Cyberstalking A Case Study Of Serial Harassment In The Uk Lyrics

"Stalker" redirects here. For other uses, see Stalker (disambiguation).

For harassment-related policies on Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Harassment.

Stalking is unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group towards another person. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person or monitoring them. The term stalking is used with some differing definitions in psychiatry and psychology, as well as in some legal jurisdictions as a term for a criminal offense.

According to a 2002 report by the U.S. National Center for Victims of Crime, "virtually any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking",[1] although in practice the legal standard is usually somewhat more strict.


The difficulties associated with defining this term exactly (or defining it at all) are well documented.[2]

Having been used since at least the 16th century to refer to a prowler or a poacher (Oxford English Dictionary), the term stalker was initially used by the media in the 20th century to describe people who pester and harass others, initially with specific reference to the harassment of celebrities by strangers who were described as being "obsessed".[3] This use of the word appears to have been coined by the tabloid press in the United States.[4] As time went by, the meaning of stalking changed and incorporated individuals being harassed by their former partners.[5] Pathé and Mullen describe stalking as "a constellation of behaviours in which an individual inflicts upon another repeated unwanted intrusions and communications".[6] Stalking can be defined as the willful and repeated following, watching and/or harassing of another person. Unlike other crimes, which usually involve one act, stalking is a series of actions that occur over a period of time.

Although stalking is illegal in most areas of the world, some of the actions that can contribute to stalking can be legal, such as gathering information, calling someone on the phone, sending gifts, emailing, or instant messaging. They become illegal when they breach the legal definition of harassment e.g. an action such as sending a text is not usually illegal, but is illegal when frequently repeated to an unwilling recipient. In fact, United Kingdom law states the incident only has to happen twice when the stalker should be aware their behavior is unacceptable e.g. two phone calls to a stranger, two gifts, following the victim then phoning them, etc.[7]

The Violence Against Women Act of 2005, amending a United States statute, 108 Stat. 1902 et seq, defined stalking as "engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to—

(A) fear for his or her safety or the safety of others;
(B) suffer substantial emotional distress."[8]

Psychology and behaviors

People characterized as stalkers may be accused of having a mistaken belief that another person loves them (erotomania), or that they need rescuing.[7] Stalking can sometimes consist of an accumulation of a series of actions which in themselves can be legal, such as calling on the phone, sending gifts, or sending emails.[9]

Stalkers may use threats and violence to frighten their victims. They may also engage in vandalism and property damage or make physical attacks that are mostly meant to frighten. Less common are sexual assaults.[7]

In the UK, for example, most stalkers are former partners and evidence indicates that the mentally ill stalking type of behaviour propagated in the media occurs in only a minority of cases of alleged stalking.[10] A UK Home Office research study on the use of the Protection from Harassment Act stated: "The study found that the Protection from Harassment Act is being used to deal with a variety of behaviour such as domestic and inter-neighbour disputes. It is rarely used for stalking as portrayed by the media since only a small minority of cases in the survey involved such behaviour."[10]

Psychological effects on victims

Disruptions in daily life necessary to escape the stalker, including changes in employment, residence and phone numbers, may take a toll on the victim's well-being and lead to a sense of isolation.[11]

According to Lamber Royakkers:

"Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom they have no relationship (or no longer have). Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect)."[9]

Stalking as a close relationship

Stalking has also been described as a form of close relationship between the parties, albeit a disjunctive one where the two participants have opposing goals rather than cooperative goals. One participant, often a woman, likely wishes to end the relationship entirely, but may find herself unable to easily do so. The other participant, often but not always a man, wishes to escalate the relationship. It has been described as a close relationship because the duration, frequency, and intensity of contact may rival that of a more traditional conjunctive dating relationship.[12]

Types of victims

Based on their work with stalking victims for eight years in Australia, Mullen and Pathé identified different types of stalking victims dependent on their previous relationship to the stalker. These are:[5]

  • Prior intimates: Victims who had been in a previous intimate relationship with their stalker. In the article, Mullen and Pathé describe this as being "the largest category, the most common victim profile being a woman who has previously shared an intimate relationship with her (usually) male stalker." These victims are more likely to be exposed to violence being enacted by their stalker especially if the stalker had a criminal past. In addition, victims who have "date stalkers" are less likely to experience violence by their stalkers. A "date stalker" is considered an individual who had an intimate relationship with the victim but it was short-lived.[5]
  • Casual acquaintances and friends: Amongst male stalking victims, most are part of this category. This category of victims also includes neighbor stalking. This may result in the victims' change of residence.[5]
  • Professional contacts: These are victims who have been stalked by patients, clients, or students whom they have had a professional relationship with. Certain professions such as health care providers, teachers, and lawyers are at a higher risk for stalking.[5]
  • Workplace contacts: The stalkers of these victims tend to visit them in their workplace which means that they are either an employer, employee, or a customer. When victims have stalkers coming to their workplace, this poses a threat not only to the victims' safety but to the safety of other individuals as well.[5]
  • Strangers: These victims are typically unaware of how their stalkers began stalking because typically these stalkers form a sense of admiration for their victims from a distance.[5]
  • The famous: Most of these victims are individuals who are portrayed heavily on media outlets but can also include individuals such as politicians and athletes.[5]


According to one study, women often target other women, whereas men generally only stalk women.[13][14] However, a January 2009 report from the United States Department of Justice reports that "Males were as likely to report being stalked by a male as a female offender. 43% of male stalking victims stated that the offender was female, while 41% of male victims stated that the offender was another male. Female victims of stalking were significantly more likely to be stalked by a male (67%) rather than a female (24%) offender." This report provides considerable data by gender and race about both stalking and harassment.[15] The data for this report was obtained via the 2006 Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Department of Justice.[16] In an article by Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling she discusses how gender plays a role in the difference between stalkers and victims. She says, "gender is associated with the types of emotional reactions that are experienced by recipients of stalking related events, including the degree of fear experienced by the victim." In addition, she mentions how gender also affects how police handle a case of stalking, how the victim copes with the situation, and how the stalker might view their behavior. Next, she discusses how victims might view certain form of stalking as normal because of how gender influences the acceptability of certain behaviors. It is also important to note that she mentions how in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States strangers are viewed as more dangerous when it comes to stalking than a former partner. Media is also important to focus on because media portrays stalking amongst men as acceptable hence influencing men into thinking it is normal. Since gender roles are socially constructed, sometimes men don't report stalking. She also mentions coercive control theory, "future research will be needed to determine if this theory can predict how changes in social structures and gender-specific norms will result in variations in rates of stalking for men versus women over time in the United States and across the world."[17]

Types of stalkers

Psychologists often group individuals who stalk into two categories: psychotic and nonpsychotic.[3] Stalkers may have pre-existing psychotic disorders such as delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophrenia. Most stalkers are nonpsychotic and may exhibit disorders or neuroses such as major depression, adjustment disorder, or substance dependence, as well as a variety of Axis IIpersonality disorders (such as antisocial, borderline, dependent, narcissistic, or paranoid). Some of the symptoms of "obsessing" over a person may be characteristic of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. The nonpsychotic stalkers' pursuit of victims can be influenced by various psychological factors, including anger, hostility, projection of blame, obsession, dependency, minimization, denial, and jealousy. Conversely, as is more commonly the case, the stalker has no antipathic feelings towards the victim, but simply a longing that cannot be fulfilled due to deficiencies either in their personality or their society's norms.[18]

In "A Study of Stalkers" Mullen et al. (2000)[19] identified five types of stalkers:

  • Rejected stalkers follow their victims in order to reverse, correct, or avenge a rejection (e.g. divorce, separation, termination).
  • Resentful stalkers make a vendetta because of a sense of grievance against the victims – motivated mainly by the desire to frighten and distress the victim.
  • Intimacy seekers seek to establish an intimate, loving relationship with their victim. Such stalkers often believe that the victim is a long-sought-after soul mate, and they were 'meant' to be together.
  • Incompetent suitors, despite poor social or courting skills, have a fixation, or in some cases, a sense of entitlement to an intimate relationship with those who have attracted their amorous interest. Their victims are most often already in a dating relationship with someone else.
  • Predatory stalkers spy on the victim in order to prepare and plan an attack – often sexual – on the victim.

In addition to Mullen et al., Joseph A. Davis, Ph.D., an American researcher, crime analyst, and university psychology professor at San Diego State University investigated, as a member of the Stalking Case Assessment Team (SCAT), special unit within the San Diego District Attorney's Office, hundreds of cases involving what he called and typed "terrestrial" and "cyberstalking" between 1995 and 2002. This research culminated in one of the most comprehensive books written to date on the subject. It is considered the "gold standard" as a reference to stalking crimes, victim protection, safety planning, security and threat assessment published by CRC Press, Inc., in August, 2001.[20]

The 2002 National Victim Association Academy defines an additional form of stalking: The vengeance/terrorist stalker. Both the vengeance stalker and terrorist stalker (the latter sometimes called the political stalker) do not, in contrast with some of the aforementioned types of stalkers, seek a personal relationship with their victims but rather force them to emit a certain response. While the vengeance stalker's motive is "to get even" with the other person whom he/she perceives has done some wrong to them (e.g., an employee who believes is fired without justification from their job by their superior), the political stalker intends to accomplish a political agenda, also using threats and intimidation to force his/her target to refrain and/or become involved in some particular activity, regardless of the victim's consent. For example, most prosecutions in this stalking category have been against anti-abortionists who stalk doctors in an attempt to discourage the performance of abortions.[21]

Many stalkers[quantify] fit categories with paranoia disorders. Intimacy-seeking stalkers often have delusional disorders involving erotomanic delusions. With rejected stalkers, the continual clinging to a relationship of an inadequate or dependent person couples with the entitlement of the narcissistic personality, and the persistent jealousy of the paranoid personality. In contrast, resentful stalkers demonstrate an almost "pure culture of persecution", with delusional disorders of the paranoid type, paranoid personalities, and paranoid schizophrenia.[19]

One of the uncertainties in understanding the origins of stalking is that the concept is now widely understood in terms of specific behaviors[22] which are found to be offensive and/or illegal. As discussed above, these specific (apparently stalking) behaviors may have multiple motivations.

In addition, the personality characteristics that are often discussed as antecedent to stalking may also produce behavior that is not stalking as conventionally defined. Some research suggests there is a spectrum of what might be called "obsessed following behavior." People who complain obsessively and for years, about a perceived wrong or wrong-doer, when no one else can perceive the injury—and people who cannot or will not "let go" of a person or a place or an idea—comprise a wider group of persons that may be problematic in ways that seem similar to stalking. Some of these people get extruded from their organizations—they may get hospitalized or fired or let go if their behavior is defined in terms of illegal stalking, but many others do good or even excellent work in their organizations and appear to have just one focus of tenacious obsession.[23]


Main articles: Cyberstalking and Cyberstalking legislation

Cyberstalking is the use of computers or other electronic technology to facilitate stalking. In Davis (2001), Lucks identified a separate category of stalkers who instead of a terrestrial means, prefer to perpetrate crimes against their targeted victims through electronic and online means.[24] Amongst college students, Ménard and Pincus found that men who had a high score of sexual abuse as children and narcissistic vulnerability were more likely to become stalkers. Out of the women who participated in their study, 9% were cyberstalkers meanwhile only 4% were overt stalkers. In addition, the male participants revealed the opposite, 16% were overt stalkers while 11% were cyberstalkers. Alcohol and physical abuse both played a role in predicting women's cyberstalking and in men, "preoccupied attachment significantly predicted cyber stalking".[25]

Stalking by groups

See also: Mobbing

According to a U.S. Department of Justice special report[15] a significant number of people reporting stalking incidents claim that they had been stalked by more than one person, with 18.2% reporting that they were stalked by two people, 13.1% reporting that they had been stalked by three or more. The report did not break down these cases into numbers of victims who claimed to have been stalked by several people individually, and by people acting in concert. A question asked of respondents reporting three or more stalkers by polling personnel about whether the stalking was related to co-workers, members of a gang, fraternities, sororities, etc., did not have its responses indicated in the survey results as released by the DOJ. The data for this report was obtained via the 2006 Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Department of Justice.[16]

According to a United Kingdom study by Sheridan and Boon,[26] in 5% of the cases they studied there was more than one stalker, and 40% of the victims said that friends or family of their stalker had also been involved. In 15% of cases, the victim was unaware of any reason for the harassment.

Over a quarter of all stalking and harassment victims do not know their stalkers in any capacity. About a tenth responding to the SVS did not know the identities of their stalkers. 11% of victims said they had been stalked for five years or more.[15]

False claims of stalking, "gang stalking" and delusions of persecution

See also: False accusations and Persecutory delusions

In 1999, Pathe, Mullen and Purcell wrote that popular interest in stalking was promoting false claims.[27] In 2004, Sheridan and Blaauw said that they estimated that 11.5% of claims in a sample of 357 reported claims of stalking were false.[28]

According to Sheridan and Blaauw, 70% of false stalking reports were made by people suffering from delusions, stating that "after eight uncertain cases were excluded, the false reporting rate was judged to be 11.5%, with the majority of false victims suffering delusions (70%)."[28] Another study estimated the proportion of false reports that were due to delusions as 64%.[29]

News reports have described how groups of Internet users have cooperated to exchange detailed conspiracy theories involving coordinated activities by large numbers of people called "gang stalking".[30] The activities involved are described as involving electronic harassment, the use of "psychotronic weapons", and other alleged mind control techniques. These have been reported by external observers as being examples of belief systems, as opposed to reports of objective phenomena.[31] Some psychiatrists and psychologists say "Web sites that amplify reports of mind control and group stalking" are "an extreme community that may encourage delusional thinking" and represent "a dark side of social networking. They may reinforce the troubled thinking of the mentally ill and impede treatment."[32][33]

A study from Australia and the United Kingdom by Lorraine Sheridan and David James[34] compared 128 self-defined victims of 'gang-stalking' with a randomly selected group of 128 self-declared victims of stalking by an individual. All 128 'victims' of gang-stalking were judged to be delusional, compared with only 3.9% of victims of individual-stalking. There were highly significant differences between the two samples on depressive symptoms, post-traumatic symptomatology and adverse impact on social and occupational function, with the self-declared victims of gang-stalking more severely affected. The authors concluded that "group-stalking appears to be delusional in basis, but complainants suffer marked psychological and practical sequelae. This is important in the assessment of risk in stalking cases, early referral to psychiatric services and allocation of police resources."[34]

Epidemiology and prevalence


According to a study conducted by Purcell, Pathé and Mullen (2002), 23% of the Australian population reported having been stalked.[35]


Stieger, Burger and Schild conducted a survey in Austria, revealing a lifetime prevalence of 11% (women: 17%, men: 3%).[36] Further results include: 86% of stalking victims were female, 81% of the stalkers were male. Women were mainly stalked by men (88%) while men were almost equally stalked by men and women (60% male stalkers). 19% of the stalking victims reported that they were still being stalked at the time of study participation (point prevalence rate: 2%). To 70% of the victims, the stalker was known, being a prior intimate partner in 40%, a friend or acquaintance in 23% and a colleague at work in 13% of cases. As a consequence, 72% of the victims reported having changed their lifestyle. 52% of former and ongoing stalking victims reported suffering from a currently impaired (pathological) psychological well-being. There was no significant difference between the incidence of stalking in rural and urban areas.

England and Wales

In 1998 Budd and Mattinson found a lifetime prevalence of 12% in England and Wales (16% female, 7% males).[37] In 2010/11 43% of stalking victims were found to be male and 57% female.[38]

According to a paper by staff from the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre, a unit established to deal with people with fixations on public figures, 86% of a sample group of 100 people assessed by them appeared to them to suffer from psychotic illness; 57% of the sample group were subsequently admitted to hospital, and 26% treated in the community.[39]

A similar retrospective study published in 2009 in Psychological Medicine based on a sample of threats to the Royal Family kept by the Metropolitan Police Service over a period of 15 years, suggested that 83.6% of the writers of these letters suffered from serious mental illness.[40]


Dressing, Kuehner and Gass conducted a representative survey in Mannheim, a middle-sized German city, and reported a lifetime prevalence of having been stalked of almost 12%.[41]

United States

Tjaden and Thoennes reported a lifetime prevalence (being stalked) of 8% in females and 2% in males (depending on how strict the definition) in the National Violence Against Women Survey.[42]

Laws on harassment and stalking


Every Australian state enacted laws prohibiting stalking during the 1990s, with Queensland being the first state to do so in 1994. The laws vary slightly from state to state, with Queensland's laws having the broadest scope, and South Australian laws the most restrictive. Punishments vary from a maximum of 10 years imprisonment in some states, to a fine for the lowest severity of stalking in others. Australian anti-stalking laws have some notable features. Unlike many US jurisdictions they do not require the victim to have felt fear or distress as a result of the behaviour, only that a reasonable person would have felt this way. In some states, the anti-stalking laws operate extra-territorially, meaning that an individual can be charged with stalking if either they or the victim are in the relevant state. Most Australian states provide the option of a restraining order in cases of stalking, breach of which is punishable as a criminal offence. There has been relatively little research into Australian court outcomes in stalking cases, although Freckelton (2001) found that in the state of Victoria, most stalkers received fines or community based dispositions.


Section 264 of the Criminal Code, titled "criminal harassment",[43] addresses acts which are termed "stalking" in many other jurisdictions. The provisions of the section came into force in August 1993 with the intent of further strengthening laws protecting women.[44] It is a hybrid offence, which may be punishable upon summary conviction or as an indictable offence, the latter of which may carry a prison term of up to ten years. Section 264 has withstood Charter challenges.[45]

The Chief, Policing Services Program, for Statistics Canada has stated:

"... of the 10,756 incidents of criminal harassment reported to police in 2006, 1,429 of these involved more than one accused."[46]


The German Criminal Code (§ 238 StGB) penalizes Nachstellung, defined as threatening or seeking proximity or remote contact with another person and thus heavily influencing their lives, with up to three years of imprisonment. The definition is not strict and allows "similar behaviour" to also be classified as stalking.


Article 222-33-2 of the French Penal Code (added in 2002) penalizes "Moral harassment," which is: "Harassing another person by repeated conduct which is designed to or leads to a deterioration of his conditions of work liable to harm his rights and his dignity, to damage his physical or mental health or compromise his career prospects," with a year's imprisonment and a fine of EUR15,000.


In 2000, Japan enacted a national law to combat this behaviour, after the murder of Shiori Ino.[47] Acts of stalking can be viewed as "interfering [with] the tranquility of others' lives" and are prohibited under petty offence laws.


In 2013, Indian Parliament made amendments to the Indian Penal Code, introducing stalking as a criminal offence.[48] Stalking has been defined as a man following or contacting a woman, despite clear indication of disinterest by the woman, or monitoring her use of the Internet or electronic communication. A man committing the offence of stalking would be liable for imprisonment up to three years for the first offence, and shall also be liable to fine and for any subsequent conviction would be liable for imprisonment up to five years and with fine.


Following a series of high-profile incidents that came to public attention in the past years, a law was proposed in June 2008, and became effective in February 2009 (D.L. 23.02.2009 n. 11), making a criminal offence under the newly introduced art. 612 bis of the penal code, punishable with imprisonment ranging from six months up to five years, any "continuative harassing, threatening or persecuting behaviour which: (1) causes a state of anxiety and fear in the victim(s), or; (2) ingenerates within the victim(s) a motivated fear for his/her own safety or for the safety of relatives, kins [sic], or others tied to the victim him/herself by an affective relationship, or; (3), forces the victim(s) to change his/her living habits". If the perpetrator of the offense is a subject tied to the victim by kinship or that is or has been in the past involved in a relationship with the victim (i.e. current or former/divorced/split husband/wife or fiancée), and/or if the victim is a pregnant woman or a minor or a person with disabilities, the sanction can be elevated up to six years of incarceration.[49][50][51][52]


In the Wetboek van Strafrecht there is an Article 285b[53] that considers stalking as a crime, actually an Antragsdelikt:

Article 285b:

1. He, who unlawfully systematically and deliberately intrudes someones personal environment with the intention to enforce the other to do something, not to do something or to tolerate something or to frighten, will be punished because of stalking. Maximum imprisonment is three years or a fine of the fourth category.
2. Prosecution will only happen when there is a complaint from him, against whom this crime has been committed (Antragsdelikt).


Article 208 of the 2014 Criminal Code states:-

Article 208: Harassment

1. The act of someone who repeatedly follows, without right or a legitimate interest, a person or his or her home, workplace or other place frequented, thus causing a state of fear.

2. Making phone calls or communication by means of transmission, which by frequent or continuous use, causes fear to a person. This shall be punished with imprisonment from one to three months or a fine if the case is not a more serious offense.

3. Criminal action is initiated by prior complaint of the victim.

United Kingdom

Already before the enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Telecommunications Act 1984 (now the Communications Act 2003) criminalised indecent, offensive or threatening phone calls and the sending of an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person. Before 1997 no specific offence existed in England and Wales but in Scotland incidents could be dealt with under pre-existing law with life imprisonment available for the worst offences

England and Wales

In England and Wales, "harassment" was criminalised by the enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which came into force on 16 June 1997. It makes it a criminal offence, punishable by up to six months' imprisonment, to make a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another on two or more occasions. The court can also issue a restraining order, which carries a maximum punishment of five years' imprisonment if breached. In England and Wales, liability may arise in the event that the victim suffers either mental or physical harm as a result of being harassed (or slang term stalked) (see R. v. Constanza).

In 2012, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, stated that the government intended to make another attempt to create a law aimed specifically at stalking behaviour.[54]

In May 2012, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 created the offence of stalking for the first time in England/Wales by inserting these offences into the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The act of stalking under this section is exemplified by contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means, publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person, monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, loitering in any place (whether public or private), interfering with any property in the possession of a person or watching or spying on a person.[55]


In Scotland, behaviour commonly described as stalking was already prosecuted as the Common Law offence of breach of the peace (not to be confused with the minor English offence of the same description) before the introduction of the statutory offence against s.39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010;[citation needed] either course can still be taken[56] depending on the circumstances of each case.[57] The statutory offence incurs a penalty of 12 months imprisonment or a fine upon summary conviction or a maximum of five years' imprisonment and/or a fine upon conviction on indictment; penalties for conviction for Breach of the Peace are limited only by the sentencing powers of the court thus a case remitted to the High Court can carry a sentence of imprisonment for life.

Provision is made under the Protection from Harassment Act against stalking to deal with the civil offence (i.e. the interference with the victim's personal rights), falling under the law of delict. Victims of stalking may sue for interdict against an alleged stalker, or a non-harassment order, breach of which is an offence.[citation needed]

United States

California was the first state to criminalize stalking in the United States in 1990[58] as a result of numerous high-profile stalking cases in California, including the 1982 attempted murder of actress Theresa Saldana,[59] the 1988 massacre by Richard Farley,[60] the 1989 murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer,[61] and five Orange County stalking murders, also in 1989.[60][62] The first anti-stalking law in the United States, California Penal Code Section 646.9, was developed and proposed by Municipal Court Judge John Watson of Orange County. Watson with U.S. Congressman Ed Royce introduced the law in 1990.[62][63] Also in 1990, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) began the United States' first Threat Management Unit, founded by LAPD Captain Robert Martin.

Within three years[62] thereafter, every state in the United States followed suit to create the crime of stalking, under different names such as criminal harassment or criminal menace. The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) was enacted in 1994 in response to numerous cases of a driver's information being abused for criminal activity, with prominent examples including the Saldana and Schaeffer stalking cases.[64][65] The DPPA prohibits states from disclosing a driver's personal information without permission by State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). As of 2011, stalking is an offense under section 120a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).[66] The law took effect on 1 October 2007.

Stalking is a controversial crime because a conviction does not require any physical harm.[67] The anti-stalking statute of Illinois is particularly controversial. It is particularly restrictive, by the standards of this type of legislation.[68]


The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence defines and criminalizes stalking, as well as other forms of violence against women.[69] The Convention came into force on 1 August 2014.[70]

Popular culture


Stalking has been a key plot element in a number of movies. Robert De Niro has notably played a stalker in at least four films.

  • In the 1962 film Cape Fear (1962), Robert Mitchum plays vengeful ex-convict Max Cady, who stalks and terrorizes his former lawyer (Gregory Peck), whom he blames for his imprisonment, and the lawyer's family.[71]
  • In Play Misty For Me (1971), a disc jockey (Clint Eastwood) has a one-night stand with a fan (Jessica Walter) but gets more than he bargained for when she begins trying to insert herself into his life and violently attacks anyone who gets in her way.[72]
  • Robert De Niro starred in Taxi Driver (1976), a film about troubled cab driver Travis Bickle, who is attracted to a pretty political campaign worker (Cybill Shepherd), who spurns his attentions after he takes her to a risque film; Bickle then stalks and plans to assassinate the senator she is campaigning for.[73]
  • In the made-for-TV movie Mad Bull (1977), Alex Karras—himself a sometime professional wrestler after his football career—played a "heel" wrestler trying to shed his kayfabe bad-guy image—only to be relentlessly stalked by a crazed fan mistaking the scripted and staged dramatics he saw in the ring to be reality and trying to kill the "evil" "Mad Bull".[74]
  • The Fan (1981) stars Lauren Bacall as a movie star being stalked by a deranged young man who considers himself a fan of hers but who is angered and turns violent when she ignores his impassioned love letters.[75] The movie was released five months after John Lennon was murdered by obsessed fan Mark David Chapman outside The Dakota, the famous New York City apartment building—coincidentally, also the real-life home of Lauren Bacall.[citation needed]
  • In The King of Comedy (1983), a black comedy, De Niro played Rupert Pupkin, a would-be comedian who tries to ingratiate himself with a famous talk-show host (Jerry Lewis), even fantasizing that the two are friends, and when that fails, he teams up with another stalker (Sandra Bernhardt) to kidnap the celebrity in order to appear on television and break into big-time show business.[76]
  • In Fatal Attraction (1987), a married man (Michael Douglas) has what he thinks is just a short weekend fling with another woman (Glenn Close)—who stalks him, his wife and daughter when he tries to break the affair off.[77]
  • The stalking theme was also played more for laughs in What About Bob? (1991), a comedy starring Bill Murray as an unstable psychiatric patient whose desperate need to be close to his new therapist (Richard Dreyfus)—even seeking out and meeting the doctor's family while they are away on vacation and ultimately charming them and winning them over to his cause—ends up literally driving the doctor crazy.[78]
  • In the 1991 remake Cape Fear, De Niro plays Max Cady and Nick Nolte plays the lawyer.[79]
  • The 1996 film The Fan (not a remake) stars De Niro as an obsessed sports fan who admires a baseball player (Wesley Snipes)—but who then stalks him and ultimately menaces him and his son.[80]


  • According to Hitchcock, The Stalkers Home Page is a website that "tries to be more pro-stalking than anti-stalking".[81]


  • The 1983 hit song "Every Breath You Take" by The Police is about someone who is jealous and possessive watching his ex-lover's every move.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Melanie" from the 1988 album Even Worse features a man telling a woman of his affection for her, but the lyrics gradually reveal that he is a stalker. Yankovic's song "Do I Creep You Out" from his 2006 album Straight Outta Lynwood is also about a stalker.
  • The 2000 song "Stan" by Eminem tells a fictional account of a male fan who becomes obsessed with Eminem to the point of stalking, and kills himself when the rapper doesn't reply to his letters or meet with him.
  • The 2013 song "Redneck Crazy" by American country music singer Tyler Farr is about a man who stalks both his unfaithful girlfriend and the man that she has been cheating on him with.[82]


See also


  1. ^National Center for Victims of Crime (Feb 2002). "Stalking Victimization". Office for Victims of Crime. 
  2. ^Sheridan, L. P.; Blaauw, E. (2004). "Characteristics of False Stalking Reports". Criminal Justice and Behavior. 31: 55–72. doi:10.1177/0093854803259235.  
  3. ^ abMullen, Paul E.; Pathé, Michele; Purcell, Rosemary (2000). Stalkers and Their Victims. Cambridge, United Kingdom [u.a.]: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66950-2. 
  4. ^Lawson-Cruttenden, 1996, "Is there a law against stalking?", New Law Journal/6736 pp. 418–420, cited in doi:10.1016/S1359-1789(02)00068-X
  5. ^ abcdefghMullen, Paul E.; Pathé, Michele (2002-01-01). "Stalking". Crime and Justice. 29: 273–318. doi:10.1086/652222. JSTOR 1147710. 
  6. ^Pathe, M.; Mullen, P. E. (1997). "The impact of stalkers on their victims". The British Journal of Psychiatry. 170: 12–17. doi:10.1192/bjp.170.1.12. PMID 9068768. 
  7. ^ abc"Stalking". Archived from the original on August 19, 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  8. ^Article Sec.(3)(a)(24), Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, Act No. H. R. 3402 of January 5, 2006 (in English). Retrieved on 12 February 2013. "STALKING.—The term 'stalking' means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to—(A) fear for his or her safety or the safety of others; or (B) suffer substantial emotional distress."
  9. ^ ab"CyberStalking: menaced on the Internet". Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  10. ^ abHarris, Jessica (2000), The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 – An Evaluation of its Use and Effectiveness(PDF), Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, ISSN 1364-6540, retrieved 20 October 2010 
  11. ^Abrams, Karen M.; Robinson, Gail Erlick (1 Sep 2008). "Comprehensive Treatment of Stalking Victims: Practical Steps That Help Ensure Safety". Psychiatric Times. 25 (10). 
  12. ^Spitzberg, Brian H.; Cupach, William R. (January 2002), "The Inappropriateness of Relational Intrusion", in Goodwin, Robin; Cramer, Duncan, Inappropriate Relationships: the Unconventional, the Disapproved, and the Forbidden, Psychology Press (published April 3, 2002), ISBN 0-80583-743-4 
  13. ^Purcell, R. "A Study of Women Who Stalk". American Journal of Psychiatry. 158 (12): 2056–2060. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.12.2056. 
  14. ^"Types of stalkers". Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  15. ^ abcBaum, Katrina; Catalano, Shannon; Rand, Michael (January 2009). Stalking Victimization in the United States(PDF) (Report). United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  16. ^ ab"SUPPLEMENTAL VICTIMIZATION SURVEY (SVS)"(PDF). United States Department of Justice. Archived from the original(PDF) on 28 August 2011. 
  17. ^Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Jennifer (2011-12-06). "Gender and Stalking: Current Intersections and Future Directions". Sex Roles. 66 (5-6): 418–426. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-0093-3. ISSN 0360-0025. 
  18. ^K. K. Kienlen, D. L. Birmingham, K. B. Solberg, J. T. O'Regan, and J. R. Meloy, "A comparative study of psychotic and nonpsychotic stalking", J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 25:3:317-334 (1997).
  19. ^ abPaul E. Mullen, Michele Pathé, Rosemary Purcell, and Geoffrey W. Stuart."A Study of Stalkers", Am J Psychiatry 156:1244–1249, August 1999.
  20. ^"Stalking Crimes and Victim Protection: Prevention, Intervention, Threat Assessment, and Case Management (Hardback) - Routledge". Retrieved 2016-01-06. 
  21. ^"National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook - Chapter 22 Special Topics - Section 4, Campus Crime and Victimization". Office for Victims of Crime. June 2002. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  22. ^as a US example, see January 2009 Special Report from the United States Department of Justice titled "Stalking Victimization in the United States", NCJ 224527
  23. ^(See Mary Rowe, "People With Delusions or Quasi-Delusions Who 'Won't Let Go'," Journal of the University and College Ombuds Association, Occasional Paper, Number 1, Fall 1994.)
  24. ^Davis, J. A. (2001). Stalking Crimes and Victim Protection, CRC Press.[page needed]
  25. ^Ménard, Kim S.; Pincus, Aaron L. (2012-07-01). "Predicting Overt and Cyber Stalking Perpetration by Male and Female College Students". Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 27 (11): 2183–2207. doi:10.1177/0886260511432144. ISSN 0886-2605. PMID 22203630. 
  26. ^Sheridan, Davies, Boon, "The Course and Nature of Stalking: A Victim Perspective", Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 40, Number 3, August 2001, pp. 215–234.
  27. ^Pathe, M.; Mullen, P. E; Purcell, R. "Stalking: false claims of victimisation". British Journal of Psychiatry 174: 170-172 (1999). 
  28. ^ abSheridan, L. P.; Blaauw, E. (2004). Characteristics of False Stalking Reports"; Criminal Justice and Behavior. 31, No. 1, 55-72. doi:10.1177/0093854803259235.

The aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein revelations has been depressing in that it has led people to canvass the opinion of Woody Allen, heartening in the testimonies heard that were previously ignored, dispiriting in the sloshing of the inevitable she-asked-for-it backwaters, cheering in the unleashed female solidarity. But it has also been unearthed a weird level of ignorance around the whole issue of sexual harassment. There has been the routine conflation with assault and then panicky addition of “alleged” to the end of every sentence, along with wild assumptions about its rarity and triviality. For the avoidance of doubt, this is the harassment 101.

What is sexual harassment?

The Equality Act of 2010 has this definition: “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.” It covers indecent or suggestive remarks, unwanted touching, requests or demands for sex and the dissemination of pornography. It is often portrayed as murky or ambiguous legislation, on the grounds that it’s hard to tell the difference between a bit of banter and a humiliating remark.

The issue does have areas of nuance but this isn’t one of them. The humiliation or intimidation of sexual harassment lies in making someone feel that their physical attributes are their main value to the workplace, which undermines any skills or talent or insights or hard work they may also have brought. So saying “you’ll do well in the organisation because you have big boobs” is harassment, even if a) you think it’s true, b) you personally are not a boob man, c) you didn’t mean it as an overture and d) everyone laughed. The test “how would I feel if it were said to me?” isn’t necessarily helpful, since there is context you may have missed, such as what it’s like to be routinely ignored in meetings until your point has been corroborated by three other men, and then congratulated on your big boobs.

Sex-based harassment relates to the sex of the target but isn’t necessarily sexual in nature.

How common is it?

A report conducted jointly by the TUC and Everyday Sexism found that 52% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, nearly a quarter had been touched without invitation, a fifth had experienced a sexual advance. An earlier study by the law firm Slater and Gordon found that 60% of women had experienced inappropriate behaviour and nearly half of respondents had been warned to expect problematic behaviour from a particular person when they arrived.

Why don’t women report it?

About one in five women do report it. Their outcomes are poor: 80%, according to the TUC report, found that nothing changed; 16% said that the situation worsened afterwards.

The coalition government introduced employment tribunal fees, which made discrimination cases prohibitively expensive, especially for low-paid workers, until the supreme court ruled them illegal earlier this year. “The only reason that was overturned,” says Frances O’Grady, head of the TUC, “was because Unison had the clout and the money to take that decision to the supreme court. I would say to the government: ‘OK, you should be taking out full-page adverts in women’s magazines and newspapers to tell women what their rights now are.’ Because that decision in 2013 left women with no prospect of exercising their rights.”

Many women never report harassment because of the cultural context they are stepping into, one in which, says the writer and feminist activist Beatrix Campbell, “there’s a knowledge of and tolerance of sexual harassment, that makes women’s journeys through public space always a little bit hazardous. I think the people who talk about this stuff as if it’s nothing forget how heartbreakingly sorrowful we feel about that and how ashamed. The other structural conversation to have about this, apart from power, is shame. I am overwhelmed by hearing these women’s stories. Recognising them, their sense of shame, knowing that their entry into the public world is marked for ever by that. I think the politics of humiliation, which is at the centre of all this, has been erased from the discourse. It can’t be underestimated, because you were in that room, he did put his hands on your body. Even if you escaped, the point is that you were there.”

Why would a woman end up alone in Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room?

A few practical reasons: for instance, she had been lied to, told there was a party there or started off in a group that had then evaporated; meetings are routinely held in hotel rooms in the entertainment industry; the junior party in any given business meeting rarely has a decisive say over where it’s held. But really, the slide from civilised interaction into threatening behaviour is all in the hands of the aggressor. There are no formal waypoints, where consent is understood before moving to the next waypoint. Harassment isn’t like a date with a communication failure. However, the fact that this question is asked contributes to the shame Campbell describes and builds the wall of silence. So it is an illuminating question, in a roundabout way.

Is there a typical target, or a typical harasser?

Often the target of the harassment has low power in the workplace, whether by dint of a temporary or precarious contract or being young. The Equal Opportunities Commission (as was) found in 2002 that the majority of harassment cases taken to tribunal were by people who had been in the workplace for less than a year. O’Grady says: “We believe that there is a clear association between harassment and women who are on zero-hours contracts who will just not get offered work again if they kick up a fuss. That is crude power operating in the workplace.”

The victims of harassment are often framed as “vulnerable” for this reason, which is true in the sense that a lone shed on a moor with no surrounding buildings is vulnerable to a very strong wind. But this has become a way of saying that if only women were a bit more robust, it wouldn’t happen. In fact, there is nothing inherently fragile about a woman who is young and can’t afford to lose her job.

Campbell refers to the work of criminologist Betsy Stanko, mapping the female victims of male violence, to explain the vulnerability narrative. “She isn’t saying that these women are vulnerable and men only target certain kinds of women. What it tells us is that cultures of masculinity that are interested in sexual abuse of women, they create the context in which that powerless woman is accessible, and in any subsequent moment, will continue to be powerless.”

Powerlessness has no single source – Terry Crews has recounted his harassment by a senior Hollywood executive, as has James van der Beek; the operative vulnerability was race and age, respectively. The harassers are overwhelmingly male, and in a position of authority over the target.

What’s a structural imbalance of power?

Natasha Walter, feminist author and campaigner, says: “People often misunderstand patriarchy as a totalitarian system, in which all the women feel powerless all the time, and all the men feel powerful all the time. That isn’t how it works, a lot of women do feel powerful and a lot of men don’t.” The imbalance doesn’t necessarily manifest in every interaction; rather, a large structural inequality interlocks with an individual interpersonal moment. Women, culturally, are evaluated by their appearances, so when women individually are harassed, that feeds into a wider awareness that their voices won’t be heard and their view won’t be understood.

Walter continues: “It’s hard for us to battle it without turning into a stereotype of the feminist. As soon as you say, ‘You’ve got to take the cultural denigration of women seriously’, you get the Woody Allen reaction: ‘Every man who winks at a woman is going to be scared of the lawyers.’ It’s quite easy to make an act sound trivial once it’s decontextualised. A wink from a greengrocer is different from a wink from somebody who could fire you, or has contrived some way to catch you on your own, or has any other mutually understood circumstantial dominance over you.

“The other hard one,” Walter continues, “which I think is why the Weinstein story is so compelling to us, is that we feed off that culture. We value those actresses party because they’re so young, beautiful and sexy. How do we enjoy our sexuality without buying into a culture in which women are downgraded, reduced to that and nothing else?”

Second-wave feminism of the 70s and 80s could have had the answers: it was a period when, says Campbell, “feminist ideas became the language of common sense. Then, capitalism begins to liquidate the conditions in which we could effect serious structural change. That doesn’t stop clever girls getting good degrees. What it does mean is that the world which could have been illuminated and transformed by women’s experience, that stops. We can’t underestimate how defended all of the institutions are against what they know happens all the time, and how resistant they are to listening to the shared experience of women.”

How easy is it to bring a case of sexual harassment to an employment tribunal in the UK?

Leaving aside sexual assault, which would be dealt with in a criminal court, harassment cases are brought under the Equality Act. Juliette Franklin, a senior associate at Slater and Gordon, says that “unfortunately, it tends to be one person’s word against another, because if you’re setting out to intimidate, you do that when there’s no one else around”. Then it will be a case of looking at corroborating evidence. “Has any of this found its way into email correspondence? Can you keep a diary or some kind of record, perhaps send yourself an email so you’ve got something contemporaneous. Have you contacted HR and raised a grievance?”

There’s a tolerance of sexual harassment, that makes women’s journeys through public space always a little bit hazardous

Companies may have lots of procedures in place that nobody ever follows: they may have a big push on equality training, but nobody has been trained for 10 years.

“An awful lot of cases settle before they get to court, a level of compensation might be paid, other measurements might be put in place,” says Franklin. “That can be biggest benefit of it, making sure someone is taken to task for their behaviour.” The civil system is adjudicated on the balance of probabilities: is it more likely than not that this has happened, and for this reason? It is not a notoriously difficult area in which to secure a victory, but “there’s a great deal to be gained from resolving it as soon as possible”.

Michael Newman, from the solicitors Leigh Day, says “it’s easy enough [to bring a case] as in, the law is there. It’s quite hard for people to decide to do it while they’re still employed by the company. What I typically see is someone bringing an unfair dismissal case, and they’ll reel off a series of harassment incidents which, on their own, they never would have gone to a lawyer about, they’ll just have put up with it. They’d have found it pretty awful, but they couldn’t see a way of reasonably bringing a claim. It’s a very nuclear option.” Sometimes the HR department is inadequate, but often “the individual is so senior that they can operate in relative isolation”. A small employer may not have an HR department. “A garage in Scunthorpe with three people in it … I wouldn’t say it’s particular to any sector, or any large or small employer. Sadly, it’s pretty universal. And often I’ll get a bundle of cases: ‘Not only did you make me redundant while I was pregnant, you also did this a year ago.” The problem with that is the event has to be within the past three months.

Who should solve this?

O’Grady says: “Unions can be one important route to dealing with the problem, because, by definition, it’s an opportunity for working people to people to band together and rebalance the power dynamic at work. We’ve got lots of policies on sexual harassment, we’ve been churning out guidance, giving training, we have a couple of hundred thousand elected workplace reps who are trained on how to tackle discrimination and harassment at work. But it really does come down to employers, unions and government.” Campbell agrees: “It is now the job of the institutions to take responsibility for this. It’s about women saying: ‘I didn’t do this, you allowed him to do it.’ It’s our problem and their fault.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *