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Stalking

It is a common misconception that all stalking victims are celebrities or young attractive women. Anyone can be a victim of stalking. Stalking victims include members of all nationalities, races, ages and genders, however most are women.

Stalking is not about romance or love. It is a crime of violence, control and intimidation.

There are currently stalking laws in all 50 states. Ohio's law regarding stalking (2903.211 O.R.C.) States:

"No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person."

Under current Ohio law, stalking victims may be able to obtain protection orders in Municipal Criminal Court, Domestic Relations Court or Common Pleas Court, depending on the relationship of the parties and whether or not criminal charges have been filed. All the identified protection orders may be enforced by law enforcement and may result in criminal charges.

Every stalking charge is based on at least two incidents and each incident must be provable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Statute or case law has not yet identified what constitutes "closely related in time". According to law, prosecution must be able to prove two or more threats of physical harm committed by the stalker or able to prove at least two incidents of behavior that has caused mental distress to the victim.

"Mental Distress" is generally defined as any condition or mental illness that involves some temporary substantial incapacity or mental illness or condition that would normally require clinical treatment. Mental distress is somewhat narrowly defined – it disrupts the victim's normal level of functioning - it does not mean the victim is upset or annoyed at the suspect's behavior.

Without signs of mental distress or a pattern of threats and/or threatening behavior, there is insufficient indication for a menacing by stalking charge. Other types of charges may be available when there is a lack of support for menacing by stalking charges. Such charges may include telephone harassment, menacing, criminal damaging, violation of a protection order and criminal trespass.

  • It is important to document all stalking behavior.
  • Keep a record of phone call recordings and save answering machine tapes.
  • Save letters, notes, or anything else left for or sent to you. Do not "return to sender."
  • Take photos of destroyed property or injuries caused by the stalker.
  • Collect statements from any witnesses and find out how they can be contacted.
  • Notify police of what is happening and have them file reports of each incident. Ask police to drive by your residence and place of employment more often.
  • Arrange for a "phone tap" to be placed on your phone line through your phone company.
  • Keep a log of every incident and phone call. You may download the Documentation for Stalking Situations (PDF, 569KB) form. Keep the log in a safe place. 

Contact the Victim Assistance Program if you are interested in obtaining a Menacing By Stalking Civil Protection Order.

Statistics

Eight percent of women and two percent of men in the United States have been stalked at some time in their lifetime (Tjaden, April 1998).

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, most female (77 percent) and male (64 percent) victims knew their stalker, while 23 percent of female victims, and 36 percent of male victims were stalked by a stranger (lbid).

Over the course of a year, 1,006,970 (1 percent) women, and 370,990 (0.4 percent) men were stalked (lbid).

According to a study conducted in Louisiana, 67 percent of stalking victims reported their situation to the police, 70 percent changed their usual behavior, 36 percent moved, 11 percent purchased a gun, and 11 percent obtained a protection order (Kohn, 1999). Based on analysis of the National Violence Against Women Survey results, it is estimated that 8.2 million women have been cyberstalked at some point in their lifetime, and one percent have been cyberstalked during the preceding one year (Cyberstalking, 1999).

According to a study by the University of Cincinnati, 25 percent of the stalking incidents among college women involve cyberstalking (Ibid).

A study of the relationship between stalking and intimate partner femicide found that 76 percent of femicide cases and 85 percent of attempted femicide cases involved at least one incident of stalking within one year of the murder (McFarlane, 1999).

Sixty-nine percent of femicide victims were stalked while in a relationship with their stalker, while for 88 percent of victims of femicide, stalking started once the relationship ended (Ibid).

More than 13 percent of the respondents in a national survey of college women indicated that they had been stalked. The average length of a stalking incident was 60 days (Fisher, 1999).

Additional External Resources

National
Stalking Behavior
Stalking Victims' Sanctuary
Stalking Resource Center
Cyber stalking

State & Local
National Center for Victims of Crime
Stalking Resource Center
Ohio State Legal Services Association

Reprinted, not in its entirety, from Crime and Victimization in America, Statistical Overview, National Center for Victims of Crime, 2000 edition.