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-What is Stalking?
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person's safety or the safety of others; or suffer substantial emotional distress.
• Pattern of Behavior: Two or more incidents make a pattern. However, definitions vary from state-to-state. It's important to be familiar with your state's laws about stalking (see below for Wyoming's stalking laws. Stalkers use a variety of tactics, including (but not limited to): unwanted contact including phone calls, texts, and contact via social media, unwanted gifts, showing up/approaching an individual or their family/friends, monitoring, surveillance, property damage, and threats. What if the stalker's actions aren't illegal (for example, sending gifts)? Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, the military, and tribal lands. Some of the behaviors that make up the crime of stalking are criminal on their own such as property damage. Even if the behavior is not a crime on its own such as texting excessively, it may be part of the pattern of stalking behavior and victims should consider documenting and reporting it.
• Specific Person: Stalking is typically directed at a specific person - the victim. However, stalkers often contact the victim's family, friends, and/or coworkers as part of their pattern of behavior. Anyone can be a victim of stalking. A majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know like a current or former intimate partner, acquaintance, or family member. The majority of stalking victims are female. However, people of all genders can be stalked. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience stalking in their lifetime.
• Fear: The definition of stalking includes that a reasonable person would feel fear. It is important to note that fear is often masked by other emotions: anger, frustration, hopelessness or despair. Many stalker's behaviors seem innocuous or even desirable to outsiders - for example, sending expensive gifts. The stalker's actions don't seem scary and are hard to explain. Fear is contextual. What's scary to one person may not be scary to another. In stalking cases, many of the behaviors are only scary to a victim because of their relationship with the stalker. For example: A bouquet of roses is not scary on its own. But when a victim receives a bouquet from an abusive ex-boyfriend who she recently relocated to get away from - and she did not think he knew where her new home was - this flower delivery becomes terrifying and threatening. It is essential for responders to ask about and understand why certain behaviors are scary to the victim.
People react to stalkers in a variety of ways. Some may seem irritated or angry rather than scared, while others may minimize and dismiss their stalking as "no big deal." Irritation, anger, and/or minimizations may be masking fear. It is helpful to consider how victims may change their behaviors to cope with the stalking .Are they changing travel routes? Avoiding certain locations? Screening calls? These may be indicators that victims are afraid.
• How is stalking different than harassment? Stalking and harassment are similar and can overlap. Harassment may be part of a stalking pattern of behavior/course of conduct. Generally, the element of fear is what separated stalking from harassment. Harassment is typically irritating and bothersome, sometimes to the point where a victim feels deeply uncomfortable. However, victims of harassment are not typically afraid of their perpetrators. For example, a colleague who consistently mocks a new coworker for her appearance may be harassing her by saying cruel things and sending disparaging emails. While the victim is distressed and may feel sad, anxious, angry and/or uncomfortable, she is not afraid of the perpetrator - she does not believe that the behaviors will escalate or that further harm will come to her. However, if that same perpetrator began calling the victim's cell phone, following the victim and/or posting disparaging things about the victim online, it could become stalking.
Wyoming Stalking Laws?
What is the legal definition of stalking in Wyoming?
Stalking is when, with the intention to harass, the stalker commits acts (engages in a "course of action") that is reasonable likely to harass you. (Wyoming Code § 6-2-506(b))
The "course of action" that the stalker must commit includes, but is not limited to, any combination of the following:
• in a harassing manner, communicating with you directly or causing someone else to communicate with you, verbally, electronically, mechanically, by telephone, or in writing - this includes anonymous communications;
• following you;
• placing you under surveillance by waiting outside of your home, school, workplace, vehicle, other place where you are; or
• committing other repeated acts that harass you. (Wyoming Code § 6-2-506(b))
"Harass," in this context, means committing repeated actions that are directed at a specific person, such as verbal threats, written threats, lewd or obscene statements or images, vandalism, physical contact without your consent, or other actions. The stalker must know, or should know, that these actions would cause a "reasonable person" to suffer one of the following:
• substantial emotional distress;
• substantial fear for one's own safety or for the safety of another person: or
• substantial fear for the destruction of one's property. (Wyoming Code § 6-2-506(a)(ii)
Sources: SPARC (Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center), Women'sLaw.org
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