BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Stalking
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According to the Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS), individuals are classified as stalking victims if they experienced at least one of these behaviors on at least two separate occasions. In addition, the individuals must have feared for their safety or that of a family member as a result of the course of conduct, or have experienced additional threatening behaviors that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

The SVS measured stalking behaviors as:

  • making unwanted phone calls
  • sending unsolicited or unwanted letters or e-mails
  • following or spying on the victim
  • showing up at places without a legitimate reason
  • waiting at places for the victim
  • leaving unwanted items, presents, or flowers
  • posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.

Stalking laws

The federal government, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories have enacted criminal laws to address stalking. The legal definition for stalking varies across jurisdictions:

  • State laws vary regarding the element of victim fear and emotional distress, as well as the requisite intent of the stalker.
  • Some state laws specify that the victim must have been frightened by the stalking, while others require only that the stalking behavior would have caused a reasonable person to experience fear.
  • States vary regarding what level of fear is required.
  • Some state laws require prosecutors to establish fear of death or serious bodily harm, while others require only that prosecutors establish that the victim suffered emotional distress.
  • Interstate stalking is defined by federal law 18 U.S.C. § 2261A.

Summary Findings

  • During a 12-month period an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking
  • About half (46%) of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11% of victims said they had been stalked for 5 years or more.
  • The risk of stalking victimization was highest for individuals who were divorced or separated—34 per 1,000 individuals.
  • Women were at greater risk than men for stalking victimization; however, women and men were equally likely to experience harassment.
  • Male (37%) and female (41%) stalking victimizations were equally likely to be reported to the police.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).
  • 46% of stalking victims felt fear of not knowing what would happen next.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.
  • More than half of stalking victims lost 5 or more days from work.

Publications & Products


Stalking Victims in the United States - Revised Presents findings on nonfatal stalking victims in the U.S., based on the largest data collection of such behavior to date.
  PDF (948K) | ASCII file (21K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 26K)

Perceived age of the stalking offender, by age of the victim Appendix Table 1 from Stalking Victimization in the United States (NCJ 224527).
  Spreadsheet

Perceived race of the stalking offender, by race of the victim Appendix Table 2 from Stalking Victimization in the United States (NCJ 224527).
  Spreadsheet

Onset of unwanted behavior Figure 1 from Stalking Victimization in the United States (NCJ 224527).
  Spreadsheet

Stalking Victimization in the United States 3.4 Million people report being stalked in the United States
  Press Release | More information about this release