaviors escalate quickly.
Now that we have seen what stalking is and how victims are stalked, let’s look at Federal and State Laws.
According to the US Department of Justice: Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
Stalking can include:
- Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or email.
- Repeatedly leaving or sending victim unwanted items, presents, or flowers.
- Following or lying in wait for the victim at places such as home, school, work, or recreation place.
- Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim’s children, relatives, friends, or pets.
- Damaging or threatening to damage the victim’s property.
- Harassing victims through the internet.
- Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
- Obtaining personal information about the victim by accessing public records, using internet search services, hiring private investigators, going through the victim’s garbage, following the victim, contacting victim’s friends, family work, or neighbors, etc.
Stalking is defined in the State of Florida as: “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing or cyberstalking” another.
Stalking behaviors can consist of many things-actual physical following of a person, continuously calling or texting, e-mailing, leaving notes or sending letters, leaving or sending objects or “gifts”…essentially, a pattern of unwanted behavior with malicious intent. Stalking involves a pattern of behavior that causes substantial emotional distress to a specific person with no legitimate purpose.
Under Florida law, stalking is a first degree misdemeanor charge. However, a person may be charged with Aggravated Stalking, which is a third degree felony charge, under any of the following circumstances:
- If the offender stalks a minor who is under the age of sixteen (16).
- If the offender makes a “credible threat” of bodily injury or death against the victim as part of the behaviors exhibited, with the intent to cause the victim to reasonably fear for his or her safety.
- If the victim has an injunction for protection or other court-ordered prohibition of conduct by the offender toward the intended person or that person’s property, and the offender persists with the pattern of behaviors.
According to the Stalking Resource Center; while legal definitions of stalking vary, a good working definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
What should you do if you believe you are being stalked?
The State of Florida recommends: These incidents should be reported to law enforcement whenever possible.
In order to preserve evidence for potential prosecution for stalking, victims are urged to keep a log of the behaviors of the suspect, to include dates, times, witnesses, location, and a description of the behaviors. It is important to save any e-mails received, letters, photographs, text messages (or at least photos of the text messages), phone call logs, recordings of messages. To establish a pattern of stalking behavior, it is essential that the behaviors/incidents be documented and any potential evidence preserved for use as evidence in the potential prosecution of the offender.
If a pattern of stalking behavior can be established, regardless of whether or not the incident has been reported to law enforcement, the victim may file for an injunction for protection, even if there has been no actual violence or threat of violence per se.
Additional Safety Tips from the Stalking Resource Center:
- Trust your instincts. Victims of stalking often feel pressured by friends or family to downplay the stalker’s behavior, but stalking poses a real threat of harm. Your safety is paramount.
- Call the police if you feel you are in any immediate danger. Explain why even some actions that seem harmless—like leaving you a gift—are causing you fear.
- Keep a record or log of each contact with the stalker. Be sure to also document any police reports.
- Stalkers often use technology to contact their victims. Save all e-mails, text messages, photos, and postings on social networking sites as evidence of the stalking behavior.
- Get connected with a local victim advocate to talk through your options and discuss safety planning. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–799–SAFE.
Additional information and resources on stalking:
- National Center for Victims of Crime – www.ncvc.org
- U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women – ovw.usdoj.gov
- Stalking Resource Center: www.victimsofcrime.org
Stalking is real. It can happen to anyone. It’s dangerous. And it’s a crime.
Join us in sharing awareness with our family and friends.