What is the Connection Between Stalking and Sexual Assault?

Posted by Josh Young on 14 April 2017 |

Back in 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released comprehensive details regarding stalking crimes that had been gathered as part of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). According to the report, people aged between 18 and 24 were the most likely age range to be stalked, with women being victimized roughly 2.5 times more frequently than men.

Alarmingly, college students in this age bracket were reportedly more likely to be stalked and less likely to report stalking incidents than their non-scholastic peers.

Stalking is routinely defined as a repeated pattern of behavior that makes the victim afraid. And while it is considered a crime in all 50 states, the legal definition can vary between jurisdictions. The behavior can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including (but not limited to):

  • Repeated unwanted communication
  • Following, pursuing, or waiting for a person
  • Surveillance or other types of constant observation (including via electronic means)
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism
  • Unwelcome gifts
  • Non-consensual touching
  • Physical or verbal threats
  • Information mining about the victim (including from friends, family, classmates)
  • Manipulative or controlling behaviors, such as threats of self-harm
  • Slandering the victim

And while students are at heightened risk, college faculty and staff are equally vulnerable to these methods.

Some Troubling Statistics

Per the previously mentioned DOJ study, only 9 percent of victims were stalked by a stranger, while nearly 70 percent knew their harasser. The stalker was most frequently identified as a former romantic partner (20 percent) or a friend, roommate, or neighbor (15 percent).

According to one research project, roughly 75 percent of women who had been the victims of stalking experienced other kinds of victimization -- including 26 percent who were raped or sexually assaulted.

Similarly, another study found that among women who had obtained a protective order regarding an abusive partner, those women who had been stalked were 9.3 times more likely to experience a sexual assault than those who had not been stalked.

Older research from the late 1990s even found clear links between non-sexual violence and stalking with 76 percent of female homicide victims having been stalked by the person who killed them. And 81 percent of women that were stalked by a former or current romantic partner were also physically assaulted by their stalker.

How Can Your Campus Help Stalking Victims?

Provide guidelines

Establish campus policy that clearly defines what qualifies as stalking behavior based on local regulations. Outline reporting procedures that victims can use, including contact information for advocacy and legal services. In addition, put in place disciplinary measures -- built around due process that protects all parties -- that can be enacted when an incident is reported.

Offer education

With these policies established, regularly communicate them to the campus community. Consider hosting conferences and seminars that address the issues of stalking, sexual violence, and student safety. Provide training courses for students and faculty that equips them to identify and react to problematic behavior and that informs them of their rights.

This training can also help prevent stalking behavior before it occurs by helping naive and sometimes immature young adults to form healthier relationships.

Establish support services

Victims of both stalking and sexual violence experience long-term physical, mental, and social repercussions that can last a lifetime. To help your students deal with these harrowing challenges, provide counseling and support services on your campus. Work with survivors to set up victim advocacy and discussion groups that offer students a safe place to share their stories and have their voices heard.

Conclusion

Given the demonstrable connection between sexual violence and stalking (particularly among formerly intimate partners), many advocates recommend a holistic approach to ending sexual assault that includes addressing intersecting issues such as stalking and partner violence. By addressing these problems together and helping your students to create healthier relationships, you can better discourage these abusive behaviors from festering on your campus and endangering your students.

If you would like learn about how we can work with your campus to fight stalking and sexual violence, request a demo of our Student Empower courses.

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