Stalking generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property (Stalking in America: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice, 1998).
While the federal government, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories have enacted criminal laws to address stalking, the legal definition of stalking varies across jurisdictions. State laws vary regarding the element of victim fear and emotional distress, as well as the requisite intent of the stalker. Some state laws specify that the victim must have been frightened by the stalking, while others require only that the stalking would have caused a reasonable person to experience fear. (Stalking Victims in the United States — Revised, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).
Stalking between intimate partners is widespread and often associated with lethal abuse. Despite the enactment of anti-stalking laws in every state, relatively few stalkers are cited or arrested by law enforcement, and even fewer are prosecuted (A Statewide Study of Stalking and Its Criminal Justice Response, National Institute of Justice-Sponsored, 2009).
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