It doesn’t matter how many locks you have on the door, how much counseling you get or even whether the criminal justice system works: If you have been a stalking victim, “the fear never leaves,” said a victim tells the Hartford Courant. “It’s like being a prisoner of war or having your own personal terrorist. You can go somewhere where you think you are safe, but you live with the psychological damage forever.” Every year, about 3.4 million people 18 and older are stalked in in the U.S., says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, with women three times more likely to be victimized than men. Nearly three in four stalking victims know their offender in some way.
Although it frequently goes unreported and even unrecognized, stalking is often an element in physical assault, rape and domestic violence cases, and also in murder cases such as the recent slaying of Johanna Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan University student. Often, people don’t identify what is happening to them as stalking, according to Michelle Garcia of the Stalking Resource Center in Washington, D.C. This is because the behavior itself might not be illegal, Garcia said. She said that victims will say, “Yeah, they were calling me dozens of times a day, sending me unwanted gifts, but I didn’t realize it was a crime.”