US: research on stalking

US: research on stalking

The US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has released the most comprehensive report on stalking yet undertaken anywhere.

An estimated 3.4 million people identified themselves as victims of stalking during a 12 month period in 2005 and 2006. Stalking was defined for the survey as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Individuals must have feared for their safety or that of a family member as a result of the course of conduct, or have experienced additional threatening behaviors. People were classified as stalking victims if they responded that they experienced at least one of seven types of stalking behaviors on two or more separate occasions.

If the victims did not express fear about the behaviour, then the survey classified the behaviour as harassment.

The most common types of stalking behavior reported by victims were:

  • receiving unwanted phone calls from the offender (66 percent)
  • receiving unsolicited letters or email (31 percent)
  • having rumors spread about them (36 percent).

Nearly a third of victims reported that offenders were equally likely to show up at places with no reason to be there or wait for the victim at a particular location.

During a 12-month period an estimated 14 in every 1,000 people age 18 or older were victims of stalking.

  • About half were stalked for 6 months or less.
  • 11% of victims said that they had been stalked for 5 years or more.
  • About half (46%) of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week.
  • The risk of stalking victimization was highest for people who were divorced or separated—34 per 1,000, about double the rate for those who had never married, and about 4 times the rate of those who were married or were widowed.
  • Women were almost 3 times at greater risk than men for stalking victimisation; however, women and men were equally likely to experience harassment. Men were just as likely to be stalked by another man as by a woman.
  • Male (37%) and female (41%) stalking victims were equally likely to be reported to the police.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).
  • 46% of stalking victims felt fear of not knowing what would happen next.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.

Technology has become a quick and easy way for stalkers to monitor and harass their victims. More than one in four stalking victims reported that some form of cyberstalking was used. The forms of cyberstalking and their rate is extraordinary:

  • email (83% of all cyberstalking victims) – which was consistent for both stalking and harassment
  • instant messaging (35 percent for cyberstalking victims)
  • one in eight cyberstalking victims were subject to stalking or harassment on blogs or bulletin boards.
  • Electronic monitoring of some kind was used to stalk one in 13 victims. 81% of cyberharassment victims were subject to computer spyware
  • Video or digital cameras were equally likely as listening devices or bugs to be used to track victims.

Stalking victims most often identified the stalker as a former intimate (30 percent) or a friend, roommate, or neighbour (16 percent).

Depending upon the severity of the stalking, victims suffered a range of emotions as they experienced stalking. The most common fears cited by victims were not knowing what would happen next (46 percent) and being afraid the behavior would never stop (29 percent). Nine percent of stalking victims reported that their worst fear was death.

About 130,000 victims reported that they had been fired or asked to leave their job because of the stalking. About one in eight of all employed stalking victims lost time from work because of fear for their safety or to pursue activities such as getting a restraining order or testifying in court. More than half of these victims lost five days or more from work.

The most common victim perceptions for why the unwanted contacts stopped were that:

  • the police warned the stalker (15.6%)
  • the victim talked to the stalker (13.3%)
  • a friend or relative intervened(12.2%).
  • victims obtained a restraining, protection, or stay away order (about 10%).

The report is based on the largest data collection of stalking behavior to date. For the report, click here.

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