Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 1. Overview of Domestic Violence

Section 4 — How widespread is stalking?

Estimates of stalking vary, depending upon how it is defined. A 1995-1996 National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) found that 5 per 1,000 females (18 and older) and 2 per 1,000 males report being stalked annually, using a conservative definition that requires victims to suffer a high level of fear. Eighty percent of stalking victims are women, and 87 percent of stalkers are male. Women were stalked by spouses or ex-spouses (38 percent), current or former intimates (10 percent), dating partners (14 percent), other relatives (4 percent), acquaintances (19 percent), and strangers (23 percent). The percentages add to more than 100 percent because some women reported being stalked by more than one person. Males were more likely than females to be stalked by strangers (36 percent) and acquaintances (34 percent). [131, 207] Furthermore, research suggests a close association between stalking and murders of women by intimate partners. One study, for example, found more than half (54 percent) of female intimate partner murder victims had reported stalking to police prior to their murders by the stalkers. [156]

Implications for Law Enforcement

It is important for law enforcement officers to correctly identify stalking behavior in order to accurately analyze victim risk and to use stalking laws appropriately. Even if the stalker is not charged, stalking constitutes a red flag for potential lethality. (Research basis: National study of 141 murders and 65 attempted murders of women, and confirmation in other stalking studies.)

Implications for Prosecutors and Judges

Whether stalkers are specifically charged or not, it is important for prosecutors and judges to correctly identify stalking behavior and recognize its significance in order to give victims maximum protection against potentially lethal abusers. (Research basis: National study of 141 murders and 65 attempted murders of women, and confirmation in other stalking studies.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009