Stalking is a pattern of behavior designed to cause fear and intimidation in the victim. Stalking may arise after ending a troubled relationship, or may develop without warning. Not all perpetrators are male and not all victims are female. Stalking may be perpetrated by a former spouse or romantic partner, an acquaintance or even a stranger. The majority of stalking cases end without violence, but some have turned deadly.
Definition of Stalking
Each state has set its own legal definition of stalking. In general, stalking may include such behaviors as unwanted communication; harassment and threats; appearing at the victim’s workplace or school; following the victim; and perhaps vandalism, harming pets or other threatening behavior. Some states have recently expanded stalking definitions to include “cyber stalking,” in which email, instant messengers and chat rooms are used to perpetrate stalking behaviors.
It is generally necessary to establish a pattern of behavior in order to establish the crime of stalking. However, in many states as few as two instances are sufficient. Some states categorize stalking as a misdemeanor, others as a felony. Some use a sliding scale, with first or second offenses treated as misdemeanors and subsequent events as felonies.
Types of Stalkers
Stalkers are usually grouped into three categories: intimate partner stalkers, erotomania stalkers, and vengeful stalkers.
Intimate Partner Stalkers
These stalkers are former spouses or romantic partners who are unable to accept the relationship’s ending. This type of stalker can be the most difficult for the victim to deal with, as he or she may harbor some lingering concerns for the stalker’s feelings. However, this type of stalker will take any attempt at civility as evidence that there is hope for the relationship. It is imperative that the victim refuse to become engaged with the stalker in any way.
This type of stalker is generally delusional. He or she develops an obsession with someone he does not truly know. The victim may be a celebrity, casual acquaintance, or authority figure. The stalker invests heavily into an imagined relationship with the victim, often believing that the victim could “save” the perpetrator from a disappointing life. It can be difficult at first to differentiate the stalker’s behavior from normal fan or “groupie” behavior.
A vengeful stalker believes that he or she has been wronged by the victim, and uses stalking behaviors to exact revenge. Often the victim is someone with whom the perpetrator has had a personal run-in, but this type of stalking may also be applied to politicians and celebrities.