Criminal Justice Intervention
Responding law enforcement must take steps to hold stalkers accountable for their behaviors when court orders that limit contact between stalkers and victims are violated.
In cases reviewed by the Project, 87 percent of stalking victims made contact with law enforcement, a much higher number than victims in non-stalking cases. However, only 53 percent of victims in stalking cases who had experienced stalking prior to the fatal incident were known to have reported the stalking behavior to law enforcement. Importantly, in stalking cases, criminal warrants of any type were less likely to be taken than they were in non-stalking cases.
There are a number of possible explanations for victims not reporting incidents of stalking to law enforcement. Despite our knowledge that intimate partner stalkers are among the most dangerous, victims consistently identify former intimate partner stalkers as less threatening than stalkers who are strangers. It is not uncommon for victims to minimize the behavior of the stalker, particularly in cases of longer-term intimate partner violence, where the victim has a high level of familiarity with the stalker and unhealthy behaviors within the relationship have often become normalized. Victims may delay reporting stalking behaviors because they do not want to get the perpetrator in trouble or because they believe the stalking does not warrant involvement of the criminal justice system.
Further complicating the decision to report stalking behaviors to the criminal justice system is the often-blurred line between socially acceptable behaviors and those constituting criminal acts: Some victims, and their family and friends, may not consider the stalking behaviors to be a crime, but rather just part of an unhealthy relationship.