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Stalking
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To be classified as a victim of stalking in the Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS), the respondent must have experienced a repeated course of conduct (i.e., experiencing the same behavior or contact more than once or experiencing two or more different behaviors one time) that either caused them substantial emotional distress or to fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know or would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know.

Traditional stalking includes the following unwanted behaviors:

  • following and watching
  • sneaking into a place
  • waiting at a place
  • showing up at a place
  • leaving or sending unwanted items
  • harassing friends or family about the victim’s whereabouts.

Stalking with technology includes the following unwanted behaviors:

  • making unwanted phone calls, leaving voice messages, or sending text messages
  • spying using technology
  • tracking the victim’s whereabouts with an electronic tracking device or application
  • posting or threatening to post unwanted information on the internet
  • sending unwanted emails or messages using the internet
  • monitoring activities using social media.

Stalking laws

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

  • State laws vary regarding definitions of fear and emotional distress.
  • The 50 states and the District of Columbia specify that there must have been a repeated course of conduct.
  • Criminal laws in the 50 states and the District of Columbia include the element of actual fear in their stalking definition.
  • Most states and the District of Columbia also include the element of reasonable fear, defined as behaviors that would cause a reasonable person to be fearful.
  • Three-quarters of states and the District of Columbia include the element of emotional distress, which is consistent with federal laws.
  • All state laws require actual fear, reasonable fear, emotional distress, or reasonable emotional distress to be present for the repeated course of conduct to be defined as stalking.

Publications & Products


Stalking Victimization, 2016 This report details the demographic characteristics of stalking victims and describes the nature of stalking victimization, including the number of offenders, the victim-offender relationship, and the frequency and duration of the stalking.
  Summary (PDF 167K) | Full report (PDF 553K) | Data tables (Zip format 16K)
Part of the Stalking Victimization Series

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.
  Full report (PDF 948K) | ASCII file (21K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 26K)
Part of the Stalking Victimization Series

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

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