This January is the 20th annual National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM) in the United States, a month in which people all over the country unite to raise awareness about stalking, act against stalking behavior, and support survivors of stalking.
What is stalking?
Stalking is generally defined by the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center as “a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress.” Stalking behaviors can include, but are not limited to:
- Repeated calls, messages, gifts, and other types of direct and unwanted contact
- Showing up unannounced or approaching an individual unwelcomed
- Using technology to track the location of or spy on an individual
- Using an individual’s family members, friends, children, or other close members to try to make unwanted contact with them
Who experiences stalking?
About 13.5 million people each year in the United States experience stalking, oftentimes being victimized by someone they already knew. In fact, the latest National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey’s report on stalking states that 40% of stalking victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partners. This has been found to increase the number of harmful threats and behaviors experienced by victims when compared to stalkers that are not previous or current intimate partners.
Stalking is experienced by people of all genders, races, and sexualities. It is also something experienced by all age groups, though more than half of female victims and just under half of male victims report having experienced their first instance of stalking before the age of 25.
Similar to cases of sexual violence, stalking is a traumatic and often misunderstood crime that gets under-reported due to factors like fear of physical harm or not being believed. People who experience stalking have been known to lose work as a result of their victimization or move from their homes, affecting not only their income but their mental and emotional well-being.
Stalking is considered a crime across the United States. However, legal definitions are different between jurisdictions. Instances of stalking often require patterns of recorded behavior to be considered criminal in most cases. This can mean the occurrence of a second or follow-up event or the involvement of aggravating factors, including weapons, violation of a court order, or a victim under the age of 16. You can find your specific state or territory’s laws and statutes regarding stalking at https://www.stalkingawareness.org/map/ for more information.
What can I do?
If you or someone you know might be experiencing stalking, there are a number of things that you can do.
- Alert others: Tell the people around you that you trust to watch for suspicious activity so that no personal information is mistakenly shared.
- Connect with an advocate: You can contact your local advocacy center or reach out through a number of national resources for help in creating a safety plan.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673)
- Victim Connect (1-855-484-2846)
- Document any encounters and events
- Prioritize safety
- Empower your community to learn about, recognize, and address stalking as a serious issue
If you have experienced stalking, know that you are not alone and that there are resources out there to support you. You deserve to feel safe and be free from the impacts of stalking. By raising awareness and seeking help, we collectively contribute to a safer and more supportive environment for survivors during Stalking Awareness Month and beyond.
For further resources and information, visit https://www.stalkingawareness.org/what-to-do-if-you-are-being-stalked/