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The Crime of Stalking: How Big Is the Problem?

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 1997
4 pages
The National Violence Against Women Survey collected data from 8,000 women and 8,000 men aged 18 years or older on a broad range of issues related to violence, including stalking.
The survey was conducted between November 1995 and May 1996. The national sample of households was generated through random digit dialing. Interviews averaged 25 minutes and were conducted using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing system. Of those who started the interview, 97 percent of women and 98 percent of men completed it. To screen for stalking victimization, the survey asked about specific harassing and threatening behaviors respondents had repeatedly experienced from marital and cohabitating partners, friends, acquaintances, relatives, and strangers. The word "stalking" was not used in the survey. Findings indicated that stalking was a bigger problem than previously thought. Stalking was strongly linked to controlling behavior and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse perpetrated against women by intimate partners. About half of all female stalking victims reported their victimization to the police, and about 25 percent obtained a restraining order. Of those surveyed, 8 percent of women and 2 percent of men said they had been stalked at some point in their lives. Most victims knew their stalkers, women were significantly more likely to be stalked by an intimate partner, and only 21 percent of stalkers identified by female victims were strangers. On the other hand, men were significantly more likely to be stalked by a stranger or an acquaintance, and about 87 percent of stalkers were women. Women tended to be victimized by lone stalkers, but in 50 percent of male victimization cases the stalker had an accomplice, usually a friend or a girlfriend. Most victims were between 18 and 29 years of age when the stalking started. Both men and women reported that stalkers behaved in ways that induced fear, although they did not always make credible threats against their victims. The typical female victim thought she had been stalked because her assailant wanted to control her, scare her, or keep her in a relationship. A clear relationship existed between stalking and other emotionally controlling and physically abusive behavior. Although the stalking usually stopped within 1 to 2 years, victims experienced its social and psychological consequences long after. The authors conclude survey findings support the need for address confidentiality programs that encourage victims who are challenged with continued pursuit and unusual safety risks to develop personal safety plans.

Date Published: November 1, 1997