Stalking can be defined in several ways: by its general meaning; by the criminal statue; and by the Protection from Stalking Act.
Generally, stalking is thought of as a pattern of harrassing, threatening, and intimidating conduct that makes another fear for her/his safety. It does not necessarily involve physical contact by can escalate to such behavior. Stalkers can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, family members, or intimate partners.
In Kansas, as in most other states, stalking is a crime. Criminal stalking is "an international, malicious and repeated following or harassment of another person and making a credible threat with the intent to place such person in reasonable gear for that person's safety." K.S.A. 21-3438. Additionally, Kansas prohibits credible threats communicated by electronic means, such as telephones, cellular phones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, pagers, and computer networks.
"Stalking" is defined differently for purposes of the Kansas Protection from Stalking Act. Under this act, "stalking" is the "international harassment of another person that places the other person in reasonable fear for that person's safety." K.S.A. 2002 Supp. 60-31a01 et seq.
For more information on stalking laws in Kansas or for legal advice, you should seek the assistance of an attorney.
- No one knows just how common stalking is, as there has been little data collected by law enforcement officials. However, because stalking has only been recently defined and little data collected by law enforcement, stalking may be far more common than we know. In the United States, it is estimated that over 1 million women and 370,000 men will be stalked each year.
- Stalking has existed for a long time but has only recently been labeled as a separate and distinct behavior; different from harassment or domestic violence, for example.
- Stalking can be dangerous. Twenty-two percent of all stalkers sexually assaulted their victims. Some stalkers have killed or seriously wounded their victims.
- Stalkers and victims can be of any age, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or gender. However, some research has shown much higher incidents of Native American women being stalked.
- The majority of stalkers are men, and most of them stalk women. Even men are are more likely to be stalked by men than by women.
- Stalking can also be done by electronic means, such as through email, voice mail, and internet bulletin boards. Stalkers have also been known to post things about their victim on the internet, subjecting the victim to a broad range of different types of harrassment.
- Stalking of a particular victim can last for short periods of time or can continue for many, many years.
There are no easy answers to this question. First and foremost, you should think about your safety. Here are some other things to consider:
- Report the stalking to your local law enforcement agency. While officers may not have enough evidence to arrest the stalker, it is important to develop this "official" record of the stalking behavior.
- Some stalkers believe there are hidden messages within conversations with their victim that encourage them to continue the stalking relationship with the victim. Some experts suggest that if your stalker is a former intimate partner or someone believes you want to be in a relationship, you must be clear and firm early on about wanting to end the relationship. The longer the relationship goes on, the harder it is for the stalker to get the message that you are not interested.
- If the stalking has continued for a long time, some believe it is best for the victim to cease all communication with the stalker. Instead, let the "system" communicate with him through the law enforcement officer, probation officer, or through a protection order.
- A protection from stalking order may or may not be effective in ending the stalking. These orders may be most effective if issued when the stalking behavior first begins. They also appear to be most effective in communities where violations of the order are taken very seriously by law enforcement, prosecutors, or judges. If these situations do not apply to you, you may want to consider whether a protection order will help or hurt your situation.
- In some situations, further contact between the victim and the stalker, tends to encourage the stalker. Therefore, if you can, try to avoid the following:
- Joint therapy
- Shared custody
- Face-to-face child exchanges
- Protection orders
- Keep a log of all stalking behaviors, including the following:
- Date of incident
- Times and places the incidents occurred
- Description of stalking behavior
- Witnesses to the incident
- Develop a safety plan, taking into consideration the following:
- Critical phone numbers, such as law enforcement, friends, domestic violence or sexual assault programs
- Critical phone numbers and contact information for other important people or services you may need after reaching a safe location, such as neighbors, prosecutors, medical care, child care, or pet care
- Keep a reserve of necessities in case you have to leave your home quickly, such as a suitcase in the trunk of your car or at a friend's house; include money, medication, toys or items important to the children
- Consider having important documents such as passports, immigration documents, birth certificates, and social security numbers readily accessible
- Alert people who may be part of your safety plan, such as law enforcement, employers, family, friends, neighbors, or security personnel
- Consider whether any of the following measures would help decrease or prevent some of the stalking:
- Installing solid core doors with dead bolts
- Changing locks, securing all spare keys
- Installing outside lighting
- Trimming bushes and vegetation around your residence
- Getting an unlisted number
- Varying travel routes and other routines
- Limiting time walking or jogging alone
- Informing a trusted neighbor about the situation and, if possible, giving them a description or a photo of the stalker, asking them to call law enforcement if they see anything unusual.
- Sexual assault and domestic violence programs may be able to provide you with additional help and information. The Stalking Resource Center can also provide you with information on stalking. You can visit National Center for Victims of Crime for more information, or call 1-800-394-2255.