Stalking is a term used to describe a set of behaviors that has been exhibited by individuals for thousands of years. While all states have had laws about assault and harassment for some time, the first law prohibiting stalking was not enacted until 1990. California was the first state to make acts of stalking illegal. This law was passed in response to some high profile stalking cases that eventually resulted in the victim's murder. Today, every state has a stalking law which prohibits individuals from engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes them to reasonably feel fear or duress.
The specific definition of stalking can vary from state to state. Many states define stalking specifically as: the willful, malicious, or repeated following or harassing of another individual, causing them fear for their safety or wellbeing, or that of their immediate family. The crime of stalking can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony offense depending on the state laws and specifics of the case.
Thirteen states consider stalking a felony punishable by a heavy fine and more than a year of incarceration. Stalking is often considered a felony offence when there are aggravating factors involved such as: possession of a weapon, restraining order or probation/parole violation, repeated offenses, and when the victim is a minor. In some states and under some circumstances, people who are convicted on a felony stalking charge will have to register as a sex offender upon release.
Experts estimate that more than one million women and over 300,000 men are the victims of stalking each year in the United States. One in twelve women and one in 45 men will become a stalking victim in their lifetime. Nearly ninety percent of stalkers are men and the majority of stalkers are known by their offender (60 to 70 percent). Stalkers can have all types of backgrounds, motivations, and psychological problems that motivate them to stalk others.
The most common type of stalking perpetrator is what experts call the simple obsessional stalker. In these stalking cases, the victim and the offender have had some prior relationship that has experienced some type of "falling out". The motivation for this type of stalking is reconciliation and/or retaliation and is common in domestic violence situations. Another type of stalking offender is the love obsessional stalker who has had no previous relationship with his victim. This person may or may not harbor delusions that the victim is in love with, or meant for, them. Celebrity stalking is a common example. The third major type is erotomanic stalking where the offender suffers psychosis and delusions that the victim is in love with them.
There are things that a person can do when faced with a stalking situation. Stalking can be dangerous and unpredictable, therefore it is important to contact the local authorities, keep evidence of the stalking incidents, consider getting a court order, tell your loved ones, seek support, and always trust your instincts. If you would like to learn more about stalking and how to protect yourself, please contact us to speak with a caring and competent attorney in your area.
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