Stalkers and Harassers

In today's cyber world, stalkers and harassers are no longer confined to showing up at their targets' physical addresses. Although it is obviously most dangerous when they do physically stalk their targets, stalkers can cause their victims a great deal of distress and anxiety by frequent email and internet postings and by repeatedly calling landlines and cellphones and leaving long angry messages. In the case of high-profile or celebrity stalkers, they may also extend their cyber and telephone stalking to harassing the representatives of their targets, such as agents, publicists or attorneys.

Stalkers come in all shapes and sizes. At one end of the scale is the erotomaniac who imagines a love relationship with the victim, who is frequently completely unaware of the stalker until the stalking begins. When this type of stalker is rejected by the victim, the stalker can become enraged and begin to demonize the victim. This can have very tragic consequences, as in the case of actress, Rebecca Schaeffer, who was stalked and murdered by Robert Bardo in 1989.

More frequently, stalking occurs in the context of a prior domestic, romantic or employment relationship. For nearly 60 percent of female victims and 30 percent of male victims, their stalkers were current or former intimate partners. In intimate partner cases, only half of the incidents occur after the relationship has ended.

Of the female victims stalked by their current or former intimate partners, over 81 percent were physically assaulted by that individual. And, in over 75 percent of completed and attempted female homicides by intimates, the offenders had stalked the victims in the year before the offense.

Law enforcement will usually get involved in these cases, particularly when there have been threats made by the stalker and when physical stalking is involved. In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County District Attorneys Stalking and Threat Assessment Team, a partnership with the DA's office and the LAPD, is very active in stalking and harassment cases. Even in the entertainment capital of the world, however, only about ten percent of their cases involve celebrities. Anyone can be a victim of a stalker.

Despite Los Angeles' premier anti-stalking team, there is still much that law enforcement is not able to do, generally because of lack of time or resources. In one of our ongoing cases, despite a permanent restraining order against the stalker, that individual continues to harass our client with phone calls and emails on a regular basis. We have been repeatedly engaged to locate this stalker to give our client peace of mind that the stalker is not living near our client's home or the office of his representatives. This particular stalker has moved numerous times, both within California and to other states, has been homeless and has held jobs, but throughout it all has continued to send harassing emails and make calls to our client and his representatives.

It is hard, if not impossible, to do anything that will change the obsessive behavior of stalkers. But, it is important for the victims of stalkers to protect themselves. As investigators, we can help by locating stalkers, often when law enforcement does not have the resources to do so, and by assisting the client/victim with threat assessment, security and preventative actions the victim can take. We also are able to monitor the location and activities of the stalker, especially during times when they are in proximity to our client.

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