October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and one of the crimes common with DV is stalking. Private investigators have routinely been called in to help stalking victims identify a stalker’s patterns, behaviors and to catch them in the act. Take for instance Joan’s story.
“My life felt out of control. No matter what I did he was there, calling, showing up, sending gifts,” Joan described. “What we finally realized was he created a fake Facebook account and became friends with my friends, which gave him access to photos of me, my comments and other information. It went on for years before he was caught.”
Joan ended up working with a private investigator, which helped build her case against her stalker, Tim, a former co-worker who was convinced they were fated to be married. None of Joan’s attempts at issuing no contact demands worked. She made mistakes along the way, as many stalking victims do. He would call fifteen times and on the sixteenth, out of frustration, she would pick up the phone and yell at him to leave her alone. From that, Tim learned it took sixteen calls to get a reaction; positive or negative all he seemed to thrive on was the interaction.
Stalking is one of those crimes for which a victim needs to build their own case before law enforcement will get involved. Even then cases are sometimes difficult to prove. In some jurisdictions, these cases end up with a victim facing serious physical harm before they are taken seriously.
Laws have come a ways since the early 90s when many states were just beginning to enact legislation. Technology has often kept one step ahead of the laws though leaving victims still vulnerable. While almost all states have a provision in the law that covers cyber stalking, the laws are new and few cases involving use of social networking sites have been prosecuted.
According to the National Violence Against Women Prevention Resource Center, stalking is defined as a repetitive pattern of unwanted, harassing or threatening behavior committed by one person against another. Acts include: telephone harassment, being followed, receiving unwanted gifts, and other similar forms of intrusive behavior. All states and the federal government have passed anti-stalking legislation.
A private investigator can work with the victim to gather evidence both through surveillance of the stalker and by taking witness statements from those who might have important information of either the stalker doing this to someone else in the past or regarding their current actions. A private investigator can also research on social media, help ensure there’s no spy ware on phones and computers and check for any GPS tracking on vehicles. All of this together with the victim’s information can build a solid case for law enforcement.