An estimated 12 to 16 percent of women, and 4 to 7 percent of men, will be stalked in their lifetime. The federal government and all 50 states have enacted anti-stalking statutes, yet there is still no universally accepted definition of what constitutes stalking. When I talk about stalking, I'm referring to a pattern of behavior carried out by one person against another which is intended to harass, intimidate, or terrorize the victim—and usually does.
Cyberstalking occurred in about 25 percent of cases studied—which seems low to me. If my suspicion is correct, the reasons for the low numbers arise from the data collection methodology, the population being studied, and other reasons that I won’t digress on here. But it seems likely that cyberstalking is only likely to increase, since the potential for surveillance and harassment is huge while the risk to the stalker is relatively small.
Former spouses and paramours are the most common targets of stalking, followed by victims being stalked by an acquaintance. Only about one in four incidents involves stalking by a stranger. Most stalkers are men—70 to 80 percent, as reported by various studies—but one specific type of stalking is perpetrated almost exclusively by women. (See below.)
The 6 Types of Stalkers—Plus One
Dr. Ronald M. Holmes, professor emeritus of criminology, proposed these categories of stalkers:
I would propose adding one additional category to the list:
There is no reliable profile to predict who is likely to stalk. Some patterns have begun to emerge from research, and although these fall short of providing a reliable checklist, what we have learned so far is interesting and could be useful. The following patterns apply to the U.S. population and may not apply to other nations:
In one study, clinical and personality disorders were present in more than half of the stalkers evaluated. (Generally, though, few stalkers are psychopathic, but some may be narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, or antisocial.)
In another study, women reported being more afraid of being stalked by an unknown stranger than by someone they knew. It’s easy to see why an unknown predator seems scarier: He or she is the boogeyman (or boogeyperson?)—mysterious, unapproachable, unpredictable, and capable of anything.
Someone you know—even someone who holds a grudge against you—seems more finite and manageable. But the greater danger by far is the devil you know.