Introduction to Stalkers:Stalking is not a term that is easily definable, and it is not a term that is discussed often in society. It is a recurring set of behaviors aimed at a specific target. Often times, stalkers will call their target, walk or drive past their target’s house, etc. (Sheridan, 2008). It is important to recognize what it is that makes a stalker stalk and why. Because stalking is not spoken about often, many individuals are unaware of what a stalker is, it is assumed that a stalker is always dangerous and always intends to harm their victim, but this is not true. There is a wide variety of circumstances that may play into why a stalker may stalk, making it difficult for a stalker to find proper treatment, and making it difficult for a court of law to determine what steps need to be taken in prosecution as well.
“Stalking, like any complex form of human behavior, can be the product of a number of different states of mind” (Mullen et al., 1999). It is very important for both the stalker and the victim that the proper steps in resolving the situation are taken. The legal and mental health systems often do not work cohesively in cases involving stalkers, and if they were able to do so, stalkers would receive the help that they need more often and it is possible that the legal and mental health systems could prevent the issue of stalking from occurring altogether. Types of Stalkers: There are many different types of stalkers, some of the general categories listed by the University of Michigan include Rejected Stalkers, Resentful Stalkers, Predatory Stalkers, Intimacy Seekers, Incompetent Suitors, and Erotomania and Morbidly Infatuated Stalkers. The victim of the Rejected Stalker is often an ex lover. The stalker wants to rekindle the relationship, or they may be seeking revenge.
They are often very persistent in their behaviors, making it difficult to end a Rejected Stalker’s behavior. The Resentful Stalker often intends to cause fear within their victims as means of revenge for an incident that made the stalker feel as though the victim humiliated them in the past. This type of stalker is obsessive as well as persistent, but is not likely to cause harm to the victim.
When a victim of a Resentful Stalker chooses to contact law enforcement on the situation, the stalker is likely to stop their behavior. The Predatory Stalker is likely to participate in aggressive behavior, as they desire the feeling of power over their victim. The victim of a Predatory Stalker may be someone the stalker knows, but this type of stalker may also stalk a stranger. The Predatory Stalker may become violent with the victim because of their desire for power over the victim. This type of stalker may only stalk for a short period of time. The Intimacy Seeker type is often an individual who is “lonely” or isolated. They are likely to not have many intimate connections in their personal lives.
When they are stalking a victim, they believe that the victim has some sort of intimate feelings towards them. From this type of stalkers perspective, their victim is the only one for them, they are “soulmates.” They wish to form a real relationship with the victim. The Intimacy Seeker will often become violent if their victim clearly rejects them, or if their victim enters a romantic relationship with another individual. They may choose a victim that they are acquainted with already, or they may choose to stalk a complete stranger.
The Intimacy Seeker is likely to persist in stalking the victim because they wish to prove their love to their victim. An Incompetent Suitor stalker wishes to start a relationship with their victim and often has impairment in their social skills. The stalker will repetitively call their victim on the phone, ask the victim on dates, or attempt to make advances toward their victim. This type of stalker is likely to end their behavior when the victim gets law enforcement involved, or after the Incompetent Suitor seeks counselling. The Erotomania and Morbidly Infatuated type of stalker is another type of stalker that stalks based on feelings of love or infatuation. This type of stalker believes that their victim has romantic feelings for them, even after a victim states that they do not and will never feel the way that this stalker believes that they do. This type of stalker is persistent in their beliefs and behaviors. They will often end these behaviors when they receive psychological treatment.
These categories describe a general perspective, but not every stalker will fit into a single category. There are many factors that play into why a stalker may stalk; whether or not the individual who is participating in stalking behavior suffers from mental illness and how this individual participating in these behaviors was raised are some examples of these other factors. Characteristics of Stalkers:Often times, people associate stalkers with worse things such as killers, but this is not the case.
Not all stalkers intend to harm their victim at any period during the time they are stalking them. Stalkers often write their victims letters, call them on the phone, and may even watch their victim from outside their home (Sheridan, 2008). Whatever the behavior it is that the stalker is participating in, it is always defined as stalking when the behavior is repetitive and unwanted by the victim of the stalker. A stalker may choose to stalk a victim in any circumstance, whether they have chosen to stalk an ex lover, or they are simply stalking an individual who provides them with the attention they desire. A victim of a stalker may not have had any prior interactions with their stalker. It is possible that the stalker has seen something in their victim that they desire, this is often described as delusional behavior. “When our empathy builds the bond of attachment in someone starved for it, we can inadvertently become the victim of a stalker.
Our empathy becomes a double-edged sword” (Farber, 2015). There is not one specific or definable reason an individual may become a victim of a stalker. Though it is common, is cannot be assumed that all stalkers suffer from mental illnesses. A study gathered information in order to form the case from 1993 to 1997 from a psychiatric hospital.
Stalking was defined as repetitive behavior that was both persistent and unwanted by the victim. (Mullen et al., 1999). The criteria defined by the DSM IV described 145 different stalkers, seventy nine percent of those stalkers being male and the rest being female. Many of these stalkers did participate in the most common behavior of stalkers; making multiple phone calls, writing letters, and even following their victims. Unwanted gifts were given to the victims by nearly half of the stalkers that were a part of this study, and a little over half of them also threatened their victims.
It was found that many of the men that were a part of this study suffered from a personality disorder or psychosis; bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. Victims of Stalkers: A stalker has the ability to create extreme anxiety in their victim. They may question why they are being stalked or how their stalker is going to approach them. Stalkers are not always violent, but because there is often not any assurance for the victim, they are likely to wonder what the intentions of their stalker are (Pathe, Mullen, 1997). Anxiety has an extreme impact on the mental and physical health of an individual, so a victim may suffer from weight loss or gain, chronic fatigue, sleeping issues, and much more (Davey, 2006). In extreme cases, a victim of a stalker may develop post traumatic stress disorder. A victim experiences mass amounts of anxiety and intense fear. When a victim of a stalker finds themselves feeling helpless, there is potential that the victim will or already has developed post traumatic stress disorder (Mullen et al.
2000). A stalker may stalk their victim in a variety of different ways. Repetitive phone calls and emails are common, but it is also not uncommon for a stalker to follow their victim at the home or their place of work (Sheridan, 2008). This may lead a victim of a stalker to alter their daily performances; because a victim of a stalker may have a family at home, it is common for a victim to feel as though their family members are also in danger, and they may choose to relocate their family in an attempt to end the stalker’s behavior (Pathe, Mullen, 1997). There is the possibility of the stalker stalking their victim at the place of work as well. This is very likely to impact the victim’s performance in their profession.
The victim may avoid their place of work as well. Stalkers in the Legal System: It is difficult to describe exactly what a stalker is due to inconsistencies in the research on stalkers and stalking. “The data on stalking has been culled from studies of stalkers and victims, including clinicians who were actively treating the patient-stalker or had treated him or her in the past.
Comparing the studies is nearly impossible because of the many inconsistencies in the literature about types of stalkers” (Farber, 2015). Though the ideas of what stalking is does pertain to a wide spectrum, stalking is still something that the legal and mental health systems need to look into much further. “Legal sanctions alone may be effective in bringing some stalkers permanently to abandon their quest, but such interventions often fail because the fundamental problems driving the stalking behavior remain unresolved” (MacKenzie, 2011).
When a stalker is to “come into light” in the legal system, it is often due to a stalking victim seeking out help or advice pertaining to their situation. Protection for the victim is available, but because stalking is such a wide spectrum, it is hard to determine what options are most effective for both the victim and the stalker in the legal system (MacKenzie, 2011). Because stalking is typically viewed as a means of affection, there have been instances where police have become dismissive to the situation. “Repeated intrusive behaviors of a more bizarre or surreptitious nature may be deemed innocuous gestures of affection, with the complainant eliciting dismissive, trivializing, or insensitive responses” (MacKenzie, 2011). Though not all stalker cases do reach court, the cases that do must order a mental health assessment for the stalker, determining their competence, but it is common for a court of law to fail in providing this assessment. It is important that when a victim is seeking help through the law that the victim’s words are not dismissed so easily. There are various different types of stalkers and many ways they may choose to stalk their victims, so the situation should always be investigated or monitored before the severity of the stalker’s actions are taken into account. Although stalkers are not always violent, it is possible that they may become violent over time.
In 1989, a young actress named Rebecca Schaeffer was stalked and murdered by Robert John Bardo, one of her fans. Bardo was able to access Schaeffer’s information through a private detective agency that had obtained her information from her motor vehicle records (DPPA History). This case led to the enactment of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and later the Federal Anti-Stalking Act, but the situation was not investigated soon enough and a life was lost. Stalkers and Treatment: In order to begin the treatment process for a stalker, a stalker must be evaluated for mental health disorders to retrieve a more accurate understanding of the stalker as an individual. “As for stalkers themselves, the prevalence of mental disorder varies according to the sample, but estimates suggest that over 50% of stalkers have a mental disorder” (MacKenzie, James, et al.
2010). This is an important note in the prosecution of stalkers, as a court has the freedom to determine whether or not they believe a stalker needs a mental health evaluation (MacKenzie, 2011). It is important to recognize this fact, as this is a major part of why the legal and mental health systems are not able to work cohesively in the prosecution of stalkers. It is often stated that stalkers have an “above average” intelligence quotient (IQ), so beyond using a mental health assessment to evaluate stalkers it may be important to include an IQ test. Though this does not provide causation, it may provide correlation for further research on stalkers. Throughout many cases that have studied stalkers, it is fairly common for reports to suggest that stalkers have an intelligence quotient that is above average. (MacKenzie, James, et al. 2010).
Based on these evaluations, provided that they are deemed necessary in a court of law, stalkers may have more options in terms of treatment, and an evaluation and the inclusion of an IQ test may help a psychologist recommend treatment much more accurately for the stalker. It is often found that stalkers respond well to both legal sanctions and psychological treatment as well. “Most stalkers are lonely and socially incompetent, but all have the capacity to frighten and distress their victims. Bringing stalking to an end requires a mixture of appropriate legal sanctions and therapeutic interventions” (Mullen et al., 1999). Because stalkers typically lie on a spectrum of those with paranoid disorders, psychological treatment for the stalker is highly likely to be beneficial for the individual.
Societal Perspective: Stalkers may also have difficulty finding proper treatment due to the fact that most members of society hold negative opinions of stalkers and their victims. Because stalking and stalkers are not often talked about, many assume that stalkers always intend to harm their victims which is not the case. There are various types of stalkers and not all of them have the intention of harming their victims at any point. For example, the rejected stalker may have a goal of attacking or harming their victim, whereas the incompetent suitor stalker typically only seeks communication and attachment from their victim. Victims are also viewed fairly negatively, victim blaming is common in stalker cases. Often it is assumed that a victim is only being stalked because of their own actions; the victim is assumed to have participated in a behavior that triggered the individual to stalk them, but this is simply not accurate. The incompetent suitor stalker may stalk a victim that they are only acquainted with, or an individual that they do not know whatsoever.
The language that is used to describe what a stalker is not appropriate, which reinforces these opinions of who or what a stalker is, and who or what their victim is. Conclusion: Because stalking may vary in its intensity and severity (MacKenzie & James, 2011) it is crucial that the legal system and mental health system work more cohesively to provide proper treatment and accurate prosecutions in necessary cases. It is not beneficial for the stalker with a mental health disorder to be placed in jail or prison for crimes they have committed, nor is it beneficial for the legal and mental health systems in terms of understanding what it is that makes a stalker stalk and how to help relieve the issue in society. There are many different laws in each state in the United States, but these laws do not always define the behavior of a stalker as illegal. When a victim of a stalker reports the crimes against them, they need to be taken more seriously. There have been many occasions where the report of a stalker is not recognized by the law because the behaviors of the stalker do not appear to be harmful to the victim, or to the stalker themselves.
This is dangerous for both the victim and the stalker; the victim feels unsafe due to the behavior of their stalker, and the stalker is not receiving the help that they need in order for them to end the behavior. It is crucial that these reports are investigated thoroughly for the safety and protection of those involved, and it is highly important to end the possibility for a stalker to stalk another victim. There is no one way to end the occurrence of stalking, but it is an issue that is very real and not often talked about in society today. Step by step, stalking could be prevented.
In order to begin the process of preventing stalking from occurring, a society must be educated about stalkers. The language that is currently used to discuss stalkers and their victims is not an appropriate way to discuss this societal issue as it reinforces an already inappropriate societal perspective. The negative connotations that surround stalkers and their victims do not allow for a proper resolution, allowing the incident of stalking to continue to occur.
Creating awareness in a society could be extremely beneficial for stalkers that face prosecution. Education in a society will promote more understanding, making it much easier for a stalker to receive the treatment that will be most beneficial for them rather than being imprisoned for their crimes.