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Blog Post

OVW Observes National Stalking Awareness Month, 2023

Every year, we set aside the month of January in support of the millions of people across the country who are survivors of stalking. Stalking is a form of gender-based violence that permeates every community and every neighborhood – statistics show that one in three women and one in six men face stalking in their lifetimes. Research shows that the majority of perpetrators of these crimes are people whom the survivors know – and in many cases, at one time trusted.

Stalking is a crime of power and control. Stalkers threaten and often humiliate their victims by showing up unexpectedly and unwelcome at their homes, jobs, or even family members’ homes; by peppering their victims with emails and text messages that are unwanted and sexually explicit; by contacting family members, friends, and co-workers in an attempt to humiliate their targets and ruin their lives.

Often, stalking escalates, and it can be the prelude to deadly consequences – stalking is a significant risk factor for intimate partner homicide. Stalkers use every tool at their disposal. Perpetrators often have knowledge of where their targets live, where they work, and their daily routines. While social media platforms are powerful ways to stay connected to friends and family, they become dangerous when misused by a stalker. And advances in technology, such as wearable devices, can be used by stalkers to violate privacy and cause physical, psychological, and social harm.

Survivors of stalking report they suffer from higher-than-average rates of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Many are forced to quit their jobs, move, or take time off work to protect themselves.  However, only one in three people who experienced stalking in 2019 reported it to the police – and those who do may still face significant barriers to safety as the crime is difficult for authorities to identify, investigate, and prosecute. Survivors can be terrorized for years as they try to stay safe – constantly looking over their shoulders, changing their routes to work, deleting their social media accounts, or finding new places to live.

It’s also important to recognize that we’re making progress in providing survivors with the support they need and deserve.  Last year’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) defined for the first time “technological abuse” to recognize the threat of perpetrators who wrongfully use technology to exert power over others and expand VAWA’s focus to include the intersection of technology and gender-based violence. VAWA also authorizes the Attorney General to develop a national strategy to prevent and address cybercrime against individuals, including cyberstalking and the nonconsensual distribution of intimate images. Further, a new VAWA provision establishes a federal civil cause of action for anyone with an intimate visual depiction of them distributed without their consent, allowing them to seek damages up to $150,000 plus attorney’s fees.

Last June, President Biden established the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse that will make recommendations to the federal government, state governments, schools, technology platforms, and other entities to help prevent and address technology-facilitated gender-based violence such as stalking. Its recommendations will focus on increasing support for survivors of online harassment and abuse, expanding research, and strengthening offender accountability.

Reducing stalking and supporting survivors is one of the key areas of focus for the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). Through our many grant programs, OVW funds research and on-the-ground programs in communities that can create strategies and aid survivors in the way that best suits them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to helping survivors of stalking and other gender-based crimes, so OVW’s grants are designed to get into the hands of advocacy organizations, colleges and universities, communities, tribal organizations, and government agencies that are best equipped to provide services to survivors, particularly in underserved communities who may not have the resources to offer such help.

In addition, OVW funds the Stalking Prevention, Awareness & Resource Center (SPARC), which offers free information and resources about stalking, and educates justice and victim services professionals about ways to keep survivors safe and hold offenders accountable. SPARC is an essential partner in providing a multi-faceted approach to programming for organizations and offers training to OVW grantees and practitioners looking for ways to help survivors in their communities. Safety Net, a project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, is another great resource – focusing on the intersection of abuse and technology, Safety Net provides training and technical assistance to address survivors’ safety, privacy, accessibility, and civil rights.

As President Biden stated in his proclamation declaring January as National Stalking Awareness Month, “Everyone deserves to feel safe and live without fear.”  This month and every month, we stand in support of survivors of stalking. We are honored to support the many dedicated community advocates working daily to help survivors find peace and security.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Contact your local police department to report stalking and stalking-related incidents and/or threats. OVW does not provide services directly to the general public. Local resources are available on our website. You can also call the National Center for Victims of Crime hotline at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) or the Strong Hearts Native Helpline at 844-762-8483.

Updated January 26, 2023