According to results from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 6 women (16.2%) and 1 in 19 men (5.2%) in the United States have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 2011). January 2012 marks the ninth annual observance of National Stalking Awareness Month, a month dedicated to educating the public about the serious and at times deadly crime of stalking.
Stalking generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property (Stalking in America: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice, 1998). While the federal government, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories have all enacted criminal laws to address stalking, the legal definition for stalking varies across jurisdictions. For example, state laws vary regarding the element of victim fear and emotional distress, as well as the requisite intent of the stalker. Additionally, states vary regarding what level of fear is required for an offense to be considered stalking (Stalking Victimization in the United States, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009).
Stalking between intimate partners is widespread and often associated with lethal abuse. Despite the enactment of anti-stalking laws in every state, relatively few stalkers are cited or arrested by law enforcement, even fewer are prosecuted (A Statewide Study of Stalking and Its Criminal Justice Response, National Institute of Justice-Sponsored, 2009).