A Sam Houston State University survey on stalking has yielded alarming results.
The study was done by the Crime Victims Institute at the school's Criminal Justice Center and is believed to be the first of its kind in the state.
Nearly one in five Texans questioned by university researchers said they'd been stalked during a recent two-year period.
"The definition of stalking refers to knowingly, willingly committing a series of acts that are designed to instill fear in the victim," Glen Kercher, the Crime Victims' Institute director said.
The survey questioned 701 randomly-chosen Texas residents last spring. The 18 percent who said they'd been stalked reported an overall 453 stalking incidents over the 24 months covered by the survey.
"Is it surprising," Kercher asked. "Probably not, because we found that only about 43 percent of these crimes actually get reported to the police."
The survey also found those stalked received repeated or threatening phone calls, were spied on, or waited for outside of their home or work.
Sam Houston students confirmed the study's results.
"He would call my friends and find out where I was going," one student said. "He would show up wherever I was."
According to the study, the most common reaction was anger, followed by sleeplessness. Other effects included loss of concentration, fear of being alone and feelings of helplessness.
Sixteen percent of victims were men, and 20 percent were women. Nearly half of the male victims said their stalker was a man. Among women, 59 percent said they were stalked by a man.
"Many victims are not even aware that it's against the law," Kercher said. "Many perpetrators don't realize what they're doing is against the law."
Researchers hope the study will change that. The report is headed to policymakers and law enforcement officials to educate them on the severity of stalking.
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