Have you ever felt someone’s stare burning into the back of your head? Or have you ever been paranoid walking home alone, that you look behind you, over your shoulder, every ten steps you take? Well, we are going to talk about a crime that causes people much more anxiety and paranoia than just making sure you locked your front door.
This crime is stalking.
“Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear” (From the NSAM website)
In January of 2004, the National Center for Victims of Crime created National Stalking Awareness Month to increase the public’s understanding of stalking and how to respond to the crime. NSAM is founded on the work done by the Stalking Resource Center, which is funded by the Office on Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice.
How can you identify a stalker?
Stalkers will typically show up in places when the victim does not want them to be there. They also will typically make unwanted phonically, leave unwanted text messages or voicemails, or they will watch or follow the victim from a distance. Most commonly, stalkers will spy on the victim using a listening device, camera, or GPS. Listed below are some other things stalkers may do.
- Follow you and show up wherever you are.
- Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails.
- Damage your home, car, or other property.
- Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
- Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
- Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
- Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
- Find out about you by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
- Posting information or spreading rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
- Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.
Is stalking punishable?
Stalking is considered a crime in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and the Federal government. For first offences, less than 1/3 of states classify stalking as a felony and on the charge of second or subsequent offences, more than 1/2 of states classify stalking as a felony. Charges can also increase due to aggravating factors such as the stalker is in possession of a deadly weapon, the stalker has violated court orders or a condition of his/her probation or parole, the victim under 16 years, or same victim is pursued as in prior occasions.
How are victims of stalking affected?
Many victims will experience increased anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression during the time they are being stalked and even after their stalker is arrested or ceases to stalk them. These symptoms are especially prevalent in victims who were followed by their stalker or had their property destroyed by their stalker. A victim will have eating problems, such as appetite loss, forgetting to eat, or overeating. They will also have flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, feelings, or memories. Overall, being stalked affects your entire life. A victim will become scared to even walk to the end of their street and back or to go to the grocery store to pick up one item.
A victim of stalking feels…
- Fearful of what the stalker will do.
- Vulnerable, unsafe, and not know who to trust.
- Anxious, irritable, impatient, or on edge.
- Depressed, hopeless, overwhelmed, tearful, or angry.
- Stressed, including having trouble concentrating, sleeping, or remembering things.
- Confused, frustrated, or isolated because other people don’t understand why you are afraid.
To further your understanding, here are some facts on stalking. (All facts are via the NSAM website)
- 7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the United States.
- 15% of women and 6% of men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
- The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know: 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims of stalking are stalked by a current or former intimate partner, 25% of female victims and 32% of male victims are stalked by an acquaintance.
- About half of all victims of stalking indicated that they were stalked before the age of 25. About 14% of female victims and 16% of male victims experienced stalking between the ages of 11 and 17.
- 11% of stalking victims have been stalked for 5 years or more.
- 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily, using more than one method.
- 78% of stalkers use more than one means of approach.
- Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases.
- Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before.
- Intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets, and their behaviors escalate quickly.
- 46% of stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next.
- 29% of stalking victims fear the stalking will never stop.
- 1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of their victimization.
To learn more about stalking, watch this video from the NSAM official page.
In the 21st century, it is so easy to find your favorite celebrity online and learn almost everything about them in one Google search. That’s why so many celebrities have hundreds to thousands of stalkers. Some celebrities have even had runs ins with them.
For example, Rihanna found a man on her roof, Tyra Banks received unwanted phone calls and dozens of roses, Mila Kunis was followed by a man who even tried to break into her home, and even Miley Cyrus faced an armed man who trespassed into her home and claimed to be her husband.
Halle Berry had her home broken into three times, Miranda Kerr was sent death threats by the same man who claimed to be her soul mate, Alec Baldwin was stalked by a woman who sent him frequent emails and broke into his home in New York, and even Usher had a stalker who made random appearances at his home in Georgia and claimed he was sending her money and bought her a brand new home.
No matter how many restraining orders there are, stalkers can be very life threatening and dangerous people. No two stalking situations are the same, but if you can identify any of the signs of stalking relating to yourself or a friend, follow this advice from the Stalking Resource Center’s website.
- If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
- Trust your instincts. Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are.
- Take threats seriously. Danger generally is higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when a victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
- Contact a crisis hotline, victim services agency, or a domestic violence or rape crisis program. They can help you devise a safety plan, give you information about local laws, weigh options such as seeking a protection order, and refer you to other services.
- Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you. Also, decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work, school, or somewhere else. Tell people how they can help you. Click here to learn more about safety plans.
- Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
- Keep evidence of the stalking. When the stalker follows you or contacts you, write down the time, date, and place. Keep emails, text messages, phone messages, letters, or notes. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.
- Contact the police. Every state has stalking laws. The stalker may also have broken other laws by doing things like assaulting you or stealing or destroying your property.
- Consider getting a court order that tells the stalker to stay away from you.
- Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support.
- Tell security staff at your job or school. Ask them to help watch out for your safety.
If someone you know is being stalked…
- Show support.
- Don’t blame the victim for the crime.
- Remember that every situation is different, and allow the person being stalked to make choices about how to handle it.
- Find someone you can talk to about the situation.
- Take steps to ensure your own safety.
We here at CelebMix want all of our readers to stay safe. Have a trusted contact in your phone to call if you need help or need a friend to walk with you somewhere. Also, make sure to know your local emergency number or if you need assistance, the Victim Connect Helpline can be reached at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846).