What is Stalking?
Generally, stalking is thought of as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a person to feel fear for their safety. It does not necessarily involve physical contact but can escalate to such behavior. Stalkers can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, family members, or intimate partners. Stalking can be defined in several ways: by its general meaning; by the criminal statute; and by the Protection from Stalking Act.
In Kansas, as in most other states, stalking is a crime. Criminal stalking is engaging in “a course of conduct targeted at a specific person which would cause a reasonable person to fear for such person’s safety or the safety of a member of such person’s immediate family and the targeted person is actually placed in such fear.” K.S.A. 21-3438.
“Stalking” is defined differently for purposes of the Kansas Protection from Stalking Act. Under this Act, “stalking” is the “intentional harassment of another person that places the other person in reasonable fear for that person’s safety.” K.S.A. 60-31a01 et seq. For more information on stalking laws in Kansas or for legal advice, you should seek the assistance of an advocate or attorney. While this all may sound complicated, the important thing to keep in mind is this: If you believe someone is stalking you, consider seeking help. You could be in physical danger. There are several things you can do to try to increase your safety, some of which will be discussed in KCSDV’s Stalking brochure.
According to the Stalking Resource Center and recent statistics on stalking occurrences:
- 3.4 million people over the age of 18 are stalked each year in the United States.
- 3 in 4 stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.
- Persons aged 18-24 years experience the highest rate of stalking.
- 11% of stalking victims have been stalked for 5 years or more.
- 46% of stalking victims experience at least one unwanted contact per week.
- 1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology (such as email or instant messaging).
[Katrina Baum, et al., (2009). “Stalking Victimization in the United States,” (Washington D.C.: BJS, 2009).]
Impact of Stalking
Victimization Stalking victims respond to the stalking in a variety of ways. Some of the common reactions to being stalked include the following:
- Feeling fear of what the stalker will do.
- Feeling vulnerable, unsafe, and not knowing who to trust.
- Feeling anxious, irritable, impatient, or on edge.
- Feeling stressed, including having trouble concentrating, sleeping or remembering things.
- Feeling confused, frustrated or isolated because other people don’t understand why you are afraid.
[Stalking Resource Center (2010).]
What Can You Do If You Are Being Stalked?
There are no easy answers to this question. First and foremost, you should think about your safety. Here are some other things to consider:
- Report the stalking to your local law enforcement agency. While officers may not have enough evidence to arrest the stalker, it is important to develop this “official” record of the stalking behavior. If a law enforcement report is made, the information may become public.
- Trust your instincts and take threats seriously. Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are.
- Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you. Instead, let the “system” communicate with him through your attorney, a law enforcement officer, a probation officer, or through a protection order.
- A protection from stalking order may or may not be effective in ending the stalking. These orders may be most effective if issued when the stalking behavior first begins. They also appear to be most effective in communities where violations of the order are taken very seriously by law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges. If these situations do not apply to you, you may want to consider whether a protection order will help or hurt your situation. Call your local domestic violence/ sexual assault program in Kansas (see list) for further information and for a brochure explaining how to get a protection from stalking order.
- Keep evidence of all stalking behaviors, including the following:
- If you believe you may be in danger, develop a safety plan, taking the following into consideration:
- Contact an advocate. Advocates at sexual and domestic violence programs can assist you with a safety plan.
- Think about changing your routine.
- Keep critical phone numbers and contact information in a safe place.
- Keep critical documents (such as, immigration documents) in a safe place.
- Have a friend or relative go places with you.
- Decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work, school or somewhere else.
[Stalking Resource Center (2010).]
What Can You Do If Someone You Know Is Being Stalked?
Listen and be supportive. Don’t blame the victim for the crime or for the stalker’s behavior. Remember that every situation is different, and allow the person being stalked to make choices about how to handle it. It might also be helpful for you to find a trusted person to talk to about the situation. Additionally, you may consider taking steps to increase your own safety.
Help Increase Awareness About Stalking, So We Can All: Name It, Know It, Stop It
January 2020 marks the sixteenth annual National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the serious crime of stalking. Learn, teach, and share: https://www.stalkingawareness.org/stalking-awareness-month-2020/
- KCSDV’s brochure on stalking
- Information on technology-facilitated stalking: What you need to know by NNEDV
- The President’s message about National Stalking Awareness Month
- RAINN’s information about stalking
- National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Intimate Partner Stalking: Comparing Abusive Partners Who Do and Do Not Stalk
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s (NCADV) Facts About Domestic Violence and Stalking
- NSVRC’s blog post about the intersection of stalking and sexual assault
- Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s fact sheet on stalking and sexual assault
KANSAS CRISIS HOTLINE: 888-END-ABUSE | 888-363-2287