January is National Stalking Awareness Month. There is a lot of misunderstanding about stalking; it is important to understand what stalking is and what it is not.
We joke about stalking all the time. Stalking someone is normal for my friends.
Jokes about stalking are common. Stalking type behaviors, especially for young people in high school or college, may seem normal.
It may be fine to text or call someone 50 times a day. It may be fine to feel like someone is following you because you keep noticing them everywhere you go. It may be fine for your boyfriend or someone who wants to date you to wait for you somewhere you didn’t think they would be.
However, it is not okay when these kinds of things are unwanted, repeated and make you afraid or concerned for your safety or the safety of someone close to you. That is when it crosses the line to stalking.
Stalking is a deliberate set of tactics used to scare, annoy, harass, sabotage or control their target. Even if your friends or others tell you not to be afraid or concerned, you should always trust your instincts and take precautions if this is happening to you.
Stalking is just about somebody romantically trying to pursue his or her object of desire.
Pursuing someone for a date often entails repeated and potentially persistent contact attempts especially when the other person does not seem initially receptive. This behavior appears to overlap with some aspects of stalking.
In fact, movies often portray the persistent male as the one who eventually wins over his love interest in the end. So, yes, sometimes individuals who are trying to establish or maintain a relationship engage in repeated texts, Facebook postings, phone calls and maybe even following someone around.
However, it crosses the line when it becomes unwanted and when it causes fear or concern for safety in the person being targeted with this kind of attention.
Celebrities are more likely to experience stalking than someone I know personally.
We have all heard about celebrity stalking such as the cases of Erin Andrews, Selena Gomez, Madonna and David Letterman. While stalking does happen to celebrities, politicians and others in the media, it also commonly happens to people not in the public eye.
For example, a random household survey of regular people (non-celebrities) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men had been stalked and were frightened by the stalking.
In fact, college students are at high risk of being stalked.
Stalking is creepy and annoying, but not dangerous.
Stalking is creepy and annoying — but it can also be dangerous. Stalkers can become violent and should be taken seriously.
In fact, stalking is a crime in all 50 states.
The specific motives of stalkers are not all that clear. Some researchers speculate that stalkers are obsessed with the target, feel angry and want revenge, want to establish or maintain a relationship or are looking for any kind of attention from the target, including fear.
Typically, it is committed by people we know and should be able to trust — current or ex-partners, classmates, co-workers and other acquaintances.
Recent research by UK professor Dr. TK Logan and her colleagues shows that stalking by a controlling, jealous and violent boyfriend is especially dangerous.
Specifically, some research shows that partner stalkers make more violent threats and are more likely to act on those threats than stalkers who do not target partners or ex-partners.
However, being stalked by anyone whether they are a stranger, an acquaintance or a current or ex-partner can be dangerous.
Modern technology is too expensive and confusing for most stalkers to use.
Using the computer to stalk and harass is common — often referred to as cyber-stalking.
Additionally, surveillance technology can be purchased for a relatively small amount of money and is often used in creative ways.
If you ignore stalking or confront the stalker, it will stop.
Ignoring or confronting the stalker often does not work and may even increase the danger. It is important to remember that each situation is different and you may want to work with a professional to develop a safety plan.
For more information you can call the UK police at 859-257-1616, the Lexington Police at 911 or 859-258-3600, UK Violence Intervention and Prevention Center at 859-257-3574 or the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program at 800-544-2022.
Dr. TK Logan is a professor in the Department of Behavioral Science, College of Medicine and the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. Melanie O. Matson is director of the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center. This is the first in a series of three articles about stalking. Email firstname.lastname@example.org