being followed, spied on or communicated with, without consent, at a level perceived to be somewhat dangerous or life-threatening [not including dealings with bill collectors or salespeople],” for more than a month.
Whether stalking lasts several months or continues for years depends on the motivation of the perpetrator, according to Mindy Mechanic, Ph.D., an associate professor at Cal State University at Fullerton.
“A delusional individual — like a celebrity stalker — is different from a socially unskilled, awkward, poorly put-together individual who thinks that a neighbor who says ‘Hi’ in the hallways is romantically interested in them,” Mechanic said.
Mechanic reiterates that the most dangerous stalker is someone who is or has been in a relationship with the victim. “In the majority of homicides involving intimate partners, stalking was another tactic, another tool in the abusive armamentarium of the stalker.”
However, “most stalking does not end in homicide or even violence,” she said. “The perpetrator is arrested, hospitalized, moves away, gets tired of it or finds another victim.”
“You get involved with people and don’t know that they have the capacity to stalk,” said Deborah Prothrow-Stith, M.D., associate dean at Harvard School of Public Health. “It can be flattering when people are possessive — but there’s a line.”
Women need to be taught the warning signs of stalking, Prothrow-Stith said, and “how to “engage the police and put out a restraining order if stalking occurs. These signals will help some stalkers stop.”
“If stalking were random stranger violence, policing would be the focus of public strategy,” Prothrow-Stith said. Instead, she said, “prevention — not just responding — is the best we can do as a socity.”
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