The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is proud to stand with the Obama Administration in renewing our commitment to increase support services for victims of stalking and to strengthen accountability measures for stalkers. Over the past ten years we have seen a paradigm shift in the way the criminal justice system, and our Nation, understands and responds to stalking.
When the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law nearly 20 years ago it established a coordinated community response to the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, encouraging jurisdictions to bring together multiple stakeholders to share experience and information and to use their distinct roles to improve community‐defined responses to these crimes. VAWA also created full faith and credit provisions – a crucial and life-saving provision for stalking victims – that require states and territories to enforce protection orders issued by other states, tribes and territories.
Since 1994, we have made tremendous strides in enhancing the criminal justice system’s response to stalking. Yet more is left to be done. Results of the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that, conservatively, 6.6 million people were stalked in a 12-month period and that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men were stalked at some point in their lifetime. These numbers are staggering and indicate that stalking remains a serious issue for every community across the United States.
The CDC’s NISVS report also confirmed what law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers, and other professionals have been hearing from victims for years – that most stalking cases involve some form of technology. More than three-quarters of victims reported having received unwanted phone calls, voice and text messages; and roughly one-third of victims were watched, followed, or tracked with a listening or other device. These findings underscore how critical it is that professionals who respond to and work with stalking victims understand the dynamics of stalking and particularly how stalkers use technology.
As the Department of Justice continues to improve the criminal justice response to stalking through the implementation of VAWA, it is imperative that we honor the many accomplishments achieved in the last decade.
- Stalking is a crime under Federal law and under the laws of all 50 States, the U.S. Territories, the District of Columbia, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- In January 2004, the first time National Stalking Awareness Month was observed, the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) released a Problem-Oriented Guide for Police on Stalking. This guide, still used today and developed in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime, provides law enforcement officials with necessary information about stalking to better assess the problem of stalking in their community and to develop strategies for addressing the problem.
- The first National Tribal Summit on Stalking was convened in Salt Lake City in September 2005 to explore the issues of stalking for Native American women and how to address stalking in Indian Country.
- To commemorate the fifth anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month, the Stalking Resource Center launched StalkingAwarenessMonth.org and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in partnership with OVW, released Stalking Victimization in the United States, a Supplemental Victimization Survey to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). This 2009 survey is one of a few national studies that has measured the extent and nature of stalking in the United States and represents the largest comprehensive study of stalking conducted to date.
- Launched in January 2012 The Use of Technology to Stalk Online Course was produced by the Stalking Resource Center to assist criminal justice and victim service professionals on the use of technology in stalking.
- The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s SafetyNet project educates and trains law enforcement, social services, and victim advocates how to hold perpetrators accountable for misusing technology.
Although we have made substantial progress in recognizing and treating stalking as a serious crime, much work remains. Stalking can be challenging to recognize, so we must do more to train law enforcement, prosecutors, parole and probation officers, and victim service providers to recognize stalking, to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases, to work to ensure victims safety, and to give victims the help they need.
As we look toward the future, it’s important to remember that the progress we have made has not been inevitable. It is the result of the work of committed advocates, policymakers, law enforcement officers, and brave survivors who tirelessly fight to combat stalking in our communities. OVW remains committed to working together to bring an end to stalking.