Astronaut Lisa Nowak’s case is shows one pattern common to stalking cases: Most stalkers and victims know each other, and many have a current or former romantic tie, Mary Lou Leary of the National Center for Victims of Crime tells USA Today. Government figures show that 77 percent of female victims and 64 percent of male victims knew their stalkers. The most common trigger: a broken, lonely, or jealous heart. The Nowak case is unusual in that it alleges one woman stalked another, says psychology Prof. Mindy Mechanic at California State University, Fullerton. She says most stalkers are men. Noting Nowak’s accomplished career, Mechanic has seen cases of stalkers who are highly educated, successful people but emotionally immature.
“It’s often about power and control,” Leary says. She says it can become dangerous, leading to assault and murder, especially when a stalker takes the attitude that “if I can’t have you, no one will.” A 1998 Justice Department study, found that more than 1 million women and about 370,000 men are stalked annually. Women account for 78 percent of the victims and men for 87 percent of the perpetrators. The study said one in every 12 women will be stalked during her lifetime, and 81 percent of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner were physically attacked.