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Notice to Readers: National Stalking Awareness Month --- January 2008

January 2008 marks the fifth annual observance of National Stalking Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about stalking and the need for integrated prevention strategies to reduce the impact of stalking on victims. Stalking is a criminal justice and public health problem and is linked to intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner homicide. Data from a 2005 CDC study indicated that approximately 7 million women and 2 million men in the United States had been stalked at some time during their lifetime (1). Although some stalkers are strangers, most victims know the person who is stalking them; often, the stalker is a spouse or partner, ex-spouse, acquaintance, or family member (2).

Although the legal definition of stalking varies widely from state to state, the term "stalking" generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior a person engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or work, making harassing phone calls, leaving threatening messages, or vandalizing a person's property. Stalking can disrupt a victim's life at home, school, and work and affect their relationships with family, friends, and coworkers. Stalking also can lead to violence. In an estimated 25%--35% of cases, stalkers commit violence against the persons they are stalking (3). Factors that increase the likelihood of violence by stalkers are verbal threats and having had a prior intimate relationship with the victim (3). A 10-city, nationally representative study of female homicide victims conducted in 1999 indicated that 76% of female victims of intimate partner homicides were stalked by their partners before they were killed (4).

Information about National Stalking Awareness Month and recommendations and safety guidelines for victims of stalking and persons at risk are available online from the Stalking Resource Center at http://www.ncvc.org/src/main.aspx. In addition, information on intimate partner and sexual violence is available from CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/injury.

References

  1. Basile KC, Swahn MH, Chen J, Saltzman LE. Stalking in the United States: recent national prevalence estimates. Am J Prev Med 2006;31:172--5.
  2. Tjaden P, Thoennes N. Stalking in America: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 1998. Available at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/169592.pdf.
  3. Meloy JR. The psychology of stalking: clinical and forensic perspectives. San Diego, CA: Academic Press; 1998.
  4. McFarlane JM, Campbell JC, Wilt S, Sachs CJ, Ulrich Y, Xu X. Stalking and intimate partner femicide. Homicide Studies 1999;3:300--16.



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