January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects 6.6 victims each year. The theme this year–“Stalking: Know it. Name it. Stop it.”–challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning more about it.
- Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, yet many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact.
- In 1 of 5 cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships.
- Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to relocate as a result of their victimization.
Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, it’s 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 assault, threats, vandalism, burglary or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, gifts, calls or visits. One in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, such as computers, global positioning system devices or hidden cameras, to track the victim’s daily activities.
Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigateand prosecute their crimes. Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime.
For more information about National Stalking Awareness month, please visit www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org.