The English term stalking originally comes from hunting language and means “to hunt“, “to follow“ or “to pester“. Since the early ninetees, the term has been used, initially in English-speaking areas and later also in Germany, as a description for social behaviour which involves pestering and harassing another person. Since then, stalking has described the deliberate and persistent pestering and harassment of a person, who does not want this and finds unpleasant. A number of different types of behaviour can occur in doing so:
- Telephone calls
- Letters / text messages / emails
- Chasing, tailing, following, spying
- Unwanted gifts and ordered goods
- Unwanted contact via social media, defamation and manipulation
- Acts of cyber crime (e.g. hacking)
- Involving relatives, friends, colleagues etc.
- Damaging property
- Breaking into a home, or property
- Threats and bodily harm
Contrary to widespread perceptions and occasional portrayal in the media, stalking is not primarily a “celebrity problem“, but rather occurs among all age groups and all social groups, both with regards to those affected by stalking, as well as the people who stalk. Here, both women and men are among those who stalk, as well as among those who are affected, whereby ca. 80% of the people who stalk are male and ca. 20% are female, and vice versa for those affected. Those affected by stalking are predominantly former partners, but also acquaintances (from their social spheres or the internet), colleagues, doctors and therapists, i.a..
Stalking is so widespread and impacts those affected so severely, that it is prosectuable since March 2007 through the specific offence of stalking (§ 238 StGB) and every person affected can receive protection and support.