During January 2010, communities across the country will observe National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects 3.4 million victims a year.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states including Indiana. One in 12 women and one in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime, for an average duration of almost two years, and most victims are ordinary Americans. Victims may experience psychological trauma, financial hardship, and even death. Eighty-one percent of victims stalked by an intimate partner were also physically assaulted by that partner, and 76% of female homicide victims were stalked prior to their death.
Many victims underestimate the seriousness and impact of the crime. At first, they may view stalking as "creepy," but not dangerous. They may think that ignoring or confronting stalkers will stop them. Stalkers almost never stop, and confronting a stalker may escalate the violence.
Even when victims see the danger and report the crime, stalking may be hard for authorities to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is 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 assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse--as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits. Stalkers may use a range of devices--such as computers, Global Position System devices, or hidden cameras--to track their victims' daily activities. Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many have been known to follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making apprehension by the authorities even more difficult. By learning more about stalking, communities can support victims and combat the crime.
If you are a victim of stalking and need help, contact the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-332-7385 for help in creating a safety plan. Resource information can be found on our website at www.violenceresource.org.
Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence