January 2010 marks the 7th annual National Stalking Awareness Month.
This month offers the opportunity to highlight the services that are available and to draw awareness to the issue and the impact it has on our society.
Stalking is a crime of great magnitude. More that 3 million people older than 18 are stalked annually in the United States. It is a criminal offense under the laws of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories and the federal government.
1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetimes, and the majority of victims are stalked by someone they know.
What is Stalking?
Stalking is defined by Missouri law as purposely, repeatedly and intentionally harassing or following someone. How does this translate to behaviors? Victims are followed in their daily activities - to work, to the grocery store, to their friend’s house. They receive repeated phone calls and hang ups - some threatening, others where nothing is said. They can receive calls at work disrupting their work day and threatening their jobs.
Victims can also be confronted with their car tires being slashed, windows and doors broken in their cars and homes. What may not seem so threatening - but to a stalking victim it can be terrifying - is to have flowers or gifts delivered to their work or their home.
With the advancement of technology we are seeing stalking taking on different forms - GPS devices attached to cars, computer technology allowing the stalker to see activity and emails, tracking information from cell phones. Every aspect of life is invaded and threatened.
The Effects of Stalking
Being a victim of stalking is extremely frightening. Victims can experience, anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, lost work hours and productivity, and severe depression at a much higher rate than the general population. Stalking victims are forced to take drastic measures to protect themselves, such as relocating, changing their phone numbers, changing their identities, changing jobs and obtaining protection orders.
76% of women who were murdered by their intimate partner had been previously stalked by their killer, and more than half of these victims reported the stalking to the police before being murdered. 81% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner.
Help is Available
If you are a victim of stalking or you know someone who is, there are resources available. Hope House has a 24 hour crisis hotline 816-461- HOPE (4673). Another resource is the Stalking Resource Center at www.ncvc.org that has a wealth of information for victims and those who want to get involved to help. Awareness is the first step in our efforts to stop this horrible crime.
Source: 1The Stalking Resource Center. (June 2009) Stalking Fact Sheet 2Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1998). Stalking in America: Findings from the National Violence Against Women survey. National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Research in Brief. Washington, DC: U.S. Department