Repeated Harassment is Not Bullying, It’s Stalking. Let’s Prosecute It That Way.

When teens, preteens and children harass each other, even when that harassment rises to the level of utter cruelty and violence, we have this desire to give it a cutesy name that suggests the idea that this is “just something that kids do.” There is nothing cutesy about the repeated, willful and malicious following and/or harassing of another person. I use that description for this kind of behavior because it both fits what some people refer to as bullying and also is the most common description for stalking.

What we refer to as bullying is not a one-time act. If it were a one-time act, it would be mere simple assault and/or battery, or perhaps not a crime at all. No, the behavior we are really talking about when we refer to bullying or stalking is repeated and unwanted acts by one person or group against another person or group for the purpose of creating an ongoing climate of fear for the target person or group. There are many reasons a particular person or group can be singled out for harassment. It can be because the target person or group dresses a certain way, acts a certain way, is of a certain economic background, nationality, religion or ethnicity, or is perceived to be a member of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered) community.

Horrific Stalking of the LGBT community

The young members of the LGBT community and those who are perceived to be members of that community have experienced and endured some of the most vicious stalking behaviors of any group. Suicides of LGBT children who have lost hope of their lives ever becoming better have become a nearly weekly occurrence. The stalking of these children needs to be stopped. Ideally, all children and all people should be educated and receive training, much as the military has given to its members, that the members of the LGBT community are human beings, equals, and should be treated as such. Regrettably, the government does not have the right to compel people outside of the military to receive such education and training. The only thing the government can do is prosecute unlawful behavior.

All 50 states as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice have some sort of legislation against stalking. Some call it criminal harassment, some call it criminal menace, and some come right out and call it stalking. All of the laws would easily encompass what has been mistakenly referred to as bullying.

The purpose of rebranding this behavior to call it stalking is twofold. First, whatever the anti-stalking laws are called in each state, they should be used to stop anyone, including teens and even younger children, from making the lives of other people miserable and unbearable. There is no reason for this to be allowed to go on. No one has the right to treat anyone else this way. Second, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, there is not enough of a negative connotation to the term bullying. Stalking, on the other hand, has a huge creep factor to it. No one wants to be labeled a stalker.

What schools and others should do when they encounter this behavior

The first time a child or group of children or teens are identified as engaging in stalking behavior, they should be sent to the principal or headmaster’s office if the behavior is at school, and their parents or caregivers should be contacted and informed that any additional reports of this behavior will result in a referral to the police. Teachers, administrators, students and parents should be briefed in advance that this is the school’s policy on this behavior. If the behavior is not at school, the police should be called by anyone witnessing the behavior or the victim or victims parents and the perpetrators should be brought to family court to address the illegal acts. Again, first instance is a warning; any future reports should result in prosecution.

Schools, the police and family courts must be trained to treat this behavior as the serious crime that it is. It is time to once and for all protect our children from becoming the victims of this cruel behavior.

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Examples of state and military anti-stalking laws

New York:

http://law.findlaw.com/state-laws/stalking/new-york/

Penal Code: 240.26, .31; 120.45 to .60

Stalking is Defined as – Stalking in the 4th degree: intentionally and with no legitimate purpose engages in conduct that s/he knows or should reasonably know: will cause reasonable fear of material harm to victim or member of victim’s immediate family or causes material harm to mental or emotional health of victim or member of victim’s immediate family or causes a reasonable fear that victim’s employment or business is threatened; 3rd degree: Same as 4th degree when: 3 or more victims involved or victim has reasonable fear of physical harm or serious bodily injury; 2nd degree: same as 3rd degree when a weapon is involved in commission or 2nd conviction within 5 yrs. or if victim is 14 or under and actor is 21 or older; 1st degree: same as 3rd or 2nd degree with intentional or reckless physical harm to victim.

Texas:

http://law.findlaw.com/state-laws/stalking/texas/

Code Section Penal 42.072

Stalking Defined as – A person commits an offense if on more than one occasion and pursuant to scheme or course of conduct directed at specific person, knowingly engages in conduct that: (1) stalker knows/reasonably believes victim will view as threatening, (2) causes fear, and (3) would cause a reasonable person to fear

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

http://www.ncvc.org/src/main.aspx?dbID=DB_Military114

10 USC § 920a

§ 551. OFFENSE OF STALKING UNDER THE UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE.

(a)    Establishment of Offense –

§ 920a. Art. 120a. Stalking

(a)   Any person subject to this section –

(1)  who wrongfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear death or bodily harm, including sexual assault, to himself or herself or a member of his or her immediate family;

(2)  who has knowledge, or should have knowledge, that the specific person will be placed in reasonable fear of death or bodily harm, including sexual assault, to himself or herself or a member of his or her immediate family; and

(3)  whose acts induce reasonable fear in the specific person of death or bodily harm, including sexual assault, to himself or herself or to a member of his or her immediate family.

is guilty of stalking and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

(b)  In this section:

(1)  The term “course of conduct” means –

(A) a repeated maintenance of visual or physical proximity to a specific person; or

(B)  a repeated conveyance of verbal threat, written threats, or threats implied by conduct, or a combination of such threats, directed at or toward a specific person.

(2)  The term `repeated’, with respect to conduct, means two or more occasions of such conduct.

(3)  The term `immediate family’, in the case of a specific person, means a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of the person, or any other family member, relative, or intimate partner of the person who regularly resides in the household of the person or who within the six months preceding the commencement of the course of conduct regularly resided in the household of the person.’.

References:

The National Center for Victims of Crime page on stalking – http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32514

The Wikipedia page on stalking – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalking#United_States_2