January is Stalking Awareness month. Stalking is a crime under Montana law and under the law of the every other state in the United States. It is also a crime under federal law. The exact definitions of stalking vary in different states.
In lay terms, in Montana, the essence of the crime is that one person repeatedly acts towards another person in a way that would cause a reasonable person to experience substantial emotional distress or fear of being injured or killed.
The Montana stalking statute reads:
45-5-220. Stalking — exemption — penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of stalking if the person purposely or knowingly causes another person substantial emotional distress or reasonable apprehension of bodily injury or death by repeatedly:
(a) following the stalked person; or
(b) harassing, threatening, or intimidating the stalked person, in person or by mail, electronic communication, as defined in 45-8-213, or any other action, device, or method.
(2) This section does not apply to a constitutionally protected activity.
(3) For the first offense, a person convicted of stalking shall be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 1 year or fined an amount not to exceed $1,000, or both. For a second or subsequent offense or for a first offense against a victim who was under the protection of a restraining order directed at the offender, the offender shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 5 years or fined an amount not to exceed $10,000, or both. A person convicted of stalking may be sentenced to pay all medical, counseling, and other costs incurred by or on behalf of the victim as a result of the offense.
(4) Upon presentation of credible evidence of violation of this section, an order may be granted, as set forth in Title 40, chapter 15, restraining a person from engaging in the activity described in subsection (1).
(5) For the purpose of determining the number of convictions under this section, “conviction” means:
(a) a conviction, as defined in 45-2-101, in this state;
(b) a conviction for a violation of a statute similar to this section in another state; or
(c) a forfeiture of bail or collateral deposited to secure the defendant’s appearance in court in this state or another state for a violation of a statute similar to this section, which forfeiture has not been vacated.
(6) Attempts by the accused person to contact or follow the stalked person after the accused person has been given actual notice that the stalked person does not want to be contacted or followed constitutes prima facie evidence that the accused person purposely or knowingly followed, harassed, threatened, or intimidated the stalked person.
History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 292, L. 1993; amd. Sec. 11, Ch. 350, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 344, L. 2003. (Emphasis added)
For other states’ statutes visit www.findlaw.com.
According to surveys, 6.6 million people are stalked each year in the United States. Visit stalkingawarenessmonth.org for more information.
Although women are more likely to be stalked than men, anyone can be a victim of stalking. Intimate partner stalking is the most common form of stalking and carries a high risk of danger.
Educate yourself on the crime of stalking and its violence dynamics, precursors, and red flags. Learn how you can increase your safety and how you can recognize, reduce, and avoid stalking risks.
I also recommend you train in physical self-defense. If all of your risk management, avoidance, and evasion strategies should fail the only tool to help you survive will be the use of violence through physical self-defense. Once you are at that point, you need to counter-attack with 100% commitment. No one can guarantee your safety. However, training in effective, utilitarian, reality based self-defense can increase your survival chances.
What do we do at Three Rivers Defense about stalking?
We teach safety and defense concepts.
We cannot guarantee anyone’s safety. But we train people to be more aware and more prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically. Our goal is to increase our clients’ ability to recognize, reduce, avoid, and manage risk.
I start out with a meeting or telephone consultation to determine my clients’ concerns and safety issues so that we can tailor the training to their specific needs.
We then explore stalking dynamics. Through this process, clients learn that even strong, smart, competent people can become targets of stalkers.
We take time working through these dynamics, understanding the process, characteristics, and stages of intimate partner violence (IPV) and other types of stalking. We explore issues of vulnerability, red flags, and denial in different stages of relationships.
We arm people with knowledge and self-awareness so that they are less likely to become ensnared with a stalker. Particularly in IPV, the first steps of this process include rebuilding self-esteem and re-learning to trust intuition and to set and protect your boundaries.
Violence is rarely random. Violence is almost always a process. There are precursors, stages, and dynamics specific to stalking. The more people know about these dynamics, the more aware they become about their own characteristics, both their vulnerabilities and their strengths, the better armed they are to avoid potentially harmful relationships.
Stalkers often act like other predators. They test their prey. They test whether they will be able to control their targets. They test how a person sets verbal, physical, and emotional boundaries. They test whether the person is assertive or easily dominated and controlled.
We also inform our clients about their general legal options and their potential pros and cons.
We then work with our clients physically, training them in basic physical self-defense. We teach gross motor movements that are relatively easy to learn, retain, and apply in high-stress situations.
Our focus is on empowerment. We are dedicated to training in a supportive, interactive, and respectful environment. We empower clients by increasing knowledge as well as mental and physical skills, not by fostering illusions and dangerous over-confidence.
Take responsibility for your own safety. Educate yourself on stalking dynamics, train in basic physical self-defense, and increase your safety options and your peace of mind!