Safety Sync: Technology-Aided Stalking

Aug 22nd, 1970

By Monica Short, MCASA Program Intern

 

As January was National Stalking Awareness Month, in this quarter’s issue of Safety Sync we discuss technology-aided stalking, a prevalent and often misunderstood form of stalking.

Approximately 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men in the United States have been victims of stalking[1].  In one year alone, 7.5 million people are stalked in the United States[2].  In a vastly connected world where historically private information is now posted online, and electronic devices make it easy to determine someone’s location, it is no challenge for abusers and controllers to stalk their victims.

This form of stalking is popularly known as ‘cyberstalking,’ though that term is potentially misleading, as ‘cyber’ refers exclusively to the internet[3] .While the internet may be misused for stalking purposes, there are many other forms of technology that stalkers also frequently use. Abusers may use cell phones, spyware, GPS, email and fax communications, teletypewriting (TTY) devices for people with hearing or speech difficulties, and social media, among others[4].  A 2015 survey of victim services providers found that 97% of programs reported clients experiencing harassment, monitoring, and threats through misuse of technology[5].

While technology-aided stalking can be committed by a stranger, it is more often committed by someone the victim knows[6].  Technology-aided stalking may be used in intimate partner relationships, domestic abuse, former partner relationships, coworker, and peer relationships. Victims of intimate partner stalking may also be victims of more serious crimes; for example, 76% of intimate partner femicide victims were stalked by their intimate partner[7].  Further, the National Violence Against Women survey found that 31% of women who were stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by that partner[8].

Stalking may have severe implications for victims who do not know whether they are being monitored, and do not know if or when the stalker will stop. Similar to survivors of sexual assault, many survivors of stalking report anxiety, insomnia, and depression at higher rates than among the general population[9].  Many survivors of stalking do not report the crime for similar reasons that survivors of sexual assault do no report, such as fear of not being believed and fear of retaliation. Given the severity of these experiences, it is important to find ways to address technology-aided stalking.

One anti-stalking program implemented in Staten Island, NY in 2014 has been successful at addressing stalking, and has expanded to other boroughs. The first year of the Coordinated Approach to Preventing Stalking (CAPS) program assisted law enforcement in a 233% increase in identification of stalking cases[10].  Since stalking is often a precursor to sexual assault and homicide, the program aims to curtail stalking and increase arrests and prosecutions before perpetrators escalate their behavior. The program has helped law enforcement shift their response to stalking cases to focus on more preventative measures [11]. Through this program, law enforcement can review repeat offenders for domestic violence and stalking crimes to show probable cause for arrest and prevent further violence [12].

Here in Maryland, legislation passed in 2016 redefines the criminal act of stalking and expands the list of stalking and harassing behaviors covered by Peace Orders [13]. Some of the offenses added include misuse of telephone equipment, misuse of electronic communication, nonconsensual pornography (sometimes referred to as “revenge porn”), and visual surveillance [14]. This legislation focuses greater attention on the use of technology in stalking behavior, and attempts to correct some of those behaviors.

While this is a start to addressing concerns about technology-aided stalking, more work is needed to fully eliminate stalking violence in Maryland. For more information on technology and stalking, check out this interactive, online training entitled Online Training for Technology & Stalking, developed by the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime.


  [1]Raghu, M. The use of technology to stalk & the workplace. Retrieved from http://preemploymentdirectory.com/ereport/the_workplace_violence_prevention_ereport_july_august_2013/M_Raghu_Work_Viol_e_newsletter_July_2013.pdf.

[2]”Stalking Fact Sheet.” (2015). The National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center. Retrieved from https://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/default-source/src/stalking-fact-sheet-2015_eng.pdf?sfvrsn=2.

[3]”Eliminating ‘Cyber-confusion.” (2003). The Source, 3(2). Retrieved from https://victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/eliminating-cyber-confusion.pdf?sfvrsn=2.

[4]Southworth, C., Finn, J., Dawson, S., Fraser, C., & Tucker, S. (2007). Intimate partner violence, technology, and stalking. Violence Against Women, 13(8), 842-856.

[5] Retrieved from www.womenslaw.org.

[6]Retrieved from www.womenslaw.org.

[7]”Stalking Fact Sheet.” (2015). The National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center. Retrieved from https://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/default-source/src/stalking-fact-sheet-2015_eng.pdf?sfvrsn=2.

8] Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N. (1998). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women. National Violence Against Women Survey. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf.

[9]Ibid.

[10]“Mayor’s office to combat domestic violence, New York City Police Department and Queen’s District Attorney’s office announce expansion of anti-stalking program to Queens.” (2015). City Hall Press Office, New York City. Retrieved from http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/464-15/mayor-s-office-combat-domestic-violence-new-york-city-police-department-queens-district.

[11]Donnelly, F. (2014). Successful anti-stalking pilot program expanded to include all of Staten Island. Staten Island Live.

[12]Ibid.

[13]“New MD stalking and and DV laws effective October 1.” (2016). Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved from http://mnadv.org/new-md-stalking-and-dv-laws-effective-october-1/. [14]Ibid.


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