Stalking and the Predetermined Risk for Gun Violence
By BWJP Staff Member and Jennifer Becker, Esq. Project Director, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms
It wasn’t until 1990 that any anti-stalking law existed within the United States. The real lived experiences of those subjected to stalking are still often misunderstood. Even today, many people associate stalking with the sensational examples that involve celebrities and public figures. In reality, the majority of stalking is committed by someone known to the victim, most often an intimate partner.
Experiencing stalking after ending a relationship, especially when children are involved, can be an immensely challenging and dangerous period for survivors. This phase, known as post-separation, often sees an escalation in abusive behavior from the former partner. As the sense of control diminishes for the abuser, they may intensify their attempts to regain dominance over the victim. Consequently, this time can be marked by heightened fear, stress, and uncertainty for the survivor.
As experienced by our colleague, “my ex's behavior became increasingly alarming after we parted ways and I moved into my own home.” Stalking in this context can differ from behaviors exhibited in other relationship types, often taking on more coercive forms. It’s easy for people on the outside to isolate individual stalking behaviors and pass them off as innocuous, or even worse, as romantic overtures.
“In my experience over the last 5 years following separation, my ex engaged in actions such as:
- Leaving unwanted gifts, notes and past belongings on my vehicle for me to find in the morning.
- Driving past my house weekly, daily, giving excuses as to why he ‘needed’ to be in my neighborhood.
- Finding excuses to turn up to my evening dance classes.
- Spreading rumors about me to friends, family, and claiming false legal concerns
- Using the children and my family members to give me messages from him
- Repeated, Incessant and obsessive unwanted text messages, emails, phone calls”
This kind of post-separation stalking can pose serious emotional and psychological challenges, creating an atmosphere of constant intrusion and distress for the survivor. And the stark reality is that stalking is one of the top 10 risk factors for intimate partner homicide, increasing the risk by 3 times. More than three-quarters of women killed by male partners were stalked in the 12 months prior to their murder.
This startling risk factor is in part due to the ease of access to firearms and their ubiquitous use by domestic abusers. Firearms play a role in more than half of female intimate partner homicides and just the presence of a firearm in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of female intimate partner homicide by an astonishing 500 percent. As my colleague pointed out: “the actions my ex engaged in after our separation only became more threatening due to the first-hand knowledge I had of his access to several firearms at home, in his vehicle, and on his person at all times and his flippant use of it to indirectly threaten me in the home (cleaning it while in an argument with me, leaving it laying around in unsafe places, looking for it when angry) and threats to use it to take his own life.”
Understanding this dangerous, and potentially lethal, connection between stalking and firearm-facilitated intimate partner violence makes it all the more necessary that we effectively implement the tools available in federal and state laws to ensure that abusers do not have access to firearms.
By standing together, we can contribute to a safer and more secure future for survivors. To learn more, advocate on behalf of survivors, and support system change, please visit our websites here:TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Firearms #Gender Based Violence #Gun Violence #News #stalking #Women