January kicks off the new calendar year along with an important reminder as it’s recognized as National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking is something many victims and survivors of domestic violence must contend with as part of their abuser’s pattern of control and power, as former and current intimate partners often use stalking to terrorize their victims.

What Is Stalking?

Stalking is defined by the federal government as a course of conduct directed at an individual that “places that person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person; an immediate family [member] … of that person; or a spouse or intimate partner of that person; or causes, attempts to cause, or would reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress …” to that person, a family member or an intimate partner.

So, how prevalent is this behavior in the United States? Here’s two statistics to wrap your head around:

#1 A 2011 survey found 5.1 million women and 2.4 million men had been stalked the previous year.
#2 1 in every 6 women and 1 out of 19 men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime.

Many times, the stalker is someone the victim knows:

#3 Almost 3 out of 4 stalking victims know their stalkers in some capacity. The most common relationship between the victim and perpetrator is a current of former intimate partner.
#4 66% of female stalking victims were stalked by current or former intimate partners.

Why Stalking Matters

Stalking is often an indicator of other forms of violence.

#5 81% of women who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabitating partner were also physically assaulted by that partner, while 31% were sexually assaulted.

Our youngest populations are at the most risk.

#6 People aged 18-24 have the highest rate of stalking victimization.

State laws don’t always protect stalking victims.

#7 Although stalking is a crime in all 50 states, less than one-third of states classify stalking as a felony if it’s a first offense. This leaves stalking victims without protections afforded to victims of other violence crimes.

Stalking and Femicide

Not only is stalking often an indicator of other forms of violence, it has been linked to femicide, the murder of women and girls.

#8 76% of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first, while 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked.
#9 89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted before their murder were also stalked in the last year prior to their murder.
#10 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to the police before they were killed by their stalkers.

Impact on Victims

Stalking takes its toll emotionally, psychologically and even financially.

#11 1 in 7 stalking victims has been forced to move because of their victimization.
#12 Stalking victims suffer much higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social dysfunction than the general population.
#13 86% of victims surveyed reported their personalities had changed as a result of being stalked.
#14 37% of stalking victims fulfill the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and an additional 18% fulfilled all but one diagnostic criteria.
#15 1 in 4 stalking victims contemplated suicide.
#16 1 in 8 stalking victims has reported losing work because of the stalking. More than half of these victims reported losing 5 or more work days.

How You Can Help Stalking Victims

Looking to support stalking victims and make some changes on their behalf? Here’s where you can start on a grassroots level:

  • Encourage your state legislators to tighten stalking statutes so that stalking is both easier to prosecute and classified as a more serious crime.
  • Ask your legislators to update the federal domestic violence firearm prohibitor to including misdemeanor dating violence and misdemeanor stalking.  
  • Ask your members of Congress to support legislation providing additional funding for local program initiatives and other services to victims of stalking and domestic violence, like programs established by the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Research and support legislation encouraging domestic violence education for middle and high school students. An appropriate curriculum should include information about healthy relationships, domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and available resources.
  • Encourage local schools and youth programs to train teachers, school counselors and athletic coaches to recognize children and teens who are in violent situations. Provide educators with resources and prepare them to intervene in domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking situations.
  • Support programs in your community aimed at increasing domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking education, prevention and intervention.

If you or someone you know is experiencing stalking, the Stalking Resource Center has resources, including online “Help for Victims” information and a Victim Connect Helpline at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846).