By: Karin Murphy Caro
What is stalking?
According to the Department Of Justice:
Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
Stalking can include:
Many people use the term "stalking" very loosely in this age of digital accessibility. Many even joke about the term stating, "I Facebook stalked him." or "I was stalking your social media and I saw that you had just taken a trip and I was wondering how it was…"
Those are innocent enough but the truth is that stalkers can make your life a living hell and stalking is scary, it’s dangerous and in many cases, illegal.
Here Are Some Startling Statistics About Stalkers in the U.S.
The act of stalking is often the culmination of several acts which, when taken on their own, are perfectly legal. When the acts are put together to bully, harass or intimidate someone, then it rises to the level of stalking. When another person's actions instill a sense of fear in the recipient, then it becomes stalking. Statistically, most stalking cases involve a man stalking a woman and a majority of these cases, involve a woman being stalked by an abusive husband or boyfriend whom she is trying to escape (80%). In other cases, it can be a casual acquaintance, a co-worker or a former co-worker. However, in rare cases, the stalker is completely unknown to the victim.
In NY, it is usually easy to get an Order Of Protection against a stalker but beware, a malicious stalker can manipulate the law and the police to use it against his/her victim. There is a Mandatory Arrest Law, a Domestic Violence Statute that requires police to arrest an alleged batterer regardless of evidence. Mandatory arrests are common in some regions but not used in others, partially due to considerable controversy over the validity of the law. While proponents say that mandatory arrest can save lives and may be more effective than other domestic violence tactics, many people suggest that it may reduce the likelihood that abused victims will call the police OR it can be used to hurt the actual victim by disregarding the rights of the accused and failure to produce evidence or probable cause for arrest. Think about it, if a stalker wants to intimidate, bully, stalk or threaten, what better way but to use the law and the police force to do so?
The majority of stalkers cease their stalking when confronted by police about their actions. If the behavior persists, then it becomes a criminal matter. Most stalking incidents are punished as misdemeanors and carry a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail. The charge can be enhanced to a felony if the stalker threatened the victim with a firearm, has a previous stalking conviction, violated a protective order or directed his conduct toward a child. The sentence for felony stalking varies, but it can be as long as 10 years in a state prison. Again, I emphasize a stalker using this law to hurt the victim. The police need to be diligent in these cases and they need to have more ability to investigate.
If you are being stalked, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to document everything. Log all phone calls and save messages on an answering machine and keep all letters, threats and gifts. Let your friends, family members and co-workers know so they can also report to police if they see your stalker or if they have been approached by someone the stalker knows. These actions will help keep you safe and build a criminal case against the stalker.
In NYS, call this hotline for Domestic Violence help: 1-800-942-6906
Karin Murphy is an investigative reporter. Through her own experiences she took an interest in undercover & investigative work.