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What Is Stalking?

Generally speaking, stalking is repeated unwanted encounters with another person (“repeated” is generally defined as two or more encounters). The victims or the stalker can be either men or women, boys or girls. The stalker is often someone the victim knows, such as an estranged intimate partner.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, “Stalking is a pattering of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”

While the term itself traditionally implies someone who literally follows another, the modern era has much broader and sometimes more vague interpretations. Sometimes a person may not even be aware that he or she is technically stalking someone even if that is not their intention.

Stalking can take many forms and can include:

•· Any unwanted or frightening communication via phone, text, mail or the internet.

•· Repeatedly leaving unwanted items, including presents, flowers, notes or anything else.

•· Damaging or threatening to damage a victim’s property.

•· Either making threats to endanger a victim’s family, friends or pets, or contacting the victim’s family or friends.

•· Various forms of bullying such as the spreading of private information or rumors.

•· Using the internet or employing someone to learn information through public records.

•· Going through the victim’s garbage.

•· Showing up at public events where the victim doesn’t want to see them.

January of 2017 is National Stalking Awareness Month. The sad fact is that 7.5 million people are stalked each year in the United States with it involving 15 percent of the women and 6 percent men. Oftentimes people are stalked at a relatively young age with about 50 percent of incidents occurring to victims under the age of 25.

While Georgia’s stalking laws often classify first offenses as a misdemeanor, they can be a felony in extreme cases (a deadly weapon is involved, or the victim is younger than 16), or in cases of repeated incidents.

If you or someone you know has been accused of stalking, it would be wise to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. These charges are taken very seriously by law enforcement. Nevertheless, the laws are there to protect the rights of the innocent, which sometimes can include those who are accused of stalking.