Stalking is repeated harassment that terrorizes the victim. Stalkers often are trying to intimidate, harass, and control their victims. The behavior may start slowly and escalate. For instance, a stalker may begin by calling once or twice a day and progress to calling several times a day, following you, and waiting for you outside of classes or work.
Anyone can stalk or be stalked, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, age, or income level. Stalking may involve family members, friends, intimate partners, classmates, coworkers, casual acquaintances, or even total strangers.
Most often, stalkers know their victims. Most female victims and many male victims are stalked by intimate partners. Stalking is most dangerous when it occurs as part of an abusive relationship. An attempt to end an abusive relationship often causes the abuser to become more possessive. Sometimes this leads to stalking.
- making unwanted telephone calls (78%)
- waiting inside or outside buildings (48%)
- watching from afar (44%)
- following (42%)
- sending unwanted letters (31%)
- sending unwanted emails (25%)
- making unwanted visits (5%)
- giving unwanted gifts (3%)
Victims/survivors relationship to the stalker
- current or ex-boyfriend (42%)
- classmate (24%)
- acquaintance (10%)
- friend (9%)
- coworker (6%)
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email, or other telecommunication technologies to harass, threaten, or intimidate another person. It is an extension of stalking from physical space to cyberspace.
A cyberstalker is someone who methodically, deliberately, and persistently sends unwanted communications that do not stop even after you have requested that he or she end all contact with you. Cyberstalking may take many different forms. A cyberstalker may:
- use the Internet to identify and track you
- send unsolicited email, including hate mail or obscene or threatening messages
- post messages about you or spread rumors about you through social media
- create websites that provide real or false personal information about you
- assume your identity online (i.e., in chat rooms, instant messages, or email) to embarrass you, to pry into your personal life, or for other negative purposes.
Wisconsin state law contains provisions that protect you from cyberstalking. This includes a prohibition against using anonymous email or another means of concealing identity in order to harass someone.
There are resources online that provide more information about cyberstalking and tips on how to increase your safety on the Internet:
- Working to Halt Online Abuse provides simple tips to help you stay safe online.
- The National Center for Stalking Resources provides detailed information on cyberstalking, including recommendations for victims/survivors of online stalking.
Stalking Laws & Penalties
- Stalking is a Class I felony punishable by up to 1-1/2 years in prison.
- The penalty for stalking increases to a Class H felony punishable by up to three years in prison if the stalker:
- has a previous conviction for a violent crime
- has a previous conviction for a crime involving the same victim within the past seven years
- gains electronic access to the victim’s personal records
- intercepts wire, electronic, or oral communication OR
- stalks someone under the age of 18.
- The penalty for stalking increases to a Class F felony punishable by up to 7-1/2 years in prison if the stalker:
- caused bodily harm to the victim or a member of his or her family/household
- has a previous conviction for a violent crime involving the same victim within the past seven years OR
- used a dangerous weapon in any of the acts
If the Dean of Student’s Office finds a student responsible for stalking, the penalty may range from a reprimand to expulsion from the university. A more detailed description of the UW System Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Procedures is available.
Legal definitions of stalking
- Stalking is committed by one who intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person; AND
- the actor’s conduct did actually cause the specific person to suffer serious emotional distress OR to fear bodily injury or death to himself, herself, or a member of his or her family/household; AND
- the actor’s conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress OR to fear bodily injury or death to himself, herself, or a member of his or her family/household; AND
- the actor knows or should know that at least one of the acts will cause the person to suffer serious emotional distress OR place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to himself, herself, or a member of his or her family/household.
Serious emotional distress includes feeling terrified, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or tormented.