The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

November 28, 2012

Stalking is common, dangerous, often lethal

By Jeannie Langston for the SNAP

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 — Stalking is common, dangerous and far too often lethal. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report showed that stalkers victimize 3.4 million people each year in the United States. Both males and females can be victims of stalking, but females are nearly three times as likely to be stalking victims.

Domestic violence-related stalking is the most common type of stalking and the most dangerous. Nearly 75 percent of stalking victims know their stalker in some way and in about 30 percent of cases the stalker is a current or former intimate partner. More than three-fourths of the female victims of intimate partner stalking reported physical assaults by that partner and one-third reported sexual assaults.

Stalkers who are former intimate partners have considerable leverage over their victims because they know a great deal about them. They are more insulting, interfering and threatening than non-intimate stalkers. Such stalkers are likely to know the victims’ friends or family members as well as where the victims work, shop and go for entertainment. This knowledge provides potentially endless opportunities for stalkers to terrorize victims.

Most alarmingly, stalking can be lethal. According to one study, 76 percent of women who were murdered by their current or former intimate partners were stalked by their killers within 12 months of the murder and 85 percent of women who were victims of attempted homicide by their current or former intimate partners were stalked within 12 months before the attempted murder. Despite what research shows and headlines tragically report, stalking is frequently undetected and misunderstood and its seriousness is often minimized.

Stalking may not be viewed as serious as other crimes because offender behaviors such as making repeated phone calls, continually driving by a victim’s house, leaving unwanted gifts or letters and showing up unexpectedly are frequently not identified as stalking by either criminal justice responders or victims. Only about half of victims who experience unwanted or harassing contacts identify their experience as stalking. Yet, under the laws of all 50 states, when these independent and seemingly benign behaviors become a pattern, the result is the crime of stalking. This seeming lack of recognition may be in part because stalking is still a new crime. Only within the past two decades has the criminal justice system held stalkers accountable and become aware that stalking victims are in great danger.  

If you are a victim of stalking and need more information call the Esther House hotline at (704) 961-7500.  

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