Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)

This month marks the 20th annual observance of National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM) – a time when we come together to raise awareness about the harmful impact of stalking on survivors and the larger community. It is also an important opportunity to center the voices of survivors and strengthen our collective commitment to improve prevention efforts and increase access to safety, justice, and healing for survivors of stalking.

Stalking is generally defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one in three women and one in six men reported being a victim of stalking in their lifetimes.

On January 17th, OVW hosted two powerful NSAM events in which we gathered with survivors of stalking, advocates, law enforcement professionals, and prosecutors. The survivors shared their lived experiences and critical insights with OVW, other components of DOJ, and partners in different federal agencies working to improve strategies in addressing stalking.  We are particularly grateful to the survivors who participated in these events, including Debbie Riddle, an anti-stalking activist and one of the founders of National Stalking Awareness Month who has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and eradicate stalking after her beloved sister, Peggy Klinke, was murdered 21 years ago by someone who had been stalking her.  

Participants shared how, far too often, victims of stalking encounter barriers in seeking safety and support from community members, legal systems, and victim service providers. At times, their experiences of stalking and its harmful impacts have been minimized or misconstrued by others. In reality, victims of stalking often fear for their safety, endure psychological and physical harm, experience economic instability from lost wages or loss of employment, or are forced to relocate to secure safe housing and try to keep their addresses confidential — all of which can cause lifelong trauma.  

We also heard from participants who shared the positive difference it made when law enforcement, victim service providers, prosecutors, and others came together to provide critical services and life-saving support. They reminded us that comprehensive training, targeted resources, and a coordinated community response can make a significant difference. They exemplified the courage and perseverance of survivors and underscored the importance of responders to “start by believing” when a victim shares what they are experiencing while reaching out for help.

It is vital to address stalking as a specific and distinct crime, as well as recognize how to address stalking at the intersection with other crimes, such as domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. Approximately one in five victims of stalking reported that the perpetrator was a stranger. In most cases, the perpetrator is a former intimate partner, acquaintance, or someone they know or met through work.  Stalking is recognized as a high lethality factor for victims of intimate partner violence (IPV), given that the vast majority of female victims of IPV homicide were stalked in the year leading up to their murder.

Efforts to prevent and address stalking also require recognizing how historically marginalized and underserved communities are disproportionately impacted and may encounter additional barriers to seeking safety and services. For example, approximately 42% of women and nearly 30% of men in American Indian and Alaska Native communities have experienced stalking in their lifetimes, and roughly 35% of lesbian women, 54% of bisexual women, and more than 25% of gay and bisexual men experiencing stalking in their lifetimes.

The Office on Violence Against Women continues strengthening efforts to prevent and address stalking. Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, which tasked OVW with providing federal leadership in developing the national capacity to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  As VAWA has evolved over the last three decades, so has the federal government’s recognition that stalking and its co-occurrence with other forms of gender-based violence represent a critical threat to safety and justice.

OVW aims to address and prevent stalking and support survivors through its grant-funded programs, national training and technical assistance, and research. Many OVW-funded programs and technical assistance providers utilize their grant funds to address the unique needs of stalking survivors and bolster a coordinated community response to stalking that includes diverse victim services organizations, housing and employment advocates, and members of the civil and criminal justice systems working together to enhance survivor-centered and trauma-informed approaches.

OVW also funds the Stalking Prevention, Awareness & Resource Center (SPARC), a project of AEquitas, which provides resources to address stalking and educates victim service, campus, law enforcement, and justice system professionals on strategies to keep survivors safe and hold offenders accountable. SPARC is an important partner in providing comprehensive training for organizations, OVW grantees, and practitioners to support survivors of stalking in their communities.

Additionally, it has become increasingly evident how new technologies have changed and expanded the ways that technology can be used for harm by perpetrators of stalking. Offenders often use tools such as GPS tracking devices and stalking software, social media, dating apps, and cameras/videos to track, harass, or threaten victims. Some cyberstalkers weaponize social media to harass a victim by following private activities, sending threatening messages, hacking into accounts to access personal information, and engaging in the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA 2022) defined – for the first time – the term “technological abuse” and recognized the threat posed by the misuse of technology to harm victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. VAWA 2022 also included the authorization of two new grant programs to address cybercrimes against individuals, with a focus on cyberstalking and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. OVW is releasing two new grant solicitations for 2024 to fund the establishment of a National Resource Center on Cybercrimes Against Individuals and to fund grants to provide training and support to state, Tribal, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and judicial personnel to assist victims of cybercrimes.

OVW recently awarded $1 million to AEquitas to support the provision of training and technical assistance to law enforcement and prosecution agencies by enhancing their capacity to investigate and prosecute online crimes such as cyberstalking.  Further, DOJ’s Office of Victims of Crime recently awarded a grant to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative’s Image Abuse Helpline, which is the nation’s only 24/7 hotline dedicated to assisting victims and survivors of image-based sexual abuse that many stalkers use to intimidate and harm victims.

While we are grateful for the opportunities during January to raise awareness, center the voices of survivors, and dialogue with stakeholders on additional ways to reduce stalking and improve support for survivors, we know this work requires ongoing commitment throughout the year. OVW will be convening other DOJ components and federal partners to build on lessons learned from our NSAM stalking events and continue to improve our responses to stalking.

In the White House proclamation recognizing the 20th annual National Stalking Awareness Month, President Biden stated, “Too often, stalking happens in the shadows, hidden from the view of others. This month, we shine a harsh light on these crimes to make clear that this kind of harassment, threat, or unwanted aggressive attention has no place in America. There is so much at stake. Every American deserves to feel safe and protected, have peace of mind, and live with dignity and respect.”

We are grateful for everyone involved in creating and strengthening a coordinated community response to address these critical issues.  Together, we can ensure that stalking has no place in our communities, and we can work to bring survivors the safety, healing, and justice they deserve.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Contact your local police department to report stalking and stalking-related incidents and/or threats. OVW does not provide services directly to the general public. Local resources are available on our website. Immediate and confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by visiting, calling 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224), or texting “START” to 88788. You can also call the National Center for Victims of Crime hotline at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) or the Strong Hearts Native Helpline at 844-762-8483.

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