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Stalking the Stalker: A Profile of Offenders

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 71 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 1-7
Robert A. Wood Ph.D.; Nona L. Wood M.S.
Date Published
December 2002
7 pages
This article reviews the literature on stalking, with attention to profiling stalker characteristics and the various typologies and psychological motivations of stalkers.
Most definitions of "stalking" in the literature define it as including a pattern of harassing or menacing behaviors linked with a threat. Every State in America, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed antistalking laws; whereas, Canada commonly refers to stalking as "criminal harassment." For many reasons stalking behaviors are diverse. Stalkers may ambush their targets, phone repeatedly, pursue or follow their targets, make obscene or threatening phone calls, display weapons, trespass, or vandalize property. A relatively new form of stalking, "cyberstalking," uses computers to stalk individuals and may take the form of electronic mail, faxes, or harassment in Internet chat rooms. A precipitating event occurs 80 percent of the time in stalking cases. Such events can include the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a job, the death of a parent, or the onset of a serious illness. Stalkers may blame their victims, and their actions may result from anger associated with the initial incident. There is no single profile of a stalker; they exhibit a broad range of behaviors, motivations, and psychological traits. Consequently, several typologies have emerged from the literature, each containing two to three categories, typically based on some form of personality disorder. One of the best known classifications comes from a review of 74 cases in which researchers described stalkers as having erotomania, love obsession, or simple obsession. Erotomania is the strong, but mistaken, belief that the stalker's object is in love with the stalker. Because stalking may precede violent crimes against persons or property, early recognition of these phenomena may provide opportunities for early intervention to prevent subsequent violence. Law enforcement personnel must be trained to assess the threat posed in each stalking case and develop appropriate responses. 33 notes