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Stalking is a disturbing form of domestic violence

Although it might not involve any actual violence or even verbal abuse, "stalking" entails a person doing certain things to let the victim know that he or she is always there and watching them. It is a behavior designed to intimidate and cause a victim to fear for his or her safety, and is thus a form of emotional abuse.

Many people, particularly women in Illinois and throughout the country, have been stalked, and the stalking usually is done by an estranged or former spouse or unmarried partner. Statistics suggest that one out of six women in this country have been stalked at some point in their lives, with 75 percent of those women actually knowing who the stalker was. Younger people are more often the victims of stalking, but a stalker can attack a person of any age.

Unfortunately, there is only so much law enforcement officials can do to prevent stalking. For instance, of those women who eventually got attacked or even killed by their stalkers, over half actually reported the stalking behavior to the police. Even when police do act, many judges and prosecutors do not take first-time stalking offenses terribly seriously, meaning the perpetrator is often left able to continue the behavior.

In addition to being a warning sign of physical abuse, stalking itself takes a huge emotional toll on its victims. For example, over one-third of stalking victims are actually diagnosable as having PTSD. Others report things like having to miss work, changing addresses and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Although there is no perfect solution to this problem, stalking behavior can be curbed by getting a protective order or by addressing the issue as part of a divorce or child custody proceeding, assuming the stalking involves a former spouse or significant other. These sorts of orders can help with the removal of the perpetrator from the victim's life.

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