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What is stalking?

Legal definitions vary from one jurisdiction to another. Still, stalking is generally defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. A crime in all 50 states and at the federal level, stalking is dangerous and potentially lethal.

Who are victims of stalking?

In 2019, about 1.3% of Americans ages 16 and older (3.4 million people) were victims of stalking, according to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The most frequently reported traditional stalking behaviors included the offender following and watching the victim. Stalking with technology most commonly included unwanted phone calls, voice or text messages, and emails and Internet messages.

The percentage of people who experienced stalking declined from 2016 (1.5%) to 2019 (1.3%). However, women continue to be victims of stalking more than twice as often as men. Overall, the data show most stalking victims know their stalkers.

Among adults, 18- to 24-year-olds experience the highest rates of stalking, placing students on college and university campuses at high risk of becoming a victim. Research shows that most college students are stalked by someone they know, usually a fellow student. Colleges and universities that understand the dynamics of stalking and the negative impacts associated with it can support victims and hold stalkers accountable through campus programs and thorough investigations.

In 2019, only 29% of stalking victims reported their victimization to police. Stalking victims who chose not to report the crime to police most often said they didn’t feel it was important enough to do so.

Infographic of Stalking on College Campuses
Source: The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center


What help is there for victims of stalking?

If you believe you’re a victim of stalking, the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center provides guidance and resources in the What to Do if You Are Being Stalked section of their website.

Supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Violence Against Women Research Consortium published a series of training videos and resources that cover stalking laws and best practices for law enforcement and prosecutors in stalking investigations.

January is recognized as National Stalking Awareness Month – an annual call to action to recognize and respond to the crime of stalking.

Date Modified: January 11, 2024
Date Created: August 14, 2020

More on Stalking from OJP

Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies:


 Stalking PublicationsAdditional Stalking Resources