Millions of Americans each year are victims of stalking, a disturbing crime that restricts an individual’s ability to live a productive, peaceful, and fulfilling life. Throughout National Stalking Awareness Month, we recognize this form of bullying and intimidation and recommit to addressing and preventing this harmful behavior that devastates so many individuals and their families and friends.
Today, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men experience stalking in their lifetime, and nearly 7 in 10 victims report knowing their stalker. Stalkers commonly target young people, with 54 percent of female victims and 41 percent of male victims experiencing stalking before age 25. Even if the offender relents, many victims of stalking experience long-lasting mental and physical aftereffects, resulting in prolonged depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person to instill torment, fear, control, and uncertainty. Behaviors include unwanted contact, harassing family members or friends, leaving unwanted items, and lurking or appearing at places without invitation and/or a legitimate purpose. Increasingly, perpetrators are using social media platforms and technology to terrorize their victims. Cyber stalkers post private information, send illicit or suggestive messages, concoct rumors online about an individual or their family and friends which causes them to fear for their safety, reputation, and even their livelihood.
Stalking any individual, especially our young people will not be tolerated. That is why, last month, I signed the Combat Online Predators Act to impose tough penalties on predators for stalking minors, including increasing the maximum prison sentence from 10 to 15 years. As one Nation, we must do everything in our power to keep our children and loved ones safe from this predatory behavior and hold perpetrators accountable.
My Administration remains committed to ending the crime of stalking. To learn its signs visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and if you or someone you know is a victim of stalking, please call the National Center for Victims of Crime Hotline: 1-855-484-2846.