Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Stalking

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Be on lookout for certain signs

For some, the terror and fear of having a stalker is reserved for scary movies and campfire stories, but for others, it’s a nightmare that is all too real.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 6.6 million people are victims of stalking every year. Of that number, the majority of victims are women – one in six women will experience stalking victimization in their lifetime. This includes feeling fearful or believing they or someone they know will be harmed or killed. A common definition of stalking, while it varies in jurisdictions, is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

According to the NCVC, the majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know – 66 percent of female victims and 41 percent of males are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. More alarmingly, 76 percent of femicide victims have been staked by their intimate partner.

The World Health Organization describes femicide as a spectrum of violence against women – from harassment and abuse to murder. The impact stalking can have on victims can be debilitating and consuming. Depression, anxiety, insomnia and social dysfunction are all commonly associated with experiencing fear from a stalker and can significantly affect the quality of one’s life.

With the staggering numbers, which represent stalking, and the effects that the crime has on its victims, it leaves an urgent call to action for identifying stalking characteristics. To begin, it’s important to know there is no typical identity a stalker takes – they don’t always look or act the same. According to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University of Michigan, stalkers can come from a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. They list a number of stalking types that can be common with victims.

The “rejected stalker” tends to victimize an ex-partner who has ended or made intentions to end the relationship. The SAPAC states violence in the relationship is not uncommon and that the abuser may have noticeable traits of narcissism and jealousy with poor social skills. Their behaviors may be intrusive and persistent, and their tactics are intimidation and assault.

The “resentful stalker” may be irrationally paranoid – obsessive and persistent, they may associate their victim with a group who has humiliated or oppressed them in the past. Characteristics include more verbal stalking and threats and less likely to physically assault.

The “predatory stalker” has more of a sinister motive. They have desires to attack and achieve sexual gratification and power over their victims. They often have poor social skills and low self-esteem, and typically engage in behaviors like surveillance, obscene phone calls and voyeurism.

While there are many other characteristics of stalkers, the National Center for Victims of Crime lists many behaviors that escalate in which to be aware of. The onset of behaviors may include information gathering from a victim’s friends, family, Internet or coworkers and non-threatening but repeated phone calls, emails and messages. They might continually ask for dates or meetings, show up at a job or outside of a victim’s home or even spread misinformation about the victim to friends or employers. As the behavior escalates, the stalker may begin destroying the victim’s property, begin sending threatening messages or breaking into their home. Some stalkers may even leave dead animals and eventually attack their victim. At the end of the escalating behavior is a physical attack, attempted or actual rape and attempted murder or murder.

The NCVC lists stalking characteristics as those who may be jealous, narcissistic, manipulative, obsessive or possessive, needing to have control over others, deceptive, unable to take “no” for an answer, mood swings from being loving to rageful, difficulty discerning between reality and fantasy, a sense of entitlement and being unable to cope with rejection.

While all 50 states including the District of Columbia classify stalking as a crime, less than one-third of them have stalking listed as a felony upon the first offense. More than half of the states, however, classify stalking upon the second offense as a felony or if the offense involved aggravating factors – behaviors that include possession of a deadly weapon, violation of a court order or condition of probation or parole, victimizing someone younger than age 16 or the same victim as prior occasions.

If you feel in danger or have concerns, always trust your instincts and take threats seriously, call 911 and the proper authorities to address your concerns and alert family and friends as well. For more information on what to do or how to identify stalking behavior, go to www.victimsofcrime.org.

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