Imagine having to overcome every day without knowing if you’ll be safe at work, at school or even in your own home. Victims of stalking face the anxiety of being constantly monitored and harassed, affecting every aspect of their life from mental and physical health to their social and financial well-being. Addressing the dangerous connection between stalking and sexual abuse is an imperative step to increasing awareness and prevention efforts.
What is stalking?
The Department of Justice defines stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Warning signs to help you identify stalking include:
Receiving constant unwanted contact through texts, calls, emails, and direct messages on social media.
Cyberstalking can include online harassment through email or social media, installing or hacking video cameras to gain access to your private life, and using technology to track your location.
Being followed or tracked to your workplace, school, home, and other places you frequent such as restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and gyms.
Feeling like you’re being constantly watched in person or monitored through social media.
Receiving verbal and physical threats.
If someone refuses to accept rejection from you.
If someone continuously gives you unwanted “gifts” as proof of their “unconditional” love.
Any action that makes you feel controlled or frightened by someone else.
How is stalking connected to sexual abuse?
Similar to sexual abuse, the majority of stalking occurs by someone you already know and trust. Statistics show that approximately 61% of women and 44% of men are stalked by an ex-partner. A romantic interest, a friend, a co-worker, a classmate, and even a family member can be triggered into becoming a stalker.
The National Violence Against Women Survey reported that 31% of women suffered sexual abuse by their stalker.
Stalkers can use behavioral strategies from the sexual abuse grooming process to gain access to your personal life. Stalkers may begin a relationship in a friendly manner, using gifts and strategic compliments to try to gain your trust. Similar to sexual abuse, stalking can be driven by the sexual gratification of having power and control over someone. Stalking can quickly progress from unwanted and non-consensual contact to sexual harassment and eventually escalate to sexual abuse. Just imagine a threatening transition from “I love you” to “I can make you love me”.
Knowing the signs of stalking and understanding how stalking breaks the respect of personal boundaries is essential in learning how being a victim of stalking can become into being a victim of sexual abuse. Use this information to help empower yourself and your loved ones to acknowledge the seriousness of stalking and decrease the risk of experiencing sexual abuse. Although it is a difficult problem to navigate through, believe in your strength and your power to trust your instincts and speak up about your concerns when it comes to stalking.