What is stalking?
A general definition of stalking is: a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. (National Stalking Resource Center)
A stalker may be someone you know or could be a stranger. Both women and men can be victims of stalking. A stalker may use a variety of behaviors in order to terrorize or harass the victim. Common stalking behaviors include unwanted contacts like repeated phone calls or texts to the victim (could be non-threatening or threatening), gathering information about the victim, monitoring of the victim’s whereabouts, showing up where the victim lives or works and computer or video surveillance. The stalkers behavior may escalate into more frequent or threatening contacts as time goes on.
What do I do if I am being stalked?
A victim should not wait for stalking behavior to escalate before taking action. Initially, tell the person who is making unwanted contact with you not to contact you anymore. If the unwanted contact continues, it is important that you do not engage with the stalker in any way or respond to any of his/her attempts to contact you. Let your friends, family and employer know that you are being stalked. Call the police and make a report. You may also get a restraining order against the person.
Victims are the most important source of information to an investigation. A victim should document every contact** and stalking-related behavior in order to help authorities build a case against the stalker. Keep all evidence and turn it over to police.
For more information and resources in your area, please call 1-800-VICTIMS.
Use of Technology to Stalk: Cyberstalking
Most stalkers use some form of technology in order to stalk their victims. There are an increasing number of programs and devices that stalkers can use in order to harass or monitor their victims.
Cell phones - A stalker may use spoofing, which is an internet program that allows a person to alter his/her cell phone number so the victim will not know who is calling. Spoofing programs may also allow a caller to change his/her voice. Remotely installed spyware on a victim’s cell phone allow a stalker to monitor calls, texts and phone activity. GPS systems can also be installed on cell phones, which allow a stalker to know the location of his/her victim.
Computers and Social Networking - A stalker may hack into a computer in order to monitor what the victim is doing. Computer spyware allows the person who installed it to view internet and computer activity and obtain the victims passwords and personal information.
Video Surveillance/GPS – Video surveillance cameras may be put into a variety of small and undetectable products like pens or stuffed animals and could also be installed in a hidden location inside a house or car. Devices can also be installed in a computer that allows a person to video record the victim while the computer is in use. GPS systems also may be small and portable and could be attached to a car or personal item.
Stalkers may use a variety of methods and devices in order to monitor the victims’ whereabouts and private information. A stalking victim should regularly check electronic devices and computers for any possible indication that they may have been tampered with.
Statistics on Stalking
· About half (46%) of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11% of victims said they had been stalked for 5 years or more.
· Women were at greater risk than men for stalking victimization; however, women and men were equally likely to experience harassment.
· Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyber stalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).
· 46% of stalking victims felt fear of not knowing what would happen next.
· Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.
California laws related to stalking:
California has both criminal and civil stalking laws.
California law defines stalking as: Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, is guilty of the crime of stalking. The punishment for stalking can range from a misdemeanor and counseling for a first time offender and up to five years in prison for a repeat offender or an offender who violates a restraining order. (California Penal Code 646.9)
Related criminal laws:
Cal Pen Code § 653.2 Use of electronic communication to instill fear or to harass:
Every person who, with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of the other person's immediate family, by means of an electronic communication device, and without consent of the other person, and for the purpose of imminently causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment, by a third party, electronically distributes, publishes, e-mails, hyperlinks, or makes available for downloading, personal identifying information, including, but not limited to, a digital image of another person, or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person, which would be likely to incite or produce that unlawful action, is guilty of a misdemeanor…
Cal Pen Code § 653m. Obscene, threatening harassing, or annoying telephone calls
A person who makes telephone contacts with the intent to annoy or harass including obscene language or threat; or who makes repeated telephone calls or contact by means of an electronic communication device with the intent to annoy or harass is guilty of a misdemeanor.
*** "Electronic communication device" includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cell phones, computers, Internet Web pages or sites, Internet phones, hybrid cellular/Internet/wireless devices (smart phones), personal digital assistants (PDAs), video recorders, fax machines, or pagers.