Intimate Partner Stalking Tactics

This Web page is based on Research on Partner Stalking: Putting the Pieces Together (pdf, 27 pages), prepared by T.K. Logan for NIJ.

Stalkers vary considerably in the types and frequency of stalking tactics. [1-5]

On this page, find:

Most Common Tactics

Although stalking tactics and frequencies vary widely, several tactics appear to be common across cases of partner stalking, as noted in the table below.

  • Physical surveillance is often the most frequently cited tactic (when considering all the varieties of physical surveillance), followed by phone calls and other unwanted contact. Property invasion or destruction also is fairly common, although this tactic is not assessed as often in studies of partner stalking.
  • Although few studies examine proxy stalking, which is the involvement of other people in tracking victims, [6] the few that do have reported that approximately half or just over half of cases of partner stalking involve some kind of proxy stalking. [7][8] The proxies may include friends and relatives, unidentified persons, professionals (e.g., private investigator), or the stalker's new intimate partner. [9-11]
Common Stalking Tactics
General TacticSpecific Tactics
Physical surveillance [12-21]Followed, spied on, watched, showed up, or waited at places
Unwanted phone calls [22-30] 
Other unwanted contact [31-39]Letters, e-mails, text messages, gifts
Property invasion or damage [40-45] 
Proxy stalking [46][47] 

Cyber-stalking and the Use of Other Technology in Partner Stalking

Cyber-stalking can be defined as "the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person" [48] whereas the use of technology is more broadly defined as "the host of tools the stalker can use (now and in the future) to commit their crime," such as GPS and cameras in addition to the use of the Internet. [49]

  • Although many agree that the use of technology in stalking is an important area to study, few studies to date have examined the use of technology in partner stalking. [51-59]
  • There are relatively low rates of technology use within the context of stalking in general (26.1 percent).[60] In another study, researchers reported 15 percent of their sample of partner stalking victims reported contact through e-mail or Internet, 12.5 percent reported other technology use, and none used GPS. [61]

The following table summarizes a number of types of technology that can be used to stalk someone. [62-67]

Telephone TechnologiesCaller IdentificationReveals telephone number, name and location of caller.
Fax MachinesReveals name, fax number and location of sender.
TTY and TTD (Text-telephones used by hearing impaired)Can be used to impersonate others.
Calling Cards/Spoof Cards(1) Provides anonymity for stalkers and (2) disguises stalker number or allows impersonation.
Cordless TelephonesConversations can be intercepted by other devices.
Cellular and Wireless Telephones(1) Analog cellular telephones may be intercepted by radio scanners; (2) new cellular telephone directory makes numbers available on a opt-in basis; (3) they can be used as listening devices; (4) others can be impersonated or harassed through calls and text messages (e.g., SpoofApp); (5) call history can be monitored; and (6) threats, harassment and flooding with texts, messages, phone calls.
GPS and Location ServicesGPS (Global Positioning System)Location may be detected through GPS in cellular telephones or other GPS devices.
Computer and Internet TechnologyPublic Websites, Social Networking Sites, & BlogsWebsites or social networking sites can be used to (1) threaten victims, (2) encourage others to contact victims, (3) post personal information publicly, (4) impersonate others to gain information about or access to victims, and (5) spread rumors about victims.
E-mail and Instant MessagesOthers or victim can be (1) impersonated, (2) harassed through spamming or flooding the computer with unwanted e-mail or messages, (3) sent electronic viruses, and (4) subscribed to multiple listservs.
Website Browser HistoryRecords Internet activity.
Spyware SoftwareMonitors Internet use.
Keystroke Logging HardwareRecords keys typed including passwords, PIN numbers, e-mail and websites.
Hidden CamerasWeb cameras connected to a remote computer.
Online Databases and Information BrokersPersonal information sold to and published by corporations, courts and government agencies.
Identity Theft or Other Financial Harm(1) Identity theft and (2) purchasing books, magazines or other services in victim's name.


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[note 1],[note 60],[note 61]Botuck, S., P. Berretty, S. Cho, C. Tax, M. Archer and L. Cattaneo, "Understanding Intimate Partner Stalking: Implications for Offering Victim Services," final report to the National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2009, NCJ 227220.

[note 2],[note 12],[note 22]Brewster, M., "Exploration of the Experiences and Needs of Former Intimate Partner Stalking Victims," final report to the National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 1999.

[note 3],[note 7],[note 9],[note 26],[note 35],[note 43],[note 46] Logan, T., J. Cole, L. Shannon and R. Walker, Partner Stalking: How Women Respond, Cope, and Survive, New York: Springer Publishing, 2006.

[note 4] Mechanic, M., M. Uhlmansiek, T. Weaver and P. Resick, "The Impact of Severe Stalking Experienced by Acutely Battered Women: An Examination of Violence, Psychological Symptoms and Strategic Responding," Violence and Victims 15(4) (2000): 443-458.

[note 5] Mechanic, M., T. Weaver and P. Resick, "Mental Health Consequences of Intimate Partner Abuse: A Multidimensional Assessment of Four Different Forms of Abuse," Violence Against Women 14(6) (2008): 634-654.

[note 6],[note 11] Mullen, P., Pathé, M. amd Purcell, R., Stalkers and Their Victims, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

[note 8],[note 10],[note 20],[note 38] , [note 47] Melton, H., "Stalking in the Context of Intimate Partner Abuse: In the Victim's Words," Feminist Criminology 2(4) (2007): 347-363.

[note 13],[note 23],[note 31],[note 40] Blaauw, E., F. Winkel, E. Arensman, L. Sheridan and A. Freeve, "The Toll of Stalking: The Relationship between Features of Stalking and Psychopathology of Victims," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 17(1) (2002): 50-63.

[note 14],[note 24],[note 32] Buhi, E., H. Clayton and H. Surrency, "Stalking Victimization Among College Women and Subsequent Help-seeking Behaviors," Journal of American College Health 57(4) (2009): 419-425.

[note 15],[note 25],[note 33],[note 51] Fisher, B., F. Cullen and M. Turner, "Being Pursued: Stalking Victimization in a National Study of College Women," Criminology and Public Policy 1(2) (2002): 257-308.

[note 16],[note 34],[note 41] Hall, D., "The Victims of Stalking," in The Psychology of Stalking: Clinical and Forensic Perspectives, ed. R. Meloy, San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998: 113-137.

[note 17],[note 36],[note 42] McFarlane, J., J. Campbell and K. Watson, "Intimate Partner Stalking and Femicide: Urgent Implications for Women's Safety," Behavioral Sciences and the Law 20 (2002): 51-68.

[note 18],[note 27],[note 37],[note 44] Mechanic, M., T. Weaver and P. Resick, "Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking Behavior: Exploration of Patterns and Correlates in a Sample of Acutely Battered Women," Violence and Victims 15(1) (2000): 55-72.

[note 21],[note 30],[note 39],[note 45] Tjaden, P., and N. Thoennes, "Stalking in America: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey," Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998, NCJ 169592.

[note 19],[note 29]Mechanic, M., T. Weaver and P. Resick, "Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking Behavior: Exploration of Patterns and Correlates in a Sample of Acutely Battered Women," Violence and Victims 15(1) (2000): 55-72.

[note 48] U.S. Department of Justice, "1999 Report on Cyberstalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry," Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, retrieved June 6, 2010, from

[note 49] Stalking Resource Center, The National Center for Victims of Crime, Eliminating “Cyber-Confusion,” (2003), retrieved June 9, 2010.

[note 52] Lucks, B., "Electronic Crime, Stalkers, and Stalking: Relentless Pursuit, Harassment, and Terror Online in Cyberspace," Stalking Crimes and Victim Protection: Prevention, Intervention, Threat Assessment, and Case Management, ed. J. Davis, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2001: 161-204.

[note 53],[note 64] Moriarty, L., and K. Freiberger, "Cyberstalking: Utilizing Newspaper Accounts to Establish Victimization Patterns," Victims and Offenders 3 (2008): 131-141.

[note 54] National Center for Victims of Crime, "The Model Stalking Code Revisited: Responding to the New Realities of Stalking," (January 2007), retrieved May 5, 2008.

[note 55],[note 65] Southworth, C., S. Dawson, C. Fraser and S. Tucker, A High-Tech Twist on Abuse: Technology, Intimate Partner Stalking, and Advocacy (pdf, 22 pages) (June 2005), Violence Against Women Online Resources, retrieved June 9, 2010.

[note 56],[note 66] Southworth, C., J. Finn, S. Dawson, C. Fraser and S. Tucker, "Intimate Partner Violence, Technology, and Stalking," Violence Against Women 13(8) (2007): 842-856.

[note 57] Spitzberg, B., and G. Hoobler, "Cyberstalking and the Technologies of Interpersonal Terrorism," New Media & Society 4(1) (2002): 71-92.

[note 59],[note 67] Tucker, S., T. Cremer, C. Fraser and C. Southworth, "A High-Tech Twist on Abuse," Family Violence Prevention and Health Practice 3 (2005): 1-5.

[note 62] Baum, K., S. Catalano, M. Rand and K. Rose, "Stalking Victimization in the United States," Special Report, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009, NCJ 224527.

[note 63] Finn, J., "A Survey of Online Harassment at a University Campus," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 19(4) (2004): 468-483.

Date Created: April 20, 2012