Stalking and Domestic Violence
Stalking involves intentional acts that cause the victim to fear for their safety. The behavior happens on more than one occasion, causing a long-lasting effect on the victim's mental health and well-being. In some cases, stalkers escalate their behavior. This may lead to physical injury, sexual assault, kidnapping, and even murder.
Acts That Constitute Stalking
Stalking is a pattern of repeated behavior, often called a "course of conduct." The perpetrator commits acts of harassment that cause reasonable fear in the victim or their family members. It is often committed through the following acts:
- Observing and following the victim
- Appearing in places including the victim's place of work, school, or house
- Tracking or monitoring the victim's location using global positioning system technology (GPS)
- Leaving unusual or potentially endangering objects for the victim to see
- Creeping into the victim's car or home and committing acts to threaten or let the victim know of their earlier presence
- Spying from afar with computer software, recorder, or hidden camera technology
- Making unwanted phone calls, including voice messages and hang-ups
- Sending an unwanted email, text message, social media message, or photo message
- Mailing uninvited letters, presents, flowers, or other personal property
Stalking behavior often occurs with the crime of domestic violence. Like domestic violence cases, stalking is a crime of control and power.
Categories of Stalking
Stalking can happen to anyone. Stalkers conduct their behavior through various approaches. According to social research, there are many ways of classifying stalkers. Two of these ways are by the stalker's underlying motive or relationship to the victim.
One of the most common ways to categorize stalkers is by looking at their motives. A stalker may not fit into one category and exhibit various characteristics.
Stalking behavior often stems from one of the following underlying motives:
- Simple Obsessional: Simple obsession is the most common category of stalking. The stalker focuses their attention on a former intimate partner or ex-spouse. The pattern of malicious acts often starts before the intimate partner cuts ties with the stalker. In most cases, the simple obsession happens when the stalker feels the victim mistreated them.
- Love Obsessional: In this situation, the stalker could be an acquaintance of the victim or a stranger. However, the stalker commences a pattern of conduct to let the victim learn about their presence. The stalker eventually becomes obsessed. Anyone can be a victim of this type of stalking. But most love-obsessional stalking happens against high-profile victims such as public figures or celebrities.
- Erotomania: In this situation, the stalker incorrectly assumes that the victim is in love with them but they cannot be together because of some interference or barrier. Due to this false perception of "love" between the victim and the stalker, the stalker poses great danger. The danger extends to the victim, their friends, and other household members. The stalker may think that the people around the victim are preventing them from being together.
Relationship to Victim
Another approach used to classify stalkers is their relationship with the victim. This classification comes in two categories: non-intimate and intimate.
Non-intimate: In this situation, the victim and the stalker do not have an interpersonal relationship. Instead, the stalker focuses on and selects the victim after a short encounter. It can also occur after a brief observation of the victim. Often, the victim cannot even identify the stalker. There are two categories:
- Organized: The relationship between the victim and the stalker is illustrated by anonymous communication. It is often a one-way transmission from the stalker to the victim. The stalker systematically plans the act so the victim will not know their identity.
- Delusional: The perceived "relationship" exists only in the stalker's head. The stalker thinks they are in a relationship or have a connection with the victim, but it is just a psychological fixation.
Intimate: In this situation, the victim and the stalker were previously in a relationship. The victim has tried to end or has already ended the relationship. In most cases, the stalker attempts to reestablish their connection. This form of stalking usually happens to victims of domestic violence and those with abusive relationships.
Sexual violence is also seen as a part of stalking behavior. As a result, most stalking laws cover sexual assault and other sex offenses.
Legal Relief to Victims of Stalking
If you are a victim of stalking, consider contacting law enforcement or a victim advocate. A safety plan should be created to avoid physical harm to the victims of stalking or their immediate family.
A victim of stalking can file a petition or request an order of protection to ensure their safety. Police reports can likewise be filed to document the incident(s). After a court has assessed that a credible threat exists, the order of protection acts as a restraining order. If the stalker violates the order, law enforcement authorities will enforce the order.
In some states, such as Florida, stalking can be a first-degree misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. This exposes the offender to a potential jail or prison sentence.
Seek Legal Help
It helps to get legal advice from an experienced family law attorney. They can help you understand your state's stalking law. They can also assist you in filing protective orders and other court orders that you might need to ensure your safety.
Domestic violence hotlines are also there to assist victims of stalking and domestic violence. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY at 1−800−787−3224.
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