People characterized as stalkers may be accused of having a mistaken belief that another person loves them (erotomania), or that they need rescuing. Stalking can consist of an accumulation of a series of actions which, by themselves, can be legal, such as calling on the phone, sending gifts, or sending emails.
Stalkers may use overt and covert intimidation, threats and violence to frighten their victims. They may engage in vandalism and property damage or make physical attacks that are meant to frighten. Less common are sexual assaults.
Intimate partner stalkers are the most dangerous type. In the UK, for example, most stalkers are former partners and evidence indicates that mental illness-facilitated stalking propagated in the media accounts for only a minority of cases of alleged stalking. A UK Home Office research study on the use of the Protection from Harassment Act stated: “The study found that the Protection from Harassment Act is being used to deal with a variety of behaviour such as domestic and inter-neighbour disputes. It is rarely used for stalking as portrayed by the media since only a small minority of cases in the survey involved such behaviour.”
Psychological effects on victims
Disruptions in daily life necessary to escape the stalker, including changes in employment, residence and phone numbers, take a toll on the victim’s well-being and may lead to a sense of isolation.
According to Lamber Royakkers:
Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom they have no relationship (or no longer have). Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect).