When Does Stalking Become Domestic Violence?

Read Part 1 and Part 3 of our domestic violence series.

Domestic violence is a unique crime in that even if the victim leaves the relationship when they are supposed to, or when they recognize those red flags mentioned earlier, Bradley suggests that they can still fall victim to continued harassment. Stalking is a major issue one may find themselves in after leaving an unhealthy relationship.

This issue is almost completely unique to women, where most stalking cases involve ex-husbands or boyfriends as the perpetrator against their former wives or girlfriends. According to a Justice Department study, 1 in 12 women have been stalked, and 80 percent of those who are stalked get assaulted (Travis). Stalking itself can be understood as any behavior which serves no other purpose than to harass, annoy, or terrorize the victim.

Typically, the stalker is obsessed with the victim and cannot come to terms with the rejection he/she feels when the partner leaves. This results in obsessive behavior aimed at taking revenge on the victim in the form of making repeated phone calls, sending letters or gifts, watching or following the victim while at home or in public places, or destroying their property.

Why Stalking Is Dangerous

A dangerous attribute of stalking is that it almost always escalates. What starts out as something non-physical, like telephone calls, can quickly develop into physical actions or even assault. The National Council on Stalking states that a stalker should be considered dangerous when he/she has a criminal record or history of mental instability; if vandalism or other acts of violence have been committed; if he or she is unable to control their temper and has a history of drug abuse; if the stalker is familiar with guns and has made threats towards the victim; or if he/she lives in isolation (Tjaden).

Thankfully, most states have established specific laws outlining potential aggressive behaviors which allow law enforcement to intervene before things do turn physical. Ways in which victims can assist law enforcement include keeping a written account of each incident involving the stalker.

These accounts should include:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • What happened during the encounter

Police officers must warn victims that each stalker should be considered dangerous and to never aggravate the situation if they find themselves in contact with their stalker. In such situations, they should immediately attempt to separate themselves from the aggressor. Lastly, it is extremely important that police are notified after every contact with the stalker so that each and every instance can be documented for a potential trial later. It is also crucial that the victim informs law enforcement of any prior patterns of behavior from the stalker, as it may influence sentencing penalties and can even help determine whether the perpetrator is charged with a misdemeanor or felony (Bradley).

Luckily, the majority of states have set up meticulous laws in order to give victims of stalking an easier route to prosecuting stalkers.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of H. William Edgar are dedicated to the practice of family law. We have offices in Riverside, Temecula, Anaheim and Palm Desert, and we are committed to helping you get the results that your family deserves. Contact us online or by calling (888) 251-9618 to review your options.


Tjaden, P. “PUBLICATIONS.” NCJRS Abstract - National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 1997, www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=163921.

Travis, Jeremy. “National Institute of Justice Research Report.” Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Antistalking Legislation, 1998, pp. 39–40. U.S Department of Justice.