Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Problem of Men Stalking Women Spurs New Laws Some 20 States Have Antistalking Laws and at Least a Dozen More Have Measures Pending; Questions Are Being Raised as to Possibilities of Violating Civil Rights of Suspects

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Problem of Men Stalking Women Spurs New Laws Some 20 States Have Antistalking Laws and at Least a Dozen More Have Measures Pending; Questions Are Being Raised as to Possibilities of Violating Civil Rights of Suspects

Article excerpt

ONE evening while on a date, Sandra noticed that a man she knew was following her.

Angry at seeing her out with another man, the stalking man later started harassing her. He followed her, made death threats, and even broke into her home.

Sandra (not her real name) talked to the police and learned the man had previously been tried for rape and kidnapping, and acquitted. The harassment got so bad that she left the area.

"What I had to do was pull up stakes one weekend and sort of rush out of town," she says. "And I just moved 100 miles away into a high-security building."

That was seven years ago, but Sandra is still afraid the stalking man will find her.

The stalking problem is gaining increasing attention. In response to a growing awareness of domestic abuse as a serious crime, many states have passed so-called antistalking laws to protect victims from harassment.

At least 20 states have passed antistalking laws, while at least a dozen other states have introduced stalking measures this legislative session, according to Donna Hunzeker, criminal justice specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. The laws define stalking as repeated following or harassing of another person. Most laws require that a "credible threat" of violence be made against the victim, Ms. Hunzeker says.

According to Joan Zorza, senior attorney for the National Battered Women's Law Project in New York, the vast majority of domestic violence incidents occur after a couple separates. Protection inadequate

Ms. Zorza says restraining orders don't always provide enough protection for women victims from their abusive husbands or boyfriends. Thus, some abusers begin "stalking" their victims, she says.

"Many of these guys know what the definition of domestic violence is and officially avoid it," Zorza says.

"Nevertheless, they are forever following their girlfriends or wives. They block her entrance way to the door, if she wants to leave her home.

"They follow her around. They call her repeatedly. And the stalking law basically makes this kind of harassment a crime."

California passed the first antistalking law in 1990. …

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