California passes first state legislation on stalking in 1990 By 1997, all 50 states had stalking laws.
Under Tennessee law, stalking: means a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested. T.C.A. § 39-17-315.
Definitions ● Course of conduct: a series of two or more separate non-continuous acts that show a continuity of purpose ● Harassment: conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress, and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress.
Unconsented contact: Includes, but is not limited to: ● Following a person ● Appearing at a person's workplace or residence ● Contacting a person by telephone ● Sending mail or electronic communications to the person ● Delivering an object to the person
Emotional distress ● means significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling. Stalking is a Class A misdemeanor.
Aggravated stalking Involves stalking and one of these: ● Displays a deadly weapon ● If the victim was less than age 18 and the stalker is at least 5 years older than the victim ● If the stalker has a prior conviction in the past seven years ● If the stalker makes a credible threat to the victim or victim’s family members ● If there is any court order (e.g. protective order) that is violated ● Aggravated stalking is a Class E felony. T.C.A. § 39-17-315.
Especially Aggravated Stalking Involves stalking or aggravated stalking and one of these: ● has previously been convicted of stalking or aggravated stalking involving the same victim or ● causes serious bodily injury to the victim or select members of their family ● Especially Aggravated Stalking is a Class C felony. T.C.A. § 39-17-315.
Stalking victims ● are eligible for protective orders and orders are enforced just like any protective order under the law T.C.A. §36-3-601
Stalking is different from other crimes: 1. It entails repeat victimization 2. It is partly defined by its impact on the victim: contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.
Impact of Stalking ● Severe psychological trauma ● Victims constantly on alert ● Dealing with stalking can consume tremendous energy ● Many seek psychological counseling. ● Symptoms tend to worsen with each new incident
Reactions ● Take steps to avoid being followed ● Screen calls and change personal information ● Temporary or permanent relocation ● Feel trapped by technology
Victim/Offender Relationship ● Stalking can occur: during a relationship after a relationship or in the absence of a relationship. ● Most stalking, however, is committed by individuals known to us and most is in the context of interpersonal violence.
Extent of the Problem ● 8% of American women and 2% of men have experienced stalking in their lifetime ● 78% of stalking victims are women and 94% of their stalkers are men ● About 3/4’s of the women knew their stalkers, most of whom were intimate partners (59%) ● Victims were most apt to report they were being stalked because stalker wanted them in a relationship ● On average, stalking lasted 18 months ● It is often a precursor to lethal violence.
Reporting ● Only about half reported to the police. ● Those who do not report do not think the matter is criminal, do not think the police can help them, or fear that reporting will make the stalker even more dangerous. ● Twenty percent of victims who reported stalking stated that the police did not act regarding their complaints. ● May minimize the risk a stalker poses or blame themselves for the stalker's behavior and fail to report.
Other Laws Related To Stalking Behavior protective/restraining orders; threats, assaults, and attempted murder; kidnapping; vandalism and other property crimes; theft; domestic violence; sexual assault; hate crimes; terrorism or terrorist threats; voyeurism; identity and/or utility theft; cruelty to animals; wiretapping.
● Most stalking appears to be related to battering/relationship violence ● Stalking laws are another way for victims to seek protection under the law ● Penalties may be stronger under stalking that other laws (e.g. violation of protective order) In sum:
Challenges for Police ● Not a single, obvious crime ● Can involve acts the police may perceive as part of everyday courtship ● Behaviors are complex, varied, and unpredictable. ● Stalkers are persistent and may not respond to official sanctions ● May see criminal justice system processes as a way to stay in contact with victims ● Effective investigations depend on gathering information from many sources.
Things that Assist Police ● Offender is known ● Numerous opportunities to observe the stalker's behavior and make an arrest. ● Leave much evidence to piece together ● Documentation increases success ● The sooner police can document stalking incidents, the greater the chance of bringing the offender to justice before a case escalates to lethal levels. ● Stalking logs can assist in this process.
Identify stalking cases early ● The sooner police identify stalking, the greater the chance of protecting the victim from physical harm. ● Ask victims if there are other related incidents ● Reviewing incident reports each day ● Examine protective orders for language suggesting repeated behavior ● Reviewing the calls for service history.
Getting effective victim input ● Actively engage victims in investigations. ● Victims' family members, neighbors, employers, coworkers, and others are also potentially important witnesses.
Ensuring that victims receive consistent, professional support services ● Counselors and victim advocates can help victims be effective witnesses and take proper steps to protect themselves. ● They can maintain frequent contact with victims and assist in many ways ● In addition, victim advocates can help police develop more effective anti-stalking policies and train officers to apply them.
Use a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach ● Stalking victims often require a broad range of services. ● A collaborative approach encourages quicker responses from the most appropriate resources.
Enforce all relevant laws ● Stalking statutes should be enforced in conjunction with all other relevant laws. ● Police can rely on laws against domestic violence, phone harassment, vandalism, voyeurism, trespass, court-order violations, and many other crimes to hold stalkers accountable and protect victims. ● Assist Victims with Safety
Measures of Effectiveness ● increased number of stalking complaints ● shorter time between the first and last stalking incidents ● reduced harm suffered by victims ● increased number charges are filed ● increased conviction rate ● increased number of arrests for violations of protective orders ● increased victim satisfaction with police handling of their cases ● increased victim perception of safety