What Is Stalking?
Stalking, according to West Virginia law, is clearly identifiable as repeatedly following another person. But, unlike other crimes such as speeding and murder, there is no “master list” of behaviors that constitute harassment. Harassment, using the West Virginia definition of “willful conduct,” could include numerous behaviors. The following is a list of behaviors that could potentially be considered stalking or harassment (Stalking Resource Center; WV Foundation for Rape Information Services); however, note that the list is not all-inclusive:
Are You Or Someone You Know The Victim Of
Am I A Victim Of Stalking Or Harassment?
Under the definition above, there are many behaviors that stalkers can use to intimidate their targets and cause them to suffer fear and distress, including but not limited to harassment. However, the West Virginia law pertaining to stalking (WVC §61-2-9a) addresses harassment as a crime separate from stalking:
To be charged with the crime of stalking in WV:
To be charged with the crime of harassment in WV:
What Behaviors Constitute the Crimes of Stalking and Harassment?
Are You A Victim Of Stalking or Harassment?
The following is a list of behaviors that could potentially be considered stalking or harassment (Stalking Resource Center; WV Foundation for Rape Information Services); however, note that the list is not all-inclusive:
- Surveillance or watching the victim (sitting in a car in front of the victim’s house, going through the victim’s trash, contacting the victim’s family and friends, etc.);
- Pursuing/following the victim;
- Unexpected appearances where the victim works, lives, goes to school or visits;
- Approaching or confronting the victim, perhaps even in violation of a protective order;
- Telephone harassment, which might include playing disturbing music, hang-ups or threats;
- Sending/giving unwanted gifts, letters or e-mails to the victim;
- Monitoring of telephone calls or computer use;
- Use or misuse of technology to stalk and harass (see below);
- Spreading rumors or otherwise defaming the victim’s character;
- Vandalism or other destruction of property;
- Threat to the victim and/or her/his family, friends and pets;
- Physical attacks; and
- Sexual assault.
Stalking and harassment can be difficult to prove, much less prosecute.
Except for vandalism, threats and physical and sexual violence, each of the above behaviors could be considered annoying and/or disturbing, but hardly criminal. It is the cumulative pattern of behaviors that forms the “course of conduct” that can cause the targeted individual to be afraid and distressed. For example, a single e-mail or bouquet of flowers may not be frightening, but 150 e-mails, bouquets of dead flowers and late night threatening calls become something that cannot and should not be ignored.