Personal Safety and Stalking

Stalking can be defined as wilful, malicious and repeated harassment of a person, putting them in fear of their safety. Such obsessive actions can be truly terrifying for the victim. Sometimes stalking takes the form of continuing phone calls, sending gifts, emailing, and/or texting. Although seemingly harmless, if the attention is unwanted, there is still stress on the victim.

The stalking of a high-profile celebrity is brought to the notice of the general public from time to time and attracts much interest and conjecture. However there are many others who lead generally uneventful lives but who for whatever reason become the victim of a stalker.

Unwelcome and intimidating intrusion can afflict many women coming out of a long term relationship, especially if that relationship has been violent. The internet, mobile phones and other technologies now allow stalkers to harass their victims without the need of loitering anywhere near the target. Hidden cameras, microphones and GPS tracking units are all utilised by some stalkers.

Stalkers can be grouped into several types

  • Rejected stalkers seek to reverse, avenge or correct a rejection. This might be a divorce, termination of employment, or separation. Those acting out of rejection are more likely to resort to violence than some other types. They are also the ones who continue to stalk for long periods of time.
  • Resentment can cause a person to stalk as a means of pursuing a vendetta of fear and distress. Those who perhaps have been sacked or evicted might harbour feelings of resentment. Holding a grudge could result in the stalker blaming another for their current problems. They then want to victimise the person they see as responsible for their situation.
  • Intimacy seekers might believe they and their victim are 'meant to be together' and seek to form a loving relationship. Stalkers seeking intimacy usually had trouble forming a relationship and are one group who are apt to seek inappropriate relationships with others such as their therapist or social worker.
  • Incompetent suitors have a fixation about a sought after partner. Such people may have poor social skills, particularly as far as the opposite sex is concerned. They often choose as their object of amorous attention a person who is already in a dating relationship.
  • Predatory stalkers carry out surveillance with the aim of harming, perhaps sexually, their victim. Serial killers or rapists are most likely to come from this group.
  • Some stalking, labelled obsessive, malicious or unprovoked has no logic behind it. The stalker simply chooses someone they seek to harm.
  • The vengeance/terrorist stalker has been relatively recently identified as a stalker whose motive is to accomplish some agenda through threats and intimidation.

Stalking is not just restricted to men stalking women. Nor to women stalking men. Same gender stalking occurs as does stalking by two or more people. A 2009 study by the Department of Justice in the USA reported that 43% of male victims were stalked by women and 41% of male victims stalked by another male. Female victims reported stalking by males (67%) as opposed to females (24%).


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Women who have fled from violent relationships could be in grave danger if the partner begins a pattern of stalking. Many women eventually harmed by their ex-partner had been stalked in the first instance. Generally it is the man who does the stalking. The reasons are varied. Some cannot accept that the woman has left. There may be a great deal of anger, hostility and resentment. If they have been a controlling person, this control is seen as lost and they may not like the decisions that are being made without them.

Mental health professionals are also at risk of stalkers as those with mental health issues often misinterpret the patient/therapist relationship. There may be problems disengaging from a therapist at the end of a course of treatment or the relationship may be misconstrued as being more than a business connection. If the patient then feels rejected, the result may be episodes of stalking.

Such stalking of professionals can affect their capacity to work efficiently. There may be anxiety not just about their own personal safely but also about the safety of their family and friends. Paradoxically, as seeking help for mental health issues becomes more accepted, so does the incidence of stalking of social workers and mental health professionals.

Anyone being stalked should take swift action to protect themselves from potential harm before the situation escalates and becomes dangerous. Assistance and advice should be sought promptly. It can be dangerous to confront the stalker, depending on their state of mind and motivation. Common to many cases of stalking is the fact that the stalker is known to the victim. It is common for there to have been a relationship between the victim and the perpetrator.

Treatment of stalking is complex and usually involves attempting to address the issues behind the behaviour.

If you believe you are being stalked, take steps now to ensure your safety. Britain now has a National Stalking Helpline which provides help and advice. In the USA, a Stalking Resource Center forms part of the National Resource Center for Victims of Crime. The Australian Institute of Criminology has several resources on various aspects of crime and crime victimisation including stalking.