More Than 3 Million Stalked Each Year
Stalking is more prevalent than previous studies have shown and causes victims to make significant life changes, fear for their safety, and seek help from friends and family members, according to a new study from the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. An estimated 3.4 million persons said they were victims of stalking during a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006. About half these victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, 11 percent had been stalked for five or more years, and one in seven moved as a result of the stalking.
Released in January for National Stalking Awareness Month, the study finds that women are nearly three times more likely than men to be stalked, and young people age 18 to 24 experience the highest rates of stalking.
“The Stalking Victimization in the United States Special Report confirms what we in the field have long known – that stalking is pervasive, that women are at higher risk of being stalked, and that there is a dangerous intersection between stalking and more violent crimes,” said Cindy Dyer, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). “As a result of this study, OVW is even more committed to addressing the crime of stalking by providing safety to victims and holding perpetrators accountable.”
Stalker Characteristics and Behaviors
While women are significantly more likely to be stalked by a male (67 percent) than a female (24 percent), men are just as likely to be stalked by another male (41 percent) than a female (43 percent).
Nearly three in four victims say they know their offender. Stalking victims most often identify the stalker as a former intimate partner (22 percent), or a friend, roommate or neighbor (16 percent). Only about one in ten victims is stalked by a stranger.
Stalking victims are most likely to receive unwanted phone calls (66 percent), be the victim of rumors (36 percent), be followed or spied on (34 percent), receive unwanted letters or email (31 percent) and have their stalkers show up at places with no reason to be there (31 percent). Approximately 60 percent of victims do not report the stalking to police.
The study defines stalking as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Individuals are considered to have been stalked if they feared for their safety or that of a family member as a result of the course of conduct, or experienced additional threatening behaviors. Individuals are classified as victims of stalking if they responded that they experienced at least one of seven types of stalking behaviors on two or more separate occasions.
Technology has become a quick and easy way for stalkers to monitor and harass their victims. More than one in four stalking victims reports that some form of cyberstalking was used against them, such as email (83 percent of all cyberstalking victims) or instant messaging (35 percent).
Electronic monitoring of some kind is used to stalk one in 13 victims. Video or digital cameras are as likely as listening devices or bugs to be used to track victims.
About 130,000 victims reported that they were fired or asked to leave their job because of the stalking.
About one in eight employed stalking victims lost time from work because of fear for their safety or because they needed to get a restraining order or testify in court. More than half these victims lost five days or more from work.
Stalking Victimization in the United States is based on the largest data collection of stalking behavior to date. Data was collected by the Supplemental Victimization Survey, a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, and was sponsored by OVW. Data collection was conducted over a six-month period in 2006. The report is available online here.
For more information on National Stalking Awareness Month, click here.