While you're probably familiar with the term, there's a lot more you might want to know about stalking. The Stalking Resource Center describes it as "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear." In honor of National Stalking Awareness Month, here are some facts about this crime.
What constitutes stalking?
Stalking includes following or spying on the victim, making unwanted calls and sending unwanted letters or emails. Leaving unwanted items or gifts, waiting for the victim to show up places, and posting information or spreading rumors about the victim can also be considered forms of stalking.
Roughly 1 in 4 victims of stalking reported some form of cyberstalking such as email or instant messaging. Constantly monitoring someone's social media accounts and trying to engage with them or their friends and family without consent can be considered cyberstalking.
What are the statistics?
Every year, 7.5 million people are stalked in the United States. Most victims are stalked by someone they know: 44 percent of male victims and 61 percent of female victims are stalked by a former or current intimate partner. An acquaintance is the offender for 32 percent of male victims and 25 percent of female victims.
What does the law say?
Although the laws surrounding stalking vary depending on the jurisdiction, it is a crime in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. In more than half of the states, stalking becomes a felony when it's a second or subsequent offense; there's a deadly weapon involved; it violates a court order, probation or parole; the victim is under 16; or it's the same victim as in previous occasions.