Stalking: Know it; name it; stop it

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By Carol A. Clark

A crime that disrupts and victimizes people from all walks of life and in every community in America is being highlighted during January’s Stalking Awareness Month.


This year's theme is “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It” and challenges the nation to combat the dangerous crime by learning more about it. More than a million women and nearly 400,000 men in the United States each year are victims of stalking. One in 12 women and one in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime, for an average duration of nearly two years, and most victims are ordinary Americans.


The Office on Violence Against Women, in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center, are encouraging communities to focus attention on the serious and deadly nature of stalking.


“We occasionally see stalking cases in Los Alamos, which are typically domestic related,” Det. Sgt. DeWayne Williams said. “The last reported case we handled was in 2006 and involved a victim receiving a note on her car. It was evident from the contents of the note that the person who placed it there was keeping an eye on her. However, there were no further incidents so we were unable to identify the stalker.”


The U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women works to raise awareness and support training and services in response to incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.


Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and the more a community knows about stalking, the better equipped it is to combat the insidious crime.


Victims may experience psychological trauma, financial hardship and even death.


More than 80 percent of victims stalked by an intimate partner were also physically assaulted by that partner.


While 76 percent of female homicide victims were stalked prior to their death, many victims underestimate the seriousness and impact of the crime. At first, they may view stalking as “creepy” but not dangerous. They may think that ignoring or confronting stalkers will stop them. But stalkers almost never stop, and confronting a stalker may escalate the violence, according to the DOJ stalking website.


Even when victims see the danger and report the crime, stalking may be hard for authorities to recognize, investigate and prosecute.


Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear.


Stalking may take many forms – such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse – as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts or visits.


Stalkers may use a range of devices to commit their crime including computers, Global Position System devices and hidden cameras to track their victims’ daily activities.


Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many have been known to follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making apprehension by the authorities even more difficult.


By learning more about stalking, communities can support victims and combat the crime.


For information, access stalkingawarenessmonth.org and www.ovw.usdoj.gov.




Ten things to know about stalking


•Stalking is a crime. Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that places a reasonable person in fear for her or his safety. It is against the law in every state. Stalking across state lines or in federal territories is illegal under federal law.


•One in 12 twelve women and one in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetimes.


•All stalkers should be considered unpredictable and very dangerous. More than 75 percent of women killed by their intimate partners had been stalked by them.


•Stalking is harmful and intrusive. Stalking victims often lose time from work or never return to work, and some even relocate to regain a sense of safety. Many suffer from anxiety, insomnia, and severe depression as a result of being stalked.


•Anyone can be stalked—not just celebrities. The vast majority of stalking victims are ordinary people. Most stalkers are not strangers, but are known by their victim.


•Stalking often begins during a relationship. Stalkers may keep the victim under surveillance or threaten her or him. Others begin stalking after the victim has ended the relationship, and the stalker feels desperate to maintain or regain control. Still others become fixated on a victim without ever having had any relationship with the person. All forms of stalking are unpredictable, and all should be considered dangerous.


•Technology can be used to stalk. Although newly developed technology enhances modern life, it can also empower criminals. Cell phones, computers, and surveillance equipment are just some of the technologies stalkers now use.


•An effective response to stalking includes the entire community. Police, prosecutors, advocates, educators, reporters and neighbors can play a part in stopping stalking.


•To learn more and to make a difference, access www.ncvc.org/src.


•Help is available. Call 1-800-FYI-CALL for assistance.