Stalking is a significant problem worldwide and especially in the United States. It is an unexpected, terrifying, and potentially deadly pattern of behavior. It is NOT a crime of excessive passion or love. Stalking is a systematic, planned, and deliberate set of actions intended to sustain an unwanted relationship to control, frighten, or ruin the life of the target.
Stalking is one of the most terrifying crimes committed against an individual.
Stalking harms all aspects of a victim's life.
The crime of stalking is grossly underreported, and law enforcement is often ineffective.
Cyberstalking enables the effectiveness of stalkers.
Most stalkers do not believe they are doing any wrongdoing.
The facts about stalking
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 5.857 million US citizens were stalked or intimidated last year. The impact of stalking on victims can be terrifying. Therefore, people who reported being stalked often altered their daily habits moved in with friends, added security to their phones, or fortified home security by installing a security system or new locks.
The victimization rate is high enough that many stalking victims end up arming themselves. Research shows that stalking victims experience significant levels of anxiety (83 percent), difficulty sleeping (74 percent), and appetite disruption (48 percent). In addition, a quarter of the sample said that they had attempted suicide or had suicide ideation.
What are stalking characteristics?
To be characterized as stalking, four factors must be present simultaneously:
- The stalking must be aimed at a single individual.
- The stalking intends to terrorize the person.
- The victim fears for their safety.
- It must be recurring.
What methods do stalkers use?
Stalkers use many different methods to harass and pursue their targets. This may be done by:
- sending them messages or emails.
- spreading rumors or stories.
- tracking and/or following.
- showing up at their house or place of business.
- giving presents.
Cyberstalkers also have more tools at their disposal than ever before because of technology and the proliferation of social media.
The 5 types of stalkers
1. Rejected stalkers
The most common and deadly type of stalker pursues the victim after a relationship has ended. They often confess a complicated and combustible mixture of reconciliation and vengeance desires. In addition, these stalkers typically have a criminal history of violence.
2. Intimacy-seeking stalkers
They desire an intimate connection with a victim they believe to be their "real love" and tend to endow their victims with unique attractiveness, perfection, and other characteristics fitting within their belief in idealized love. The majority suffer erotomanic fantasies, and the remainder has morbid obsessions with the victim.
3. Incompetent stalkers
These stalkers are aware that the target is uninterested. Yet, they persist with the expectation that their conduct will result in a relationship. They're stalking could be interpreted as vulgar or pathetic seduction attempts.
4. Resentful stalkers
Stalkers motivated by resentment attempt to terrify and torment the victim. Many have paranoid characteristics or psychotic conditions. They may have a grudge against a particular victim or feel generally resentful and choose a victim at random.
5. Predatory stalkers
These offenders plan on committing a sexual attack. They stalk to find the victim's weaknesses and seldom issue warnings, so the victim is often oblivious to the danger. Predatory stalkers typically suffer from sexual fetishes and have past sexual criminal convictions.
What makes people stalk?
Research has shown stalkers are often diagnosed with personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder, and delusional disorders, such as erotomania, which is the belief that another person, often a celebrity, is in love with them.
A narcissistic personality disorder is the most frequent form of mental illness among stalkers. This condition causes the person to have an inflated sense of self-importance and an unhealthy preoccupation with receiving praise from others.
Stalkers often also have another disorder called borderline personality disorder. This is when a person's emotions fluctuate dramatically, and they are particularly sensitive to being rejected or left alone.
New technologies have transformed the nature of stalking. In the past, stalkers were limited to making contact by phone, mail, or in person. Today, however, stalkers have several options for connecting, monitoring, and tracking their victims, including social media and by text or email.
Additionally, technologically adept stalkers may use GPS technology on their victims' cell phones or even their vehicles to track their movements.
The consequences of stalking
The effects of stalking can be devastating, ranging from emotional distress to physical danger and even death. Unfortunately, more than a third of stalking victims fear that the harassment will never cease.
Stalked individuals can develop serious mental health issues such as PTSD, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, and suicide ideation. About one-eighth of stalking victims end up missing work, and one-seventh end up moving back home as a consequence of their trauma.
Precautions for staying safe
Dealing with a stalker is frightening, but you can protect yourself.
Some of these may seem like common sense, but when someone is being stalked, they can quickly lose their sense of reason.
Tell the person who is harassing you that you do not want any communication.
If you know that someone is following you, try not to go out alone.
Install a security system for your home.
If you are being followed, find a safe location and call 911.
If you feel threatened when out, go to the closest police or fire station, a friend's home, a shopping mall, or a shelter.
Take note of safe havens in your community so you’ll know where to go in a hurry.
Always keep your phone charged and with you.
Alter your routes and routines.
Do not respond to strange emails or texts.
Remember that you CAN put an end to stalking, no matter how terrible it may seem. It is crucial to maintain vigilance, educate yourself, and seek aid when required. A professional familiar with stalking can help you educate yourself on identifying the characteristics and provide techniques for protecting yourself.