The month of January is nationally recognized as National Stalking Awareness Month.
“Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact of any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel feat”, according to the Department of Justice.
The State of New Mexico defines stalking as: knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated or threatened. A stalker must intend to cause reasonable apprehension. A stalker must follow, surveil or harass. Aggravated stalking is when it violates a restraining order, while possessing a deadly weapon or when the victim is less than 16 years old.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, during a 12-month period approximately 14 out of every 1,000 individuals age 18 and older are victims of stalking. Half of all stalking victims experience one or more unwanted contacts a week and 11% of all stalking victims state that they have been stalked for at least 5 years. Nearly 3 out of 4 victims knew his/her perpetrator in some capacity. Stalking is strongly correlated to sexual assault and domestic violence.
Stalking is a gender neutral crime, with both male and female perpetrators and victims; however, men commit most stalking crimes with 4 out of 5 of the victims being women. Stalkers come from every walk of life and every socio-economic background. Virtually anyone can be a stalker, just as anyone can be a stalking survivor.
Examples of Stalking Behavior
Common behaviors and tactics used by stalkers include, but are not limited to:
- Following, spying or appearing within one’s sight
- Approaching or confronting someone in a public place or on private property
- Appearing at one’s workplace, home or school
- Entering onto property someone else owns, leases or occupies
- Contacting someone by phone, postal mail, email, text, social network sites, etc.
- Leaving unwanted items, presents or flowers at a property that someone own, leases, occupies or works
- Verbal threats
One of the ways perpetrators stalk victims is through the use of technology, known as cyberstalking. 1 out of every 4 stalking victims report cyberstalking.
Some uses of technology to stalk include:
- Persistently sending unwanted communication thorough the internet, such as spamming someone’s email inbox or social media platform
- Video-voyeurism, or installing video cameras that give the stalker access to someone’s personal life
- Using GPS or other software tracking systems to monitor someone without their knowledge or consent
- Using someone’s computer and/or spyware to track their computer activity
Technology and digital platforms are a growing medium, which means that the likelihood that someone could interact with you in an uninvited, cyberstalking manner is greater as well.
What should you do if you suspect you are being stalked?
If you think you are being stalked, you are right to be concerned. Stalking may escalate in behavior. Below are some tips to increase your safety and effectively report the crime:
- Try to avoid the person staling you
- If you are being cyberstalked via email or text messaging, make it clear that you wish to stop contact. One you’ve made it clear, do not respond to further communication
- Keep any evidence received from the stalker such as text messages, voicemails, letters, packages, emails, etc., but do not respond. You can do this by taking screenshots of conversations or printing out email exchanges
- Inform family, friends, supervisors and co-workers of the situation
- Consider reporting the stalking to local law enforcements
- Keep an accurate journal or log of all incidents connected to the stalking