What counts as a threatening SMS
There can be a number of reasons why someone becomes a stalker, including a love that is not reciprocated. Revenge or hatred can also be a reason for the constant pursuit. The perpetrators are often no strangers: it is mainly ex-partners, neighbors or work colleagues who become stalkers.
How the psychological terror works
Every day calls, gifts, emails - stalkers are free to use any means to get in touch with their victims. It often starts harmlessly with one or two text messages a day. At this stage, many stalking victims are still reacting to the attempted contact.
For example, they write to their tormentor that they want to be left alone. Some even meet with him. They believe that this will defuse the situation. But this motivates many stalkers to keep going.
The stalking really starts. The perpetrator bombards his victim with messages or alleged expressions of love. He seeks their proximity, waits in front of the apartment or in the victim's favorite café. Some stalkers also harass family and friends. If the stalker doesn't get what he wants, the situation can escalate. It can injure the victim or his relatives - and in the worst case, kill them.
There are different types of stalkers
Stalking is not always the same. As a rule, the perpetrator and the victim know each other. But that doesn't always have to be the case. Even a complete stranger can stalk another person. It often affects people who are famous, such as actors or singers. Scientists distinguish five types of stalkers:
1. The stalkerwho was rejected
In around half of all stalking cases, the perpetrator is the victim's ex-partner. The separation makes the stalker feel rejected. He wants revenge or win back the person he still loves.
2. The stalkerwho is looking for love
There are also cases when the stalker does not know his victim. Nevertheless, he believes that he loves this person and is convinced that this is how he feels. He suffers from a kind of maddened love.
3. The stalkerwho misunderstand feelings
Some people become stalkers because they cannot properly assess feelings and situations. They misinterpret the behavior of their victim. They do not recognize rejection as such.
4. The stalkerwho seeks vengeance
Another motive for stalking can be revenge. The perpetrator believes he has been wronged - and he blames his victim for it.
5. The stalkerplanning an assault
Stalkers who chase after someone because they want to sexually abuse them are dangerous. They want to get to know its habits through stalking. In some cases, the perpetrators put their plan into action.
Terror can leave its mark
Anyone who is harassed or persecuted by another person can get sick. "The victims can become mentally ill, for example from depression or anxiety disorders," says Harald Dreßing. The doctor heads forensic psychology at the Central Institute for Mental Health (ZI) in Mannheim and researches stalking.
Many stalking victims have difficulty sleeping or have panic attacks. They no longer dare to leave the house, they feel watched and followed. Around every corner, behind every bush, they suspect the stalker. The constant fear can also provoke suicidal thoughts.
Some people also get sick. For example, you suffer from headache and stomach ache, which are chronic. "But stalking can also be life-threatening. In escalating stalking there are cases in which the perpetrator kills his victim," says Dreßing.
Anyone can become a victim of a stalker
On average, around one in eight people is the victim of a stalker at least once in their life. This is confirmed by a study from 2004. Researchers from the Mannheim Central Institute interviewed 679 people for the study. The respondents were between 18 and 65 years old. More than half of them were female.
More than eleven percent of those surveyed said they had been harassed by someone more than twice in a period of two weeks. Those affected received phone calls and emails that made them uncomfortable. Someone was also lying in wait for them. "The result shows that stalking is a widespread problem that must be taken very seriously," says Harald Dreßing, who carried out the study with colleagues.
Other scientists take a critical view of the results. They complain, for example, that the definition of stalking on which the study is based is too broad. In addition, the sample was relatively small. Statements relating to the general population could therefore not be made. Nevertheless: The Mannheim study is the only one in Germany to date that deals with the spread of stalking at all.
The perpetrators are often men, the victims women
The victims of stalking are usually female, the perpetrators male. Various studies show this. Often the women live alone and have separated from the man who later stalks them. Many of those affected have also had experiences of violence in their past, says Ingrid Beck, who was herself the victim of a stalker and founded the association "Together against stalking".
"There are certain knitting patterns that a stalker jumps on," says Beck. "And of course it also has to do with a person's own experiences." More than 95 percent of women were victims of violence before being stalked. They were sexually abused or beaten by their parents. Those affected learned early on: Those who do not defend themselves survive. This behavior pattern can still be seen years later.
Those who stalk can end up in jail
Since 2007, stalking has been considered a criminal offense against personal freedom, including crimes such as theft, child trafficking and forced marriage. So stalking is not a trivial offense: anyone stalking another person can end up in prison for up to three years or be fined. This is what Paragraph 238 of the Criminal Code (StGB) says.
In 2015, the Federal Ministry of the Interior registered around 19,700 cases of stalking in accordance with Section 238 StGB (Criminal Statistics 2015). However, the number of judgments is lower. Because the stalking paragraph rarely applies.
"It's well thought out, but badly made," says Ingrid Beck. "If you are an innocent citizen in Germany today, you can really kill someone without facing any consequences." More than 90 percent of all proceedings in the stalking area would be discontinued, says the stalking advisor.
This is also confirmed by Harald Dreßing from the ZI in Mannheim. "The new offense has proven to be a blunt sword to crack down on stalkers," he says. In addition, there is a high number of unreported cases regarding the number of stalking victims.
Author: Andrea Böhnke
Status: 04.08.2016, 09:00
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