The Associated Press
NEW YORK By the tens of thousands, victims of stalking lose their jobs, flee their homes and fear for their safety, according to a new federal survey.
The report by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics provides the most comprehensive data ever on a crime that affects an estimated 3.4 million Americans a year.
About 11 percent of the victims said they had been stalked for five or more years, and one in seven said the stalking compelled them to move out of their home, according to the report. It covered a 12-month period in 2005-06.
The study was described as a groundbreaking effort to analyze the scope and varying forms of stalking, which had not been featured in previous versions of the National Crime Victimization Survey.
The number of victims was up sharply from a more limited 1995-96 study commissioned by the Justice Department that estimated 1.4 million Americans a year were targeted by stalkers. Both surveys concluded that women more than twice as likely to be victimized as men.
In the span between the two surveys, e-mail and text-messaging emerged as common tactics for stalkers.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics defined stalking as a course of conduct, directed at a specific person on at least two separate occasions, that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. The most commonly reported types of stalking were unwanted phone calls (66 percent), unsolicited letters or e-mail (31 percent), or having rumors spread about the victim (36 percent).
More than one-third of the victims reported being followed or spied upon; some said they were tracked by electronic monitoring, listening devices or video cameras. About 21 percent said they had been attacked by their stalker.
Nearly 75 percent of victims knew their stalker in some capacity — most commonly a former spouse or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, sometimes a relative or co-worker.
“The public tends to perceive of stalking as something that happens to celebrities who have a stranger follow them around,” said report co-author Katrina Baum. “This study tells us that stalking is not a stranger phenomenon.”