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Domestic Violence & Stalking – A Potentially Deadly Combination

According to statistics, approximately 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 19 men, will experience stalking in their lifetime. Roughly two-thirds of female stalking victims are targeted by a current or former intimate partner. But what exactly constitutes the crime of stalking? The term “stalking” has become such a pop culture term that the word is used reflexively to describe someone’s mere curiosity or nosiness. It is important to distinguish that we are not speaking of mere curiosity, or nosiness. Actual stalking behavior is a potentially deadly behavior.

The crime of stalking generally requires two elements; a pattern of harassment (as opposed to a single act), and fear. If your current or former intimate partner or spouse is checking your cell phone, reading your emails, following you, or spying on you – and this activity is unwanted and causes you fear, you are being stalked.

Published statistics and studies strongly correlate domestic violence and stalking with future violence, including death. Unfortunately, many at-risk domestic violence victims I interview are unaware just how dangerous stalking can be, and/or that they are being “stalked” at all. Given the common perception that stalking is only committed by strangers, or persistent ex-lovers, many victims do not associate current or former intimate partners and spouses with the act of “stalking.” However, stalking does occur in committed relationships and marriages, and occurs more frequently in abusive relationships.

The numbers are sobering – when physical abuse and stalking coincide within an intimate relationship, there is a strong correlation to continued or future violence, and homicide. It has been reported that 76 percent of women murdered by a current or former intimate partner experienced at least one episode of stalking in the year prior to their murder. And, of women murdered by a former intimate partner who were subjected to physical abuse, 90 percent of those women had been stalked. A study of law enforcement records found that domestic violence was more severe when stalking behavior was present. Clearly, any stalking behavior by a current or former intimate partner is cause for concern, and deserves your serious attention.

Stalking by a current or former partner can broadly be categorized as “intimate partner stalking,” and can be used by an abuser as a means to monitor, control, or induce fear. With the average duration of intimate partner stalking lasting up to 12 months or longer, safety planning for this chronic threat is not only highly recommended, but can be a daunting and continuing challenge.

Some of the more commonly reported stalking behaviors include:

•   Unwanted approach at home, school, the workplace, etc.

•   Unwanted telephone calls, including hang-ups

•   Unwanted text or voice messages

•   Watching or following the victim from a distance

•   Spying on the victim with a listening device, camera, or global positioning system (GPS)

•   Unwanted emails, instant messages, or messaging through social media websites

•   Leaving strange or threatening items for the victim to find

•   Sending or leaving unwanted cards, letters, flowers, or presents

•   Trespassing or breaking into the victim’s car or home and then doing something that would alert the victim to the intrusion

Stalkers can be categorized by type. The “rejected stalker” is the most common type associated with a prior intimate relationship and is typically highly jealous and narcissistic. The rejected stalker wants the relationship to continue, or is seeking revenge for the termination of the relationship. A history of violence between the victim and the rejected stalker is common. Unfortunately, the rejected stalker is the most defiant of all the stalker types and is not easily dissuaded to end the unwanted contact. Consequently, the rejected stalker can be the most persistent and dangerous and is a significant safety risk to a woman leaving an abusive relationship.

It is critical not to confuse stalking with common jealousy. The potential consequences of stalking are serious and require you to adopt appropriate measures to protect yourself. Stalking can turn dangerous without warning, and expose you, your family, and even those you associate with to violence or harassment. Like domestic violence, stalking is a crime that is easier to prove if you document the behavior, and “build your case.” If you are being stalked, maintain a stalking log to document each instance of stalking. If you are still living with your abuser, you can ask a friend, family member, or coworker to maintain and keep your log for you.

Your stalking log should include the following information:

•   Date of incident

•   Time of incident

•   Detailed description of the incident

•   Location of the Incident

•   Witness Name(s), address, and phone number

•   Police Report Number (report each incident to the authorities)

•   Officer name and badge number

•   Retain any related texts, emails, phone logs, letters, etc.

In the following series of articles, I will illustrate how technology can be used to stalk, and what measures you can take to protect yourself. Although stalking can involve the use of sophisticated technology, your personal electronic devices can be easily compromised, and used to invade your privacy and monitor your activities.

If you are in an abusive relationship, or are being stalked by a current or former intimate partner, help is available. Contact PROTECTION FROM ABUSE to schedule a free threat and lethality assessment. Together, we will evaluate the relative danger of your particular situation, discuss safety planning, and help connect you to local resources. Email us at: [email protected]

Next: Domestic Violence & Stalking Part II, Terror by Technology

Steven J. Dana is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of PROTECTION FROM ABUSE. Mr. Dana is a licensed Personal Protection Specialist, Security Consultant, and NACP credentialed Domestic Violence Intervention Specialist with over 20 years’ experience planning and executing moderate to high threat protective services.

©2017 Steven J. Dana, All Rights Reserved