The simplistic definition of stalking, to follow, pursue, or approach, does not suggest the true malfeasance of the crime of stalking. Someone who might be stalking another person, or groups of people, typically has a form of obsession over the individual(s) they are stalking. It is important to treat stalking behaviour as serious, since it can often escalate beyond that level to more nefarious crime. Anyone can be the victim of stalking, male or female, and they may or may not previously know the individual who is stalking them.

Motivations & Actions Related to Stalking

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There are many reasons people might become stalkers, and the victim may or may not be known to that individual. Often there has been some sort of romantic involvement between the two parties, or there is a level of attraction or sexual desire on the part of the stalker. While the most common perpetrator of stalking is male, there are many women stalkers as well. The various types of stalkers are often qualified in one of the following categories; rejected individuals, resentful or spiteful people, those seeking intimacy, an incompetent suitor, a predatory person, or someone with a form of mental illness.

It is important to distinguish the act of stalking from mental illness, where stalking is the behaviour or crime that can be precipitated by mental illness but this is not always the case. The severity and type of mental illness can vary significantly, from intellectual disabilities, deficits in social skills, depression, substance misuse, and other forms of more serious psychosis. People who engage in stalking behaviours may not be aware that their actions are inappropriate or unwanted, as stalking can occur due to a lack of understanding of appropriate etiquette or because of poorly developed social skills.

People who are active stalkers typically engage in some form of it every day, whether in person or through other means such as the Internet. Stalking goes beyond the physical act of following and pursuing, and can include other unwanted involvement in the victims’ life such as sending unwanted mail or email, or making public information or rumours about an individual in some manner. Stalkers often engage in more than one stalking behaviour, and these can grow in both number and intensity over time. These activities or approaches are unwanted by the victim, and often occur at least once per week or more.

Types of Stalking

Stalkers may target individuals or groups, which can take place both in person or online. Online, or Cyb-stalking, is becoming increasingly common with the advent of social media and the significant online presence of individuals. While stalking may begin as a seemingly harmless set of interactions or contacts between two individuals, this can quickly escalate to more serious incidents and potentially violent acts by the stalker.

Stalking takes the form of many different behaviours including; following or pursuing the victim, frequenting areas the victim typically visits, sending unwanted mail or email, monitoring phone and/or Internet activity, contacting acquaintances and/or co-workers, tracking your location utilising GPS or other technology, making your personal information public or starting rumours, and making threats to the individual or their loved ones.

Common Victims of Stalking

While many victims of stalking know their stalker previously, this is not always true particularly in the case of Cyb-stalking. Often, the parties involved have dated, been romantically involved, or there is a form of attraction or sexual desire on the part of the stalker. Victims of stalking can be both male and female, though the most common victims are female.

The most common victims of stalking are young adults, aged 18-26. Victims are often intimidated or fearful of what the stalker might do, and have significant feelings of vulnerability. Individuals who are being stalked may suffer from psychological effects, such as feelings of anxiety or depression, trouble concentrating, changes to eating patters, disturbing thoughts or flashbacks, and feelings of isolation and frustration.

How to Find Help

Stalking is considered a serious crime and is illegal, and if you are or believe you are the victim of stalking it is important that you find help and ensure the perpetrator is identified and given help and/or brought to justice. There are many avenues through which you can report suspected stalking, and it is important that you do so since stalking can become more serious and even escalate to personal violence. One safe and easy way to begin the process of reporting potential stalking is to utilise the National Stalking Helpline, where you can receive advice, information, and support. You can contact the National Stalking Helpline by their direct phone line or through their website, where you can also find information and resources. If you are actively being stalked, or feel as though you may be in any danger, you should contact your local police department or dial 999.