Stalking is a pattern of harassing and controlling behavior that is devastating to the victim’s sense of self, safety, and peace. Although it’s often depicted as normal or innocuous in popular culture, stalking is very dangerous.
Constantly calling or checking in on a victim’s location and activities
Refusing to leave when asked
Leaving notes, “gifts,” or threats at a victim’s home, place of work, car, etc.
Numerous and unwanted calls, text messages, or emails
Making unwanted visits
Controlling with whom a victim talks, hangs out, or interacts
Stalking is common within a violent relationship or after a violent relationship has ended and can also occur outside of violent relationships.
Stalking Behaviors & Context
Some stalking behaviors are obviously scary and threatening, but others don’t always appear that way on the surface. For instance, many times a victim is receiving gifts or messages from their current or former partner that may seem romantic to someone on the outside. However, the victim in that relationship has access to context that those on the outside don’t.
Endless “I love you” messages might be sending the victim a message that their abuser owns them, and they will never have a moment of peace from this person. Gifts or notes left on their car might send the message that their abuser knows where they are and can reach them whenever they want to, making them feel unsafe no matter where they are or who they are with.
Many people ask why a victim stays in a violent relationship. When we place blame with the victim, we overlook the fundamental harm being done. A victim of violence is being terrorized and controlled by their partner. Barriers to separation are endless and could include things such as child custody, finances, housing, other economic resources, family or societal pressure, shame, legal barriers, and—most importantly—safety.
Stalking & Lethality
There is a significant connection between stalking and intimate partner homicide. Research has found that 85% of attempted and 76% of completed intimate partner femicides included stalking in the year prior. The most dangerous time in a violent relationship—the time when a homicide is most likely to occur—is when a person leaves a violent relationship.
A person still in a violent relationship may not be staying, but instead is planning how to leave that relationship safely. This is especially true when stalking is present. Learn more facts about stalking and intimate partner violence.
Stalking Is a Crime
Stalking is a crime at the federal level, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, in all U.S. territories, on all tribal lands, and in the military justice system. It also violates campus codes under the Clery Act and Title IX. It might be defined as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on your jurisdiction and situation, but stalking is a crime across the board.
Resources for Victims & Advocates
U.S. Stalking Laws & Statutes, an interactive map with the statutory definition of stalking in every jurisdiction
Stalking and Harassment Assessment and Risk Profile, a tool advocates and victims can use to generate a succinct narrative profile of a stalking case and safety planning suggestions
We Are Here to Help
If you need assistance with safety planning, getting an Order of Protection, accessing legal services, or would just like emotional support, The Friendship Center can help. If you or a loved one is struggling and want to request services or simply talk about the situation, reach out to our office. All our services are free and confidential.