Stalking is the act of following or harassing someone, usually obsessionally, with the object of continually following and disturbing a person's daily life. Literally it means hunting a prey. Stalking can take many forms: sending phone, fax or email messages, maintaining surveillance on a person's home or workplace, following a person, or harassing their friends or colleagues.
Of the 1.5 million victims recorded in the USA since research began in the late 1980s, around three-quarters are female. In the USA one in twenty women have been stalked at one time or another. In Belgium, stalking is illegal. Anyone who "intentionally acts in a way that can reasonably be considered to disturb the peace of mind of another" risks a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years. In its first ten months, the country's only monitoring group has dealt with 4,000 cases.
Stalking is often carried out by a jilted lover. By contrast the psychotic stalker may select an anonymous person at random on the basis of some perceived bond or attraction. Around one in ten stalkers believe that the victim is, perhaps unconsciously, in love with them. In this case the stalker is usually female. The susceptibility of the victim is heightened by the larger proportion of people living alone.