Several murders of stalking victims have highlighted the fact that people who stalk can be very dangerous. Stalkers threaten, attack, sexually assault and even kill their victims. Unfortulately, there is no single behavioral profile that can predict what stalkers will do. Often stalkers’ behaviors will increase from making contact by email or persistent phone calls to more personal ways such as delivering things to the victim or showing up at work.
Stalking is broadly defined as a “course of conduct directed at a specific individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” Naturally victims struggle with how to respond to a stalker. Often they try to reason with the stalker, try to “let them down easy” or “be nice” to try to stop the behavior. Victims sometimes try to “fight back” by confronting or threatening the stalker. Rarely do these methods work because stalkers are encouraged by any contact with the victim- positive or negative.
According to the Stalking Resource Center, 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once a week, but many contact them daily using a variety of methods.(The majority of stalkers (78%) use more than one means of approach). Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in about one in five (20%) cases. Most stalkers have stalked before. Intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets while their behaviors escalate quickly.
Stalking affects about 15% of women and 6 % of men in the United States to the degree that they felt very fearful or believed they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know. Usually stalkiers approach their victims in places where the victim don’t want them to be, make unwanted phone calls and texts, watch or follow from a distance, or spy with a listening device, camera, or GPS.
While victims cannot predict what a stalker will do, victims can decide how they can protect themselves family and loved ones from harm. How?
Create a stalking safety plan. This is a combination of suggestions, plans and responses to help victims reduce their risk. The safety plan assists victims in evaluating what factors are causing the risk of harm and identifies interventions to prevent harm.When safety planning, victims are encouraged to keep a log of all stalking behaviors, including time, location of each event. Any gifts, letters, emails, phone messages should also be collected. The log, if the victim decides to report the stalking to the police or apply for an order of protection, will be used as evidence to prove what has been going on.
Trained advocates can help a victim develop this safety plan. Contact Crisis Services 256.574.5826 to speak with an advocate. This help is free and confidential.
The impact of stalking on victims can be devastating. Many victims lose time from work, suffer fear,anxiety, insomnia and severe depression. Stalking is a serious crime in Alabama and can be a felony. Often stalking behaviors last about two years, so safety planning needs to begin as soon as the victims first identifies the stalking.