If you’re like most people, you have probably used the word “stalking” in casual conversation — such as joking about stalking someone’s social media to learn more about them. While using the term in this way is common, it tends to obscure the very real harm that comes from stalking.
What Is Stalking?
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), stalking is a type of harassment that often occurs alongside other types of abuse, including sexual and/or domestic violence. Each year, approximately 7.5 million Americans are affected by stalking. An estimated 15% of women and 6% of men have been stalked in their lifetimes. Most people who stalk are men.
It involves a pattern of behaviors directed at a person that causes them to feel unsafe. These behaviors may include:
Repeatedly calling, texting, emailing, or engaging in other unwanted contact;
Physically following someone;
Sending unwanted letters or gifts;
Looking up personal information about someone online;
Tracking someone via GPS or another form of technology;
Communicating through other people after being blocked;
Damaging or stealing property;
Threatening to post intimate details about someone online;
Making threats to harm the victim or their loved ones; and/or
Waiting for someone outside of their school, work, or home.
Stalking is often committed by someone known to the victim. According to data from the National Center for Victims of Crime, 61% of women and 44% of men reported that the person who stalked them was a current or former intimate partner. In some cases, however, a person who stalks is a stranger to the victim.
While stalking often accompanies other forms of abuse, it can also be committed on its own. Like domestic and sexual violence, stalking is motivated by a desire to exert power and control over the victim. Someone who stalks may feel possessive of the person that they are stalking. They may also want to make their victim feel vulnerable, or to get back at someone who they believe has rejected them. Whatever the motivation may be, stalking is a crime in most states — including Pennsylvania.
How Stalking Hurts Victims
Stalking can have a major impact on victims and survivors. The effects of stalking often include fear, trauma, and a poorer quality of life. Because stalking is a form of abuse, victims and survivors may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, insomnia, and other conditions.
Many people change one or more elements of their lives as a result of being stalked. This may include changing their phone number or email address, moving to a new home, altering their daily routine, or even quitting their job. Victims often experience an overwhelming sense of fear and being unsafe while being stalked and even after the stalking behaviors have stopped.
Fortunately, there is help for victims and survivors of stalking. If you are in immediate danger from stalking, call 911. Otherwise, reach out to Blackburn Center 24 hours a day at 1-888-832-2272 (TDD available) to talk to a trained crisis counselor. We can work with you to put together a safety plan. We also offer a range of services for victims and survivors of stalking and other forms of abuse, including counseling and therapy, support groups, and legal system support.
If you need us, call anytime at 1-888-832-2272. Calls to our hotline are always free of charge and can be anonymous.