What is Stalking?
The best way to describe stalking is unwanted pursuit. The stalker engages in behaviors that are unwanted and frightening or threatening to the victim. There are many behaviors that can be included in stalking, some examples are:
- Following or surveillance
- Driving by or showing up at your home or place of work
- Sending threatening messages, letters, or emails
- Damaging property
- Verbal threats
- Threats to friends or family
- Physical or sexual assault
Most important of all, stalking is illegal. It is also against the UMKC Student Code of Conduct. If someone is stalking you, you have the right to seek help from the police, the legal system, and the University.
Who are Stalkers?
Just as with sexual assault or domestic violence, there are no characteristics of class, race, age, or appearance that identify a stalker, though stalkers are more likely to be male than female. What does identify a stalker is his or her criminal behavior.
Generally speaking, there are three different types of stalkers, though there is considerable overlap between the groups. The first, the intimate-partner stalker, stalks a former partner who has rejected him/her. This type of stalking is common among formerly abusive partners, though it is certainly not exclusive to battering relationships. This type of stalker feels rejected and pursues his/her former partner in an effort to resume the relationship. They are often viewed as someone who just “can’t let go,” and are more likely to be perceived with sympathy by others. They are just as dangerous as other types of stalkers, however, and often have a history of controlling or abusive behaviors and of other criminal acts. More than half of all stalkers fall into this category.
The second type is the delusional stalker. This person typically develops romantic fantasies about someone who is only slightly, or not at all, known to them. They are convinced that they love this person and that they truly have a meaningful relationship. Victims of delusional stalkers are often extremely confused by their behavior, as they have never had a relationship with this person. This can lead them to dismiss the behavior, but it is important to take any stalking behavior seriously and protect your safety. This type of stalker typically has few, if any, interpersonal relationships, and may suffer from a psychiatric disorder, particularly those involving psychotic or delusional symptoms.
Finally, the third type is the vengeful stalker, who is angry at the victim about some real or imagined slight. This person stalks for revenge. Sometimes, they are former intimate partner or delusional stalkers who become angry when their victim develops a relationship with someone else, obtains a restraining order, or takes other steps to avoid the stalking and the “relationship.” This does not mean that victims of stalking should not take precautions to protect themselves, but simply that they need to be aware of the potential danger.
Regardless of what the stalker’s motivation is, their behaviors can become dangerous and it is crucial that you take steps to protect yourself. Be wary of beliefs that the stalker is really harmless, or just sad, although some stalkers do not become violent, many do.
What are the Effects of Stalking?
Stalking can be both frightening and dangerous. Victims of stalking may feel alone, isolated, or ashamed. If the stalking behaviors are not violent or threatening, they may feel that they are overreacting, or may feel guilty that a former partner is so distressed. If the behaviors are violent or threatening, they are likely to feel frightened and have difficulty going about their daily activities. Like sexual assault and intimate partner violence, stalking takes away a person’s control of their life and their activities. It is not uncommon for the victim of stalking to feel depressed and anxious, even after the stalking has ended.