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Stalking 101

Stalking is a very real problem for at least 3.4 million Americans every year. Until recently, the news spotlighted celebrity cases. But the majority of stalking victims are not public figures. They’re ordinary people like you and me.

Legal Definition of Stalking

Most statutes define stalking as the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person. In addition to a pattern of conduct, many state laws mandate that an imminent, credible threat of violence be made against the victim for the activity to be considered stalking.

Threat of Violence

While many stalkers don’t attack, the threat of violence is usually inferred. 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.

Stalking’s Emotional Toll

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. Neither does law enforcement nor the judicial system. Why? Because in many cases, stalkers successfully terrorize their victims without ever breaking the law.

Power and Control

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.