Stalking may be defined as any sort of unwanted contact a person called the stalker makes on the intended victim, which could directly or indirectly cause one or more of the following criminal actions, which are fear of death, sexual contact which is of criminal nature, assault, kidnapping, injury and damage to property. (Stalking: www.atss-hq.com) Nearly all stalkers are afflicted with some form of mental or emotional problem. A stalker will travel any distance across a town or around the country or even across continents to pursue the victim. A normal person will not continue to pursue a person in the face of rejection. Stalkers can be classified into three major groups, irrespective of how severe the mental disorder is. The three are Simple Obsession, Love Obsession and Other. (Forms of Stalking)
A Simple Obsession stalker would have had a previous intimate relationship with the victim. Many a time the victim would have tried to terminate the relationship, but the stalker would have rejected it. These stalkers are likely to have personality disorders, which could include being emotionally immature, extremely jealous, sense of insecurity coupled with low self-esteem and many a time a feeling of powerlessness without the relationship. Such a stalker aims at rejuvenating the lost relationship with the victim, since there is the belief that they would not survive without that specific person. This class of stalker is likely to be domineering and abusive to the partners during the period of the relationship as this is a way they use to bolster their low self-esteem. This control in the relationship provides the stalker with a sense of power that they cannot find elsewhere and so their worst fear is losing people over whom they can exert control. (Forms of Stalking)
It is this fear at the end of the relationship, of being a person without self-worth and identity that causes out of desperation, this class of stalker to begin stalking in an attempt to regain their partner and the basis for power. This total dependence on the partner is what the dangerous aspect of these stalkers is. Willing to go to any length to get their partner back and then failing they could become suicidal or want to kill the partner that has left them. It is not likely that the stalking would start with violence. It is likely to start with attempts at cajoling the victim into returning to the relationship and from here on it is likely to escalate. Many a time these stalkers are likely to follow through with their threats to kill the victim and then commit suicide. To them it is better to die, than live a life of humiliation seeing the victim leaving them for someone else and having to face their own powerlessness.
Love Obsession stalkers are individuals who get obsessed with a person with whom they have had no prior intimate or close relationship. The victim could be a friend, a business acquaintance, or a person they have met on one occasion or even a total stranger. These stalkers could believe that a special and magical relationship exists between them and their victims. Any success in contacting the victim reinforces this relationship and any wavering is considered an invitation to continue. They are quite likely to see sexual meanings in neutral responses from their victims. These stalkers are quite likely to live lonely and emotionally void lives. Failed relationships are seen in these stalkers. A majority of them suffer from erotomania. They believe that they are the object of intense love, normally from a person of higher socio-economic status than them or some celebrity. They also believe that for some external influence this affection would be displayed. They fantasize a full relationship with the victim. (Forms of Stalking)
It is when they attempt to act out this fantasy in real life that they expect the victim to respond in the same manner. When this does not happen this stalker responds with threat and intimidation and when these also do not meet their expectations they can become violent and even deadly. The next class of stalkers is the others class and they do not harass their victims out of love or hate. It is more a form a revenge for some action against the stalker real or illusionary. This form of stalking could even be a form of protest. This is the smallest group consisting of stalkers arising from the requirement for revenge or demonstrating protest, yet they can be dangerous and could even cause the death of the victim.
There is a common wrong belief that all stalking victims are either celebrities or young attractive women. Any person can become the target of a stalker and there is no distinction in color, caste or creed. Yet, most of the victims are women. Romance or love is not the object of stalking, rather the crimes of violence, control and intimidation. (Stalking: Eric Country, Ohio) The stalking of actress celebrity Catherine Zeta-Jones has re-awakened the issue of stalking and its consequences. The extent of intrusion in the life of the victim can easily be seen with the actress reaching the brink of a nervous breakdown. Zeta-Jones along with singers Mel C. And Britney Spears and director Steven Spielberg having been victims of stalking may well believe that stalking is a price they pay for fame but celebrity status is not a prerequisite for stalkers. (The dark world of obsession)
This can be seen from the survey which shows that eight percent of the women and two percent of the men in the U.S. claim that they have been stalked at some period in their lives and that only one stalker stalked most of them. The duration of the period of stalking was a year or less in most cases, but in the case of few it extended to five years or more. Estimates from research are that approximately one million women and four hundred thousand women are stalked in the U.S. every year. Research also shows that many victims knew their stalkers. The stalkers of women were more likely to be an intimate partner like current spouse, ex-husband, former live in partner, or a date. Just 21% of the stalkers identified by female victims turned out to be strangers. In the case of male victims the stalker was in most cases a stranger or acquaintance. Nearly eighty seven percent of the stalkers turned out to be men. Women tended to be victims of lone stalkers and in the case of half of the male victims, the stalkers were accompanied by an accomplice, which was quite often a friend or girlfriend. (The Crime of Stalking: How Big Is the Problem?)
A majority of the victims are in the age group eighteen to twenty nine at the start of stalking, with about eighty percent being women. The incidence of stalking is the same with white women and minority women, yet Native American women are at a significantly greater risk among the minority women in the U.S. Victims experience the aftermath of a stalking experience for many years after the occurrence, even if it is for a short duration and these include social and psychological consequences. Additionally twenty percent of the victims lost time at work and seven percent of these never returned to work. Twenty percent of the victims moved away to other places to cause the stalking to end. Another fifteen percent had to seek the intervention of the police to stop the stalking. It is also seen that the stalking of women victims stopped in many cases, when the stalker found a new girlfriend or wife.
A survey conducted by National Violence against Women also shows the requirement for the need of address confidentiality programs. These are necessary to encourage the victims faced with continuous pursuit and risks of safety to make personal safety plans. These plans normally include changing their place of residence as far away from the stalker as possible and having a confidential mailing address that has a mail forwarding service and does not make known the new location. These may be drastic steps but are among the effects of stalking and are required to give the victims of stalking freedom from harassment and violence. (The Crime of Stalking: How Big Is the Problem?)
On September 23, 1996, 18 USC & 2261A were enacted and in November 2000, this statute was amended to become part of the Violence against Women Act -VAWA of 2000. As per this it is a federal crime to cross state, tribal or international borders in stalking someone. The stalker should have the intention to kill, injure, harass or intimidate the victim and the victim must be put in reasonable fear of death or grievous bodily harm. The family members, spouse or intimate partners of the victim are also given protection. Under 2261A (2) it is a federal crime to use regular mail, e-mail or the Internet to stalk a victim across state, tribal or…