There are many different kinds of stalkers as we've previously discussed. But the laws haven't always kept pace with the crime.
For example, did you know that the first anti-stalking law wasn't passed until 1990? And then, it was only in one state - California.
The good news is that other states quickly followed, and by 1993 there was an anti-stalking law on the books in every state. Also, the federal government responded in 1994 by passing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
VAWA made it a federal crime to cross state lines with the intent to injure, harass or intimidate a spouse or intimate partner. Two years later, Congress expanded VAWA to include all stalking victims, not just spouses and intimate partners.
Unfortunately, 26 years later, stalking is still a problem. During a 12-month period, it's estimated that 1.5 percent of people over age 18 were the victims of stalking. Also, one study reported that 13 percent of college women indicated that they had been stalked at some point in the past.
To make matters worse, stalking has only become more complex. Cyberstalking - the use of technology such as the Internet, cell phones or GPS to stalk victims - has become more prevalent, and more dangerous, than ever before. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "approximately one in four stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking, such as email or instant messaging."
Part of the danger of technology, the evolution of the internet and social networking sites is that it makes it easier for stalkers to get information about their victims. Another difficult factor of cyberstalking is anonymity. Stalkers don't ever need to physically interact with their victims to terrorize them, because they can do everything online.
Below is a list of some of the ways stalkers use technology against their victims from iPredator Inc., a New York Cybercrime Psychology & Internet Safety Company:
One terrifying example of cyberstalking is Sherri Peak's case.
After she broke up with her husband, he hid a GPS device in her car to track her movements. Next to the GPS device, he placed a cellphone that didn't ring but still picked up so that he could listen to her conversations. Finally, he used spyware to hack into her email.
Within no time, he had almost unrestricted access to every aspect of Sherri's life. In the article, Sherri is quoted saying, "This guy had me completely wired in. He knew everything at every moment." Once the technology was discovered, her husband was arrested and prosecuted. But up until that moment, Sherri lived in fear not knowing how he knew so much about her life.
So in addition to recognizing cyberstalking, it's important to protect yourself. Here are some suggestions from Alexis A. Moore, founder of the national advocacy group Survivors in Action:
Stalking laws such as VAWA are out there, but so are cyberstalkers. People need to be aware of the dangers and know what to look out for.
Fortunately, higher education institutions are in a unique position to help. With VAWA training, schools can help teach faculty and staff about the signs of stalking and how to protect themselves and students if they, or someone they know, become a victim.