Stalking

Let’s discuss stalking. When you learn about stalking behaviors, you’re more likely to notice them before they escalate, and you can take steps to protect yourself. If you discover that you are being stalked-either in-person, online, or via technology-it can be unsettling and even dangerous. Consider taking steps to protect yourself or involve an authority figure who can help you. It a felony or misdemeanor in various legal systems with high prison sentences as punishments.

what is stalking?

Stalking means to follow or watch a person with no legitimate purpose and in such a way that it alarms the person being followed to feel fear of harm, according to the Department of Justice. Similar to crimes of sexual violence, stalking is about power and control.

It can take many forms including”

  1. Making threats against someone, or that person’s family or friends
  2. Non-consensual communication, such as repeated phone calls, emails, text messages, and unwanted gifts
  3. Repeated physical or visual closeness, like waiting for someone to arrive at certain locations, following someone, or watching someone from a distance.
  4. Any other behavior used to contract, harass, track, or threaten someone.

According to a 2002 report by the U.S. National Center for Victims of Crime, “Virtually any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking”, although in practice the legal standard is usually somewhat stricter.

Effects of stalking on victims

Disruptions in daily life necessary to escape the stalker, including changes in employment, residence and phone numbers, take a toll on the victim’s well-being and may lead to a sense of isolation.

According to Lamber Royakkers:

Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom they have no relationship (or no longer have). Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect).

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of computers or other electronic technology to facilitate stalking. In Davis (2001), Lucks identified a separate category of stalkers who instead of a terrestrial means, prefer to perpetrate crimes against their targeted victims through electronic and online means. Amongst college students, Menard and Pincus found that men who had a high score of sexual abuse as children and narcissistic vulnerability were more likely to become stalkers. Out of the women who participated in their study, 9% were cyberstalks meanwhile only 4% were overt stalkers.

More so, the male participants revealed the opposite, 16% were overt stalkers while 11% were cyberstalks. Alcohol and physical abuse both played a role in predicting women’s cyberstalking and in men, “preoccupied attachment significantly predicted cyber stalking”.

Spread and prevalence

Austria

Stieger, Burger and Schild conducted a survey in Austria, revealing a lifetime prevalence of 11% (women: 17%, men: 3%). Further results include: 86% of stalking victims were female, 81% of the stalkers were male. Women were mainly stalked by men (88%) while men were almost equally stalked by men and women (60% male stalkers). 19% of the stalking victims reported that they were still being stalked at the time of study participation (point prevalence rate: 2%). To 7% of the victims, the stalker was known, being a prior intimate partner in 40%,a friend or acquaintance in 23% and a colleague at work in 13% of cases. As a consequence, 72% of the victims reported having changed their lifestyle. 52% of former and ongoing stalking victims reported having a currently impaired (pathological) psychological well-being. There was no significant difference between the incidence of stalking in rural and urban areas.

Australia

23% of the Australian population reported having been stalked by a study conducted by Purcell, Pathe and Mullen (2002).

England and Wales

In 1998, Budd and Mattinson found a lifetime prevalence of 12% in England and Wales (16% female, 7% males). In 2010/11, 57% of stalking victims were found to be female, and 43% were male.

According to a paper by staff from the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre, a unit established to deal with people with fixations on public figures, 86% of a sample group of 100 people assessed by them appeared to them to have a psychotic illness; 57% of the sample group were subsequently admitted to hospital, and 26% treated in the community.

A similar retrospective study published in 2009 in Psychological Medicine, based on a sample of threats to the Royal Family kept by the Metropolitan Police service over a period of 15 years, suggested that 83.6% of these letter-writers had a serious mental illness.

Germany

Dressing, Kuehner and Gass conducted a representative survey in Mannheim, a middle-sized German city, and reported a lifetime prevalence of having been stalked of almost 12%.

United States

Tjaden and Thoennes reported lifetime prevalence (being stalked) of 8% in females and 2% in males (depending on how strict the definition) in the National Violence Against Women Survey.

Legislations on stalking in various legal systems

United Kingdom

Before the enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Telecommunications Act 1984 criminalized indecent, offensive or threatening phone calls, and the Malicious Communications Act 1988 criminalized the sending of an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication, or other article to another person.

Before 1997, no specific offence of stalking existed in England and Wales. However, in Scotland, incidents could be dealt with under pre-existing law, with life imprisonment available for the worst offences.

England and Wales

In England and Wales, “harassment” was criminalized by the enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which came into force on 16 June 1997. It makes it a criminal offence, punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment, to make a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another on two or more occasions. The court can also issue a restraining order, which carries a maximum punishment of five years’ imprisonment if breached.

In England and Wales, liability may arise if the victim suffers either mental or physical harm as a result of being harassed (or slang term stalked) (see R v Constanza).

In 2012, then-Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the governemnt intended to make another attempt to create a law aimed specifically at stalking behavior.

In May 2012, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 created the offence of stalking for the first time in England and wales, by inserting these offences into the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The act of stalking under this section is exemplified by contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means, publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person, monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication, loitering in any place (whether public or private), interfering with any property in the possession of a person, or watching or spying on a person.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 also added Section 4(a) into the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which covered ‘Stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress’. This created the offence of where a person’s conduct amounts to stalking and either causes another to fear (on at least two occasions) that violence will be used against them, or conduct that causes another person serious alarm or distress which has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.

Scotland

In Scotland, nehavior commonly described as stalking was already prosecuted as the common law offence of breach of the peace (not to be confused with the minor English offence of thesame description) before the introduction of the sttautory offence against S.39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010; either course can still be taken depending on the circumstances of each case. The statutory offence incurs a penalty of twelve months imprisonment or a fine upon summary convictiion, or maximum of five years’ imprisonment or a fine upon conviction on indictment; penalties for conviction for breach of the peace are limited only by the sentencing powers of the court, thus a case remitted to the High Court can carry a sentence of imprisonment for life.

Provision is made under the Protection from Harassment Act against stalking to deal with the civil offence (i.e. the interference with the victim’s personal rights), failing under the law of deceit. Victims of stalking may sue for interdict against an alleged stalker, or a non-harassment order, breach of which is an offence.

United States

California was the first state to criminalize stalking in United States in 1990 as a result of numerous high-profile stalking cases in California, including the 1982 attempted murder of actress Theresa Saldana, the 1988 massacre by Richard Fareley, the 1989 murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer, and five Orange County stalking murders, also in 1989.

The first anti-stalking law in United States, California Penal Code Section 646.9, was developed and proposed by Municipal Court Judge John Watson of Orange County. Watson with U.S. Congressman Ed Royce introduced the law in 1990. Also in 1990, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) founded the United States’ first Threat Management Unit, founded by LAPD Captain Robert Martin.

Within three years thereafter, every state in the United States followed suit to create the crime of stalking, under different names such as criminal harassment or criminal menace. The Driver’s Privacy Protection act (DPPA) was enacted in 1994 in response to numerous cases of a driver’s information being abused for criminal activity, with prominent examples including the Saldana and Schaeffer stalking cases. The DPPA prohibits states from disclosing a driver’s personal information without permission by States department of Motor vehicles (DMV).

The Violence Against Women Act of 2005, amending a United States statute, 108 stat. 1902 et seq, defined stalking as:

“engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to-

(a) fear for his or her safety or the safety of other;
(b) suffer substantial emotional distress.”

As at 2011, stalking is an offense under Section 120a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The law took effect on 1 October 2007.

In 2004, new amendments were made to the Clery Act to require reporting on stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence.

In 2018, the PAWS Act became law in the United states, and it expanded the definition of stalking to include “conduct that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to his or her pet”.

Stalking is a controversial crime because a conviction does not require any physical harm. The anti-stalking statute of Illinois is particularly controversial. It is particularly restrictive, by the standards of this type of legislation.

Australia

Every Australian state enacted laws prohibiting stalking during the 1990s, with Queensland being the first state to do so in 1994. The laws vary slightly from state to state, with Queensland’s laws having the broadest scope, and South Australian laws the most restrictive. Punishments vary from a maximum of 10 years imprisonment in some states, to a fine for the lowest severity of stalking in others. Australian anti-stalking laws have some notable features.

Unlike many US jurisdictions they do not require the victim to have felt fear or distress as a result of the behavior, only that areasonable person would have felt this way. In some states, the anti-stalking laws operate extra-territorially, meaning that an individual can be charged with stalking if either they or the victim are in the relevant state.

Most Australian states provide the option of a restraining order in cases of stalking, breach of which is punishable as a criminal offence. There has been relatively little research into Australian court outcomes in stalking cases, although Freckelton (2001) found that in the state of Victoria, most stalkers received fines or community based dispositions.

Canada

Section 264 of the Criminal Code, titled “criminal harassment”, addresses acts when are termed “stalking” in many other jurisdictions/ The provisions of the section came into force in August 1993 with the intent of further strengthening laws protecting women. It is a hybrid offence, which may be punishable upon summary conviction or as an indictable offence, the latter of which may carry a prison term of up to ten years. Section 246 has withstood Charter challenges.

The Chief, Policing Services Program, for Statistics Canada has stated.

France

Article 222-33-2 of the French Penal Code (added in 2002) penalizes “Moral harassment”, which is another person by repeated conduct which is designed to or leads to a deterioration of his conditions of work liable to harm his rights and his dignity, to damage his physical or mental health or compromise his career prospects”, with a year’s imprisonment and a fine of EUR15,000.

Germany

The German Criminal Code (S 238 StGB) penalizes Naschstellung, defined as threatening or seeking proximity or remote contact with another person and thus heavily influencing their lives, with up to three years of imprisonment. The definition is not strict and allows “similar behavior” to also be classified as stalking.

India

In 2013, Indian Parliament made amendments to the Indian Penal Code, introducing stalking as a criminal offence. Stalking has been defined as a man following or contacting a woman, despite clear indication of disinterested by the woman, or monitoring her use of the Internet or electronic communication. A man committing the offence of stalking would be liable for imprisonment up to three years for the first offence, and shall also be liable to fine and for any subsequent conviction would be liable for imprisonment up to five years and with fine.

Japan

In 200, Japan enacted a national law to combat this behavior, after the murder of Shiori Ino. Acts of stalking can be viewd as “interferring with the tranquility of others’ lives’ and are prohibited under petty offence laws.

Netherlands

In the Wetboek van Strafrecht, Article 285b defines the crime of belaging (harassment), which is a term used for stalking

Article 285b:

  1. One who unlawfully, systematically, and deliberately intrudes into someone’s personal environment with the intention to force the other to act in a way, or to prevent one to act in a certain way or to induce fear, will be prosecuted for harassment, for which the maximal punishment is three years and a fine of the fourth monetary category.
  2. The prosecution will only take place after a complaint of the person is the victim of the crime.

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