What Is Stalking?
|Arizona defines stalking as:
Putting the legal jargon aside, to truly understand the crime of stalking as ordinary individuals are likely to experience it, put yourself in the following scenario.
A person you may or may not know watches your home day and night. Whenever you leave home the person follows you wherever you go, sitting for hours on end outside wherever you have gone, including your workplace, friends homes, and shopping malls. This person calls you on the telephone, both at work and at home, dozens of times every day. During the calls the person makes sure you're aware that he or she knows where you've been, whom you've talked to, and what you're wearing. You change your telephone number to an unlisted number, but somehow the person discovers the new number and the calls continue. Letters and messages from this person pour into your home and workplace by the dozens. You find that this person has been asking family members, friends, and business acquaintances about you, apparently compiling reams of information from any source he or she can gain access to, legally or not.
At first, the person claims during the calls and in the letters that his or her actions are out of love for you. But after a while, as you continue to refuse the person's demand for an intimate relationship, things turn dark and sinister. The telephone calls and letters become obscene, threatening, or bizarre, and you hear such things as "Soon we'll be in heaven together or I'll kill you before I'll let anyone else have you." You find your property vandalized, a family pet is killed or suddenly disappears. Other family members are threatened and their property is vandalized. One day you find that the person has been inside your home. Now you feel terrorized. The threats become more than just words. Every time the telephone rings you jump, every time you hear a noise at night your heart stops. You're certain it is the person coming for you. Soon your appetite disappears, as does your ability to sleep. Then you have trouble concentrating, and begin having problems at your job.
You now realize you are a prisoner. You no longer control your own life, the stalker does. You can no longer go wherever you want or do whatever you want. You must now make any plans or life decisions based on the stalker's actions. Your life is no longer yours. The stalking may go on for months, even years. You may eventually be assaulted, or even the victim of a murder or suicide. Psychological terrorism is the weapon stalkers use.
Stalking is not a crime of love or desire, but an attempt at domination. Stalkers keep someone in line by frightening them, similar to the way a jackal tracks and kills its prey, human stalkers wage a campaign of terror against their victims, and often the hunt ends only when the stalker moves on to another victim, or kills them.
Few stalkers can see how their actions are hurting others. They display other sociopathic thinking in that they cannot learn from experience, and they don't believe society's rules apply to them. Most stalkers don't think they're really threatening, intimidating, or even stalking someone else. They think they're simply trying to show the victims that they're the right one for them.
With the publication of the Model Anti-Stalking Code in 1995, law enforcement agencies started to realize that a threat doesn't require words. A hand that's pointed at you in the shape of a gun conveys a message that's loud and clear, especially if it follows ominous correspondence or telephone calls. A bouquet of black roses delivered to your door, a dead animal received in the mail or a photograph with your image crossed out can also communicate the same sentiment.
While many stalkers don't attack, the threat of violence is usually inferred. This means that even those victims who aren't physically harmed suffer tremendously in terms of fear, anxiety and the disruption of their daily lives.
Unfortunately, victims simply don't know what to do when confronted with being stalked. In many cases, stalkers successfully terrorize their victims without ever breaking the law.
Stalking laws can rarely be enforced on the spot, police say. It often is difficult to determine whether a vandalized car is simple destruction of property or a symptom of a deeper problem. A lack of police training doesn't help. Patrol officers get little information on stalking beyond what they are taught in the police academy, and rarely does the same officer help a victim more than once.
"While there are different kinds of stalking, invariably the stalker tries to establish a cult dynamic of one. It's a power and control trip through which the stalker tries to distort the victim's sense of reality." In many ways, stalking is like a rape that goes on and on.
Stalking is a crime of terror with a beginning, but seemingly no end. It's a crime of fear that leaves no physical cuts or bruises - at least not unless the stalker becomes desperate and acts out in violence, which is often the case.
Stalking causes victims to fear for their safety or the safety of those close to them. It includes repeated behavior such as: following a person, unwanted direct or indirect communication with the person, waiting and watching the person's home, workplace or other places they may be, and making threats. Stalking can be against a single person, their family, friends or co-workers. Some stalking cases often include other crimes such as criminal damage, assault, criminal trespass, interfering with judicial proceedings, attempted murder and murder.
It has been estimated that in 1997 through 2008, 1.4 million Americans received some form of unwanted attention.
In January of 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice released the latest statistics indicating that it is now estimated that 3.4 million Americans age 18 or older are victims of stalking. To obtain this report, go to: www.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/svus.htm
Approximately one-fourth of stalking victims will obtain restraining orders; about two-thirds of the stalkers will break them. A chain of infractions is typical in stalking cases.
Being stalked takes over the victim's life. It is a pattern of threats and actions that is intended to frighten and terrorize the victim. It takes away any feelings of self worth and destroys one's sense of safety. Stalking can lead to serious harm or even death. The trauma associated with stalking can have long term and devastating effects on not only the victim but their family, friends and even co-workers.
What is stalking? Just ask any victim.