He could be a friend, a former boyfriend, a colleague, a neighbor or just an acquaintance you made polite conversation with at a party. He could even be a stranger you didn’t even notice as you shopped for groceries. But he’s watching all the time, what you do, how you get to work, where you live, and when you get home. And it’s not always a man. Though four out of five victims are female, there are instances of wives and girlfriends turning obsessive.
What is stalking?
Stalking is defined as a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention, harassment, and contact. It is a course of conduct that can include:
- Following or laying in wait for the victim
- Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or e-mail
- Damaging the victim’s property
- Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim’s children, relatives, friends or pets
- Repeatedly sending the victim unwanted gifts
- Harassment through the internet about the victim by accessing public records (land records, phone listings, driver or voter registration), using Internet search services, hiring private investigators, contacting friends, family, work, or neighbors, going through the victim’s garbage, following the victim, etc.
Stalkers come from every walk of life and every socio-economic background. Virtually anyone can be a stalker, just as anyone can be a stalking survivor. There are some general categories that stalkers fit into.
Remember: Even though there are general categories of stalkers, that does not mean that every stalker will fit neatly into a category. Stalkers can have any characteristics and come from any type of background.
He is someone you know, and have been in a relationship with that might have been controlling or abusive in nature. The rejected stalking type as an individual who has experienced the unwanted end of a close relationship, most likely with a romantic partner, but also possibly with a parent, colleague or acquaintance. On separation, the stalker wants to reconcile or exact revenge or vacillates between the two emotions. The victim learns this only too late.
Motivation: This type of stalker begins to stalk after their partner (romantic or close friendship) has ended their relationship or indicates that they intend to end the relations. This type of stalker wants to be in a relationship with the survivor again or seek revenge on the survivor. The stalker’s goals may vary, depending on the responses of the survivor.
Personality: This type of stalker may have high levels of narcissism and jealousy. This type of stalker may also have feelings of humiliation, over-dependence, and/or poor social skills and a resulting poor social network.
Stalking Behaviors: This type of stalker is often the most persistent and intrusive type of stalker and is more likely to employ intimidation and assault in pursuit of their survivor. A history of violence in the relationship with the partner is not uncommon.
Motivation: This stalker wants to frighten or distress their survivor and often stalks their survivor to get revenge against someone who has upset them. This type of stalker views their survivor as being similar to those who have oppressed or humiliated them in the past and may view themselves as a survivor striking back against an oppressor.
Personality: This type of stalker is often irrationally paranoid.
Survivor Characteristics: This type of stalker often stalks survivors that may have upset them directly or are representative of a group at which they are upset. The survivor may be someone that the stalker knows or a complete stranger.
Stalking Behavior: This type of stalker can be the most obsessive and enduring type of stalker. This type of stalker is most likely to verbally threaten their survivor and is one of the least likely to physically assault their survivor.
Motivation: This type of stalker stalks their survivor as part of a plan to attack them, usually sexually, and is motivated by the promise of sexual gratification and power over the survivor.
Personality: This type of stalker often has poor self-esteem, poor social skills (especially in romantic relationships), and may have lower than normal intelligence.
Survivor Characteristics: This type of stalker may stalk someone they know or a complete stranger.
Stalking Behaviors: This type of stalker usually does not harass or try to contact their survivor while they are stalking. This type of survivor may engage in behaviors such as surveillance of the survivor, obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, fetishism, and voyeurism.
You’ve seen this type in many Bollywood films. The hero waylays the heroine, she is initially annoyed but then gives in, and lives happily ever after with the stalker. Real-life is very different from the reel and stalking a woman, who is not interested, is not wooing. All stalkers believe in a pathological way that once they manage to contact the woman, she will begin to have a relationship with them.
Predator or Intimacy Seeker stalker:
Motivation: This type of stalker seeks to establish an intimate, loving relationship with the survivor and may believe that the survivor is in love with them. This is a delusion. The stalker believes that the survivor may be the only person who can satisfy their desires and sees the survivor as an ideal partner. The stalker may interpret any kind of response from the survivor, even negative responses, as encouragement and may believe the survivor owes them love because of all they have invested in stalking the survivor. This type of stalker is very resistant to changing their beliefs about the survivor’s love for them.
Personality: This type of stalker is often a shy and isolated person and often lives alone and lacks any sort of intimate relationship in their life.
Survivor Characteristics: This type of stalker may stalk acquaintances or complete strangers.
Stalking Behaviors: If the stalker recognizes they are being rejected by the survivor, they may become threatening or violent. This type of stalker may engage in behaviors such as writing letters to the survivor; calling the survivor on the phone or sending the survivor gifts. The stalker may become jealous if the survivor enters or continues a romantic relationship with another person.
Motivation: This type of stalker is motivated by a desire to start a romantic relationship with the survivor and is impaired in his social skills.
Personality: This type of stalker may be cut off from the survivor’s feelings and believe that any person should be attracted to them.
Survivor Characteristics: This type of stalker usually stalks acquaintances, but may stalk complete strangers.
Stalking Behaviors: This type of stalker typically engages in behaviors such as: repeatedly asking for dates even after being rejected; repeatedly calling on the phone, and trying to hold the survivor’s hand or kiss the survivor.
The grudge stalker:
The resentful stalker is driven by a sense of injustice. Their behavior reflects their perception that they have been humiliated and treated unfairly, viewing themselves as the victim.
Erotomanic and Morbidly Infatuated:
Erotomania is a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that another person is in love with them. The victim is often a celebrity. This man seeks intimacy with the woman, often a complete stranger, imagining them as their true love and begins to behave as if they are in a relationship.Many intimacy-seeking stalkers carry the delusion that their love is reciprocated.
Motivation: This type of stalker believes that they are loved by the survivor even though the survivor has done nothing to suggest this is true and may have made statements that they do not and never will love the stalker. The stalker reinterprets what the survivor says and does to support their belief that the survivor loves them and makes the imagined romance with the survivor the most important part of their life.
Personality: This type of stalker may suffer from acute paranoia and/or delusions.
Survivor Characteristics: This type of stalker usually chooses survivors of a higher social class.
Stalking Behaviors: This type of stalker repeatedly tried to approach and communicate with the survivor.
Is stalking dangerous?
- Stalking can lead to physical violence resulting in serious injury or even death. It is often difficult to predict when and how a stalker will act or whether the unwanted intrusions into the victim’s life will escalate into physical or sexual assaults.
Some stalkers never move beyond threats or intimidation, while others do so with little warning.
Victims will never know if the action they take will stop the stalking or make things worse. Stalking is unpredictable. Victims should talk to a trained victim assistance professional about ways to improve their safety, their options, and the resources available to help them report stalking behavior to law enforcement.
How are stalking and domestic violence linked?
Many domestic violence victims report being stalked by current or former intimate partners, particularly towards the end of the relationship. Perpetrators of domestic violence often engage in stalking, i.e., repeatedly harassing victims by phoning them, following them, threatening them, or sending them gifts and notes.
Stalking is one-way perpetrators of domestic violence monitor and controls their victims. Their behavior often escalates as they feel their power and authority slipping away. Current or former partners are particularly dangerous stalkers, committing 30 percent of all homicides against women.
What is the impact on stalking victims?
Individual responses vary, but commonly include:
- Fear – of what the stalker will do next, of leaving the house, of the dark, of the phone ringing
- Anxiety – about the unknown consequences, the safety of family members or pets, what the future holds, whether the stalking will ever end, how other people will respond if they find out what’s happening
- Vulnerability – feeling totally exposed, never feeling safe, not knowing who to trust or where to turn for help
- Nervousness – feeling anxious, fearful, jumpy, irritable, impatient, on edge, getting startled by small things
- Depression – feeling despair, hopelessness, overwhelmed with emotion, tearful, angry
- Hypervigilance – being continually alert to known and unknown dangers, taking elaborate safety measures against the perpetrator or any suspicious people, repeatedly re-checking locks and bolts on doors and windows
- Stress – having difficulty concentrating, forgetting things, feeling generally distracted and worried
- Stress-related physical symptoms – such as headaches and stomach aches
- Eating problems – not feeling hungry, forgetting to eat, eating all the time
- Flashbacks or intrusive memories – reliving frightening incidents, not being able to break away from disturbing thoughts, feelings, and memories
- Sleeping problems – nightmares, interrupted sleep patterns, not being able to fall asleep, wanting to sleep all the time
- Isolation – feeling disconnected from family and friends, feeling no one understands
- Use of alcohol or drugs – to numb fear and anxiety triggered by stalking incidents, to induce calm and sleep
What obstacles can prevent victims from seeking help?
- Fears about how the stalker will respond
- Threats by the stalker
- Limited options for relocation to safer housing
- Language barriers
- Limited accessibility of victim assistance programs
- Believe that no one can or will help
- Fears about the consequences of seeking help (how others will respond)
- Victims stalked by law enforcement officers are among those facing special difficulties.