This from Wikipedia:
Stalking is unwanted and/or repeated surveillance by an individual or group toward another person. Stalking behaviors are interrelated to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person or monitoring them. The term stalking is used with some differing definitions in psychiatry and psychology, as well as in some legal jurisdictions as a term for a criminal offense.
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.
The difficulties associated with defining this term exactly (or defining it at all) are well documented.
Having been used since at least the 16th century to refer to a prowler or a poacher (Oxford English Dictionary), the term stalker was initially used by media in the 20th century to describe people who pester and harass others, initially with specific reference to the harassment of celebrities by strangers who were described as being “obsessed”. This use of the word appears to have been coined by the tabloid press in the United States. With time, the meaning of stalking changed and incorporated individuals being harassed by their former partners. Pathé and Mullen describe stalking as “a constellation of behaviours in which an individual inflicts upon another repeated unwanted intrusions and communications”. Stalking can be defined as the willful and repeated following, watching or harassing of another person. Unlike other crimes, which usually involve one act, stalking is a series of actions that occur over a period of time.
Although stalking is illegal in most areas of the world, some of the actions that contribute to stalking may be legal, such as gathering information, calling someone on the phone, texting, sending gifts, emailing, or instant messaging. They become illegal when they breach the legal definition of harassment (e.g., an action such as sending a text is not usually illegal, but is illegal when frequently repeated to an unwilling recipient). In fact, United Kingdom law states the incident only has to happen twice when the harasser should be aware their behavior is unacceptable (e.g., two phone calls to a stranger, two gifts, following the victim then phoning them, etc).
Cultural norms and meaning affect the way stalking is defined. Scholars note that the majority of men and women admit engaging in various stalking-like behaviors following a breakup, but stop such behaviors over time, suggesting that “engagement in low levels of unwanted pursuit behaviors for a relatively short amount of time, particularly in the context of a relationship break-up, may be normative for heterosexual dating relationships occurring within U.S. culture.
Psychological effects 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).
Stalking as a close relationship
Stalking has also been described as a form of close relationship between the parties, albeit a disjunctive one where the two participants have opposing goals rather than cooperative goals. One participant, often a woman, likely wishes to end the relationship entirely, but may find herself unable to easily do so. The other participant, often but not always a man, wishes to escalate the relationship. It has been described as a close relationship because the duration, frequency, and intensity of contact may rival that of a more traditional conjunctive dating relationship.
Types of victims
Based on work with stalking victims for eight years in Australia, Mullen and Pathé identified different types of stalking victims dependent on their previous relationship to the stalker. These are:
- Prior intimates: Victims who had been in a previous intimate relationship with their stalker. In the article, Mullen and Pathé describe this as being “the largest category, the most common victim profile being a woman who has previously shared an intimate relationship with her (usually) male stalker.” These victims are more likely to be exposed to violence being enacted by their stalker especially if the stalker had a criminal past. In addition, victims who have “date stalkers” are less likely to experience violence by their stalkers. A “date stalker” is considered an individual who had an intimate relationship with the victim but it was short-lived.
- Casual acquaintances and friends: Among male stalking victims, most are part of this category. This category of victims also includes neighbor stalking. This may result in the victims’ change of residence.
- Professional contacts: These are victims who have been stalked by patients, clients, or students who they have had a professional relationship with. Certain professions such as health care providers, teachers, and lawyers are at a higher risk for stalking.
- Workplace contacts: The stalkers of these victims tend to visit them in their workplace which means that they are either an employer, employee, or a customer. When victims have stalkers coming to their workplace, this poses a threat not only to the victims’ safety but to the safety of other individuals as well.
- Strangers: These victims are typically unaware of how their stalkers began stalking because typically these stalkers form a sense of admiration for their victims from a distance.
- The famous: Most of these victims are individuals who are portrayed heavily on media outlets but can also include individuals such as politicians and athletes.
Types of stalkers
Psychologists often group individuals who stalk into two categories: psychotic and nonpsychotic. Some stalkers may have pre-existing psychotic disorders such as delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophrenia. However, most stalkers are nonpsychotic and may exhibit disorders or neuroses such as major depression, adjustment disorder, or substance dependence, as well as a variety of personality disorders (such as antisocial, borderline, or narcissistic). The nonpsychotic stalkers’ pursuit of victims is primarily angry, vindictive, focused, often including projection of blame, obsession, dependency, minimization, denial, and jealousy. Conversely, only 10% of stalkers had an erotomanic delusional disorder.
In “A Study of Stalkers” Mullen et al. (2000) identified five types of stalkers:
- Rejected stalkers follow their victims in order to reverse, correct, or avenge a rejection (e.g. divorce, separation, termination).
- Resentful stalkers make a vendetta because of a sense of grievance against the victims – motivated mainly by the desire to frighten and distress the victim.
- Intimacy seekers seek to establish an intimate, loving relationship with their victim. Such stalkers often believe that the victim is a long-sought-after soul mate, and they were ‘meant’ to be together.
- Incompetent suitors, despite poor social or courting skills, have a fixation, or in some cases, a sense of entitlement to an intimate relationship with those who have attracted their amorous interest. Their victims are most often already in a dating relationship with someone else.
- Predatory stalkers spy on the victim in order to prepare and plan an attack – often sexual – on the victim.
In addition to Mullen et al., Joseph A. Davis, Ph.D., an American researcher, crime analyst, and university psychology professor at San Diego State University investigated, as a member of the Stalking Case Assessment Team (SCAT), special unit within the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, hundreds of cases involving what he called and typed “terrestrial” and “cyberstalking” between 1995 and 2002. This research culminated in one of the most comprehensive books written to date on the subject. Published by CRC Press, Inc. in August 2001, it is considered the “gold standard” as a reference to stalking crimes, victim protection, safety planning, security and threat assessment.
The 2002 National Victim Association Academy defines an additional form of stalking: The vengeance/terrorist stalker. Both the vengeance stalker and terrorist stalker (the latter sometimes called the political stalker) do not, in contrast with some of the aforementioned types of stalkers, seek a personal relationship with their victims but rather force them to emit a certain response. While the vengeance stalker’s motive is “to get even” with the other person whom he/she perceives has done some wrong to them (e.g., an employee who believes is fired without justification from a job by a superior), the political stalker intends to accomplish a political agenda, also using threats and intimidation to force the target to refrain or become involved in some particular activity regardless of the victim’s consent. For example, most prosecutions in this stalking category have been against anti-abortionists who stalk doctors in an attempt to discourage the performance of abortions.
Stalkers may fit categories with paranoia disorders. Intimacy-seeking stalkers often have delusional disorders involving erotomanic delusions. With rejected stalkers, the continual clinging to a relationship of an inadequate or dependent person couples with the entitlement of the narcissistic personality, and the persistent jealousy of the paranoid personality. In contrast, resentful stalkers demonstrate an almost “pure culture of persecution”, with delusional disorders of the paranoid type, paranoid personalities, and paranoid schizophrenia.
One of the uncertainties in understanding the origins of stalking is that the concept is now widely understood in terms of specific behaviors which are found to be offensive or illegal. As discussed above, these specific (apparently stalking) behaviors may have multiple motivations.
In addition, the personality characteristics that are often discussed as antecedent to stalking may also produce behavior that is not conventionally defined as stalking. Some research suggests there is a spectrum of what might be called “obsessed following behavior.” People who complain obsessively and for years, about a perceived wrong or wrong-doer, when no one else can perceive the injury—and people who cannot or will not “let go” of a person or a place or an idea—comprise a wider group of persons that may be problematic in ways that seem similar to stalking. Some of these people get extruded from their organizations—they may get hospitalized or fired or let go if their behavior is defined in terms of illegal stalking, but many others do good or even excellent work in their organizations and appear to have just one focus of tenacious obsession.
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, Ménard 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 cyberstalkers meanwhile only 4% were overt stalkers. In addition, the male participants revealed the opposite, 16% were overt stalkers while 11% were cyberstalkers. Alcohol and physical abuse both played a role in predicting women’s cyberstalking and in men, “preoccupied attachment significantly predicted cyber stalking”.
Stalking by groups
According to a U.S. Department of Justice special report a significant number of people reporting stalking incidents claim that they had been stalked by more than one person, with 18.2% reporting that they were stalked by two people, 13.1% reporting that they had been stalked by three or more. The report did not break down these cases into numbers of victims who claimed to have been stalked by several people individually, and by people acting in concert. A question asked of respondents reporting three or more stalkers by polling personnel about whether the stalking was related to co-workers, members of a gang, fraternities, sororities, etc., did not have its responses indicated in the survey results as released by the DOJ. The data for this report was obtained via the 2006 Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Department of Justice.
According to a United Kingdom study by Sheridan and Boon, in 5% of the cases they studied there was more than one stalker, and 40% of the victims said that friends or family of their stalker had also been involved. In 15% of cases, the victim was unaware of any reason for the harassment.
Over a quarter of all stalking and harassment victims do not know their stalkers in any capacity. About a tenth responding to the SVS did not know the identities of their stalkers. 11% of victims said they had been stalked for five years or more.