Imagine that someone is following you, texting and e-mailing you, and you are afraid – you don’t feel safe. More than 3.4 million Americans a year are victims of stalking, a dangerous crime that can happen to anyone.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to mobilize against this dangerous crime. This year’s theme, “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.,” calls our nation to stop this crime by learning more about it. Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, yet many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact.
In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for homicide of women in abusive relationships. Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.
Stalking is difficult 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. Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime.