We’ve all done it. We’ve met a cute guy or girl at a party and know nothing about this person except their name. A quick Facebook search of their name leads to thousands of results.
But, wait, this person is from your area and has mutual friends.
Looking at the thumbnail picture, you recognize the person you met at the party. You found him/her! Now you know this person’s last name. You know where they went to high school, their birthday, where this person works, and all of their connections.
Looking up a potential suitor on social media is a relatively harmless form of “stalking.” In fact, many people use it to background check a person before they risk meeting them for a date. Once you find who you were looking for and determine they are a safe bet for a date, you playfully brag to your friends about what an “expert stalker” you are.
Truth About Stalking
However, stalking is not a playful matter. It is a dangerous reality for over 6 million people in the United States who are stalked each year. Three out of 10 victims report emotional or psychological harm, and 81% of women stalked by a current or former partner were physically assaulted [1, 2]. Although statistics show that women are more likely to be stalked than men, this crime can affect anyone. Six percent of men will be stalked in their lifetime . Currently, there is a lack of research dealing with stalking and LGBTQ+ communities. Still, one study found that 15% of LGBTQ+ study participants had experienced stalking .
In some cases, stalking has even led to murder; this statement is especially true when dealing with men and their intimate, female ex-partner. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “76% of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first, while 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked.” Even more shocking is that 54% of women stalking victims reported the stalking to law enforcement before being murdered by their stalkers .
What is Stalking?
Stalking is usually defined as intimidating or threatening, repeated behavior. It is a type of obsessive harassment that could reasonably cause fear in the stalked person and may or may not lead to assault or murder .
Acts of stalking often start small, like sending numerous direct messages to the victim’s social media sites, but can quickly escalate into in-person surveillance of the victim, among other things.
If you believe you are being stalked or are curious to know signs to look out for, here are some methods stalkers may utilize:
- Making unwanted phone calls to your home or work
- Sending unwanted texts, direct messages, or emails continuously with no response
- Seemingly knowing your schedule or where you will be without any legitimate reason.
- Frequent appearances in places you are, like work or school, when they have never been there before stalking or have no reason to be there.
- Stealing or asking for your property
- Sending unwanted gifts
- Driving or walking around places you frequent
- Becoming friends with people you associate with
- Researching you on social media or public records
- Asking around about you to people in your social circle
- Taking pictures or videos of you or collecting photos of you off your social accounts
- Talking about you to others as if you are friends or intimate partners even though you aren’t
- Attempting to gain access to your private accounts
- Attempting to gain access to your residence, car, or other private places
What does a stalker look like?
While mainstream movies and TV shows often depict a stalker as strange and a loner with a false sense of reality, that is not always the case. A stalker could be anyone– the charming football player with lots of friends, an ex-girlfriend who can’t seem to let go, the guy you met at the party last week.
There are no prerequisites for stalking behavior. Some characteristics that many stalkers share, according to onelove, include:
- Gets jealous easily
- Narcissistic behavior
- Falls intensely “in-love” overnight
- Lacks accountability for actions
- Values having control over situations and people
- Often views themselves as a victim
- Can be socially awkward
- Refuses to take “no” as an answer
- Unpredictable–switches back and forth between love and rage
- Hard time recognizing the difference between fantasy and reality
- Sense of entitlement and hard time accepting rejection
What are the Types of Stalkers?
Stalkers broadly fall into one of two categories:
1) Simple obsession– This is the most common type of stalker. Stalkers in this category knew their victim personally, often intimately, before engaging in stalking . Usually, the simple obsession stalker is an ex-partner who refuses to let go of the relationship. They attempt to exert power over the victim and boost their own self-esteem through stalking behavior.
2) Love obsession– This type of stalker has a false sense of reality. They do not know their victim personally; the victim could be a complete stranger or someone they have met casually. The stalker develops an obsession, often feeling “in love” with their victim. This type of stalking is commonly associated with celebrity victims .
Stalkers can also be classified into 5 different stalker types. Knowing the kind of stalker you are dealing with can aid in what kind of intervention you should choose.
This stalker is usually socially awkward and intellectually lacking. This stalker picks strangers or acquaintances as their victims and believes that they can convince the victim to date or hook up with them. An incompetent stalker, as the name suggests, does not always realize their stalking is unwanted or causing distress.
This person was either rejected by a potential date or recently went through a breakup with the victim. They use stalking as a form of staying close to their victim in hopes of reconciliation or revenge.
This person holds the belief that they have been mistreated. They usually have a mental illness and narcissistic characteristics. They use stalking as a way to gain power over their victim and get revenge for the “mistreatment.”
This person is likely sex-obsessed. They often have a history of sexual misconduct. They are stalking as a way to “prep” for their eventual sexual attack.
This person typically has a false sense of reality, believing that their victim will fall in love with them or is already in love with them. This is the most common type of celebrity stalker.
What can I do?
By taking the time to read this article, you educate yourself about what stalking behavior is and the different types of stalkers. This allows you to remain vigilant and alert to these behaviors in your own life. You will be more likely to recognize if you are being stalked and determine possible explanations for the stalking.
If you believe you are a victim, here are some tips:
- Make it clear to your stalker that their contact is unwanted. Avoid all future contact with the stalker.
- Document everything– emails, phone calls, text messages, any sort of contact with the stalker.
- Inform people close to you about your stalker, including a description and a name, if you know it.
- Protect your privacy by making sure your social media accounts are private. Turn off your location services on mobile apps. Ensure you lock your car and house doors.
- Alternate routes. Try to switch things up to predict where you will be at what time.
- Consider contacting the police and getting a protective order against your stalker.
- As always, if you feel like you are in danger, call 9-1-1.
More resources for victims of stalking:
- National Center for Victims of Crime provides more resources and information about stalking for victims and practitioners.
- VictimConnect Resource Center: A referral helpline (in the form of a call line, live chat, or online website resources) that informs victims of a crime of their rights and options.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: A 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic abuse, including stalking. They offer resources and information, such as a stalking safety plan.
- WomensLaw provides advice on the legal aspect of stalking. This includes finding the stalking laws for your state and where to look for information about a restraining order. This website is for any victim of stalking, not just women.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2017, Jan 30). Quick guide to stalking: 16 important statistics, and what you can do about it. https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/quick-guide-to-stalking-16-important-statistics-and-what-you-can-do-about-it
- Manner, C. (2020). Inside the mind of a stalker. Onelove. https://www.joinonelove.org/learn/inside-the-mind-of-a-stalker/
- Dana. (2020). Stalking safety planning. National Domestic Violence Hotline. https://www.thehotline.org/resources/stalking-safety-planning/
- Judicial Education Center. (2021). Categories of stalking. http://jec.unm.edu/education/online-training/stalking-tutorial/categories-of-stalking
- Knoll, J., & Resnick, P. J. (2007). Stalking intervention: Know the 5 stalker types, safety strategies for victims. Current Psychiatry, 6 (5), 31-38. https://cdn.mdedge.com/files/s3fs-public/Document/September-2017/0605CP_Article2.pdf
- Safe Horizon. (2020). Stalking statistics and facts. https://www.safehorizon.org/get-informed/stalking-statistics-facts/#definition/
- Langenderfer-Magruder, L., Walls, N. E., Whitfield, D. L., Kattari, S. K., & Ramos, D. (2020). Stalking Victimization in LGBTQ Adults: A Brief Report. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 35(5–6), 1442–1453. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260517696871