(COLORADO) — Stalking is a prevalent crime across the United States with numbers that rival rates of intimate partner and sexual violence, according to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC).

January 2023 marks the 19th annual National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). It is a “call to action to recognize and respond to the serious crime of stalking,” states SPARC on its website.

One in three women and one in six men experience stalking in their lifetime, says SPARC. Despite high victimization rates, stalking often goes unrecognized and is only taken seriously after a victim has been harmed or even killed, the resource center explains.

“Stalking is its own form of violence with its own risks, support and safety planning needs, and legal responses,” says SPARC in a post to social media.

In popular culture, stalkers are often portrayed as shadowy strangers or mysterious secret admirers, SPARC explains. In reality, the majority of offenders know their victims. 42% of stalkers are acquaintances and 40% are current or former partners, per SPARC.

While all stalkers can be dangerous, intimate partner stalkers – who have the most access and information about their victims – are, on average, the most threatening and violent, according to SPARC.

Statistics given by the resource center show the following:

  • 42% of stalkers are usually an acquaintance
  • 40% of stalkers are current or former partners
  • 19% of stalkers are strangers
  • 8% of stalkers are from brief encounters
  • 8% of stalkers are family members
  • 4% of stalkers are persons of authority
  • 58% of women and 49% of men who are victims were first stalked before the age of 25.

Abusers often target victims who are less likely to report the crime and less likely to be believed or taken seriously if they do report it. SPARC says women, young adults, individuals with disabilities, multiracial individuals, and people of color generally experience stalking at higher rates.

Many stalkers are persistent offenders who utilize a wide range of tactics to “contact, surveil, control, isolate, sabotage, and otherwise scare their victims,” states SPARC. “Stalkers are inventive offenders who use (and misuse) technologies in a variety of ways to scare their victims.”

80% of stalking victims are stalked both in person and through technology, according to SPARC. Victims of technology-facilitated stalking report being just as concerned for their safety as individuals who experience in-person stalking.

For more information or victim resources, go to SPARC’s webpage.