Stalking is both a legal term and description of behavior that refers to the persistent following or tracking of a person beyond their wishes or consent. While stalking has long since been classified as a domestic violence crime, it is the one aspect of domestic violence that is at times more related to a mental health issue than to a belief and value system.
In 1997, Tjaden found that 8% of U.S. women and 2% of U.S. men had been victims of stalking. Fifty nine percent had been stalked by their current or former partners. The New Hampshire Statute(RSA 633:3-a) defines stalking as two or more violations of a restraining order. A first stalking offense is a misdemeanor while the second is a felony.
In 1999, Mullen reported a study of 145 stalkers in the American Journal of Psychiatry. They had been referred by the courts. Seventy nine percent of them were found to be male, 41 unemployed, 16% were currently partnered, 52% had never had long term relationships and 30% were currently separated or divorced. Forty one percent(41%) of these studied were assigned psychiatric diagnosis. Forty three (43%) were found to have a delusional disorder and 14% were diagnosed with schizophrenia with eroto manic delusions.
Thirty Percent(30%)of the stalkers stalked their expartners. 23% had a professional relationship with their victims. 20% stalked casual acquaintances, 11% stalked work relationships and their had been no prior contact between the stalkers and their victims in 14% of the cases.
The stalkers in this study were classified into one of five categories.
Rejected stalkers accounted for 36% of those studied. They stalked thier exintimate partners desiring reconciliation and/or revenge. They frequently had a character disorder diagnosis. Seventy one percent (71%) of them made threats and 54% of them had committed assaults. They generally responded positively to legal sanctions and mental health support. This category overlaps with the general domestic violence category.
Intimacy seekers accounted for 34% of those studied. They desired relationships with their "true (intended) love". Most of them were oblivious to their victims response and endowed the victim with special (if not magical) qualities. Most of the intimacy seekers identified in the study were motivated by erotomanic delusions. They generally evidenced psychotic tendencies. They were inpervious to legal sanctions and responded only to court ordered psychiatric treatment. Fifty percent (50%) of them had made threats and 23% of them had assaulted their victims.
Incompetent stalkers accounted for 15% of the stalkers in this study. They sought intimacy through their behavior. They acknowledged their victims distress, did not endow their victims with special qualities. They often had a low IQ, felt entitled and were socially inept. Thirty two percent (32%) of them had made threats and 27% had assaulted their victims. These stalkers responded well to being taught interpersonal and communication skills.
The resentful stalkers in the study felt persecuted by their victims, they desired retribution, intended to frighten or distress their victim. They had a specific or general grievance and often had a paranoid diagnosis. Thiry two percent (32%)of them had threatened their victims while 27% of them had assaulted their victims. They are frequently inflamed by legal sanctions and are very difficult to engage in successful treatment.
The predatory stalkers made up 4% of the population studied. They stalked in order to observe and study their victims. They were subject to paraphilias had prior sexual offenses on their record and attacked without warning. Thirty three (33%) had threatened their victims and 50% of them had attacked their victims. These individuals are primarily a criminal justice problem requiring containment and may respond to the treatment of paraphilia while contained.
The primary predictions of assault in this arena is based on prior criminal convictions, serious threats and the presence of substance abuse. The most dangerous individuals noted in the above category are the rejected and predatory types.
If you believe or suspect you are the target of a stalker, notify the authorities, consult with a knowledgeable professional and take extra measures to ensure your safety and the safety of your loved ones.