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Who Are Stalkers?

Demographically, stalking is a gender-neutral crime, with both male and female perpetrators and victims, but:

  • Most stalkers are men. Best statistics indicate that 75-80% of all stalking cases involve men stalking women.
  • Most stalkers know their victims. 60% are current or former intimate partners.
  • Most tend to fall into the young to middle-aged categories.
  • Most have above-average intelligence.
  • Many stalkers are anti-social, manipulative, deceptive, obsessive-compulsive, and have a history of failed relationships.
  • Stalkers come from every walk of life and every socio-economic background. Virtually anyone can be a stalker, just as anyone can be a stalking victim.

Psychological and Behavioral Profile of Stalkers

Unfortunately, there is no single psychological or behavioral profile for stalkers. In fact, many experts believe that every stalker is different, making it very difficult not only to categorize their behavior, but doubly difficult to devise effective strategies to cope with such behavior.

Forensic psychologists, who study criminal behavior, are just beginning to examine the minds and motives of stalkers. These psychologists have identified two broad categories of stalkers and stalking behavior — “Love Obsession” and “Simple Obsession.”

Love Obsession Stalkers

This category is characterized by stalkers who develop a love obsession or fixation on another person with whom they have no personal relationship. The target may be only a casual acquaintance or even a complete stranger. This category represents about 20-25 percent (20-25%) of all stalking cases.

Love obsessional stalkers not only attempt to live out their fantasies, but expect their victims to play their assigned roles as well. They believe they can make the object of their affection love them. They desperately want to establish a positive personal relationship with their victim. When the victim refuses to follow the script or doesn’t respond as the stalker hopes, they may attempt to force the victim to comply by use of threats and intimidation. When threats and intimidation fail, some stalkers turn to violence. Some decide that if they cannot be a positive part of their victim’s life, they will be part of their life in a negative way. Some even go so far as to murder their victims in a twisted attempt to romantically link themselves to their victim forever.

Simple Obsession Stalkers

This second category represents 70-80 percent (70-80%) of all stalking cases and is distinguished by the fact that some previous personal or romantic relationship existed between the stalker and the victim before the stalking behavior began. These include all domestic violence cases, as well as intimate and casual dating relationships, co-workers, and casual friends. Rejection often triggers this type of stalking. Stalkers turn to threats and violence as a means of reestablishing control of the victim.

The self-esteem of simple obsession stalkers is often closely tied to their relationship with their partner. In many cases, such stalkers bolster their own self-esteem by dominating and intimidating their mates. Exercising power over another gives them some sense of power in a world where they otherwise feel powerless. Since the victim literally becomes the stalker’s primary source of self-esteem, their greatest fear becomes the loss of this person. Their own self-worth is so closely tied to the victim that when they are deprived of that person, they may feel that their own life is without worth.

It is exactly this dynamic that makes simple obsession stalkers so dangerous. In the most acute cases, such stalkers will literally stop at nothing to regain their “lost possession” — their partner — and in so doing, regain their lost self-esteem.

Just as with most domestic violence cases, stalkers are the most dangerous when they are first deprived of their source of power and self-esteem; in other words, the time when their victims determine to physically remove themselves from the offender’s presence on a permanent basis by leaving the relationship.

Indeed, stalking cases which emerge from domestic violence situations constitute the most common and potentially lethal class of stalking cases. Domestic violence victims who leave an abusive relationship run a 75 percent (75%) higher risk of being murdered by their partners.

Stalking behavior is as diverse as the stalkers themselves. Yet behavioral experts are beginning to identify patterns in the cycle of violence displayed by simple obsession stalkers.