Crime of stalking

Stalking, the law forgets the human factor

She put a letter under the neighbor’s door, asking for help. She was living with an abusive man and she didn’t know how to get out of that relationship -or even of the apartment. He was threatening her and her family, how could she leave? Then, the neighbor called the police that arrested the man, accusing him of the crime of stalking and kidnapping. Her story has a happy ending, since stalking can lead to murder.

Now, if the man kills his victim, he won’t have to pay for the stalking charges. The Italian Spreme Court has decided that murder is a complex crime and it absorbs everything else. So, the murderer only pays for the murder, not the stalking. Making the abuse disappear. It doesn’t feel like a win to victims.

The crime of stalking in Italy

The law dates back to 2009, so this is a fairly new crime. It collects any persecutory acts that the stalker commits against the victim. The persecution is so severe and serious that it’s a literal torment. So much so that the victim’s life is impossible. Stalking is abuse and threats that keep repeating and repeating. And it doesn’t have to be physical. Persecution is following someone home, watching them at all times, or even abusive WhatsApp messages.

No matter the method the stalker chooses, the consequences of this crime are three. First, perennial anxiety and fear, then the just fear for the person’s safety -and anyone the victim loves. Finally, people are forced to change their habits to avoid the stalker. According to the law, any menacing act that destabilizes the person’s psyche constitutes the crime of stalking. Plus, it doesn’t matter if it’s only three message or two phone calls. The law considers stalking anything that affected the victim’s mental health or safety. If those two messages on WhatsApp instilled fear, then it’s stalking.

The authorities also introduced the crime of cyberstalking, which considers punishable any digital or online act. If the stalker used any electronic tool or device, then it still counts. Messages, emails, anything through social media: it’s still stalking.

How much the crime of stalking costs

So, what does the stalker face?

The minimum sentence is one year, while the maximum is six years and a half. The sentence can increase if the stalker is the partner (even if the couple is separated or divorced) or an ex partner. Another aggravating factor happens if the victim is a minor, a pregnant woman, or a person with disabilities. Furthermore, cybercrime has increased sentences. The law institutes punishments, surely. But does it offer any protection?

The protections for the victims

The crime of stalking punishable only if the victim sues its persecutor and it has to happen within six months of the last stalking act. When the authorities receive the complaint from the victim, they act according to the “red code.” They have three days to call the victim back for more information. Still, those three days might be fatal.

At the beginning of the investigation, the judge can take two precautions. One is forcing the stalker to leave the house, if the two live together. The other precaution is to ban the stalker from the places that the victim visits and goes to. Who checks to see if the perpetrator complies? No one. Once again, it’s up to the fearful victim to call the police -and not the other way around.

What the law doesn’t consider

So, the introduction of the crime of stalking isn’t enough. Often, the victims are too afraid to talk about it, let alone sue the stalker. And that’s why the situations escalate quickly, sometimes ending in murder.

In fact, a research made by Istat revealed that 78% of victims didn’t go to the authorities. Only 4,5% went to the police and barely the 1,5% goes to a support center or a center against violence. Of all the victims that went to authorities, 48% decided to sue while 40% did nothing. So, they went to the police but they decided to let it go.

Why? Perhaps because, most of the time, the perpetrator is a partner or an ex. In fact, over 11% of people were victims of stalking after the breakup. Only 3% of stalkers were complete strangers. Plus, the statistics confirm popular belief: the majority of victims are women. When it comes to perpetrators, 86% are men and 14% are women. Indeed, proving that this is a gender crime, although there is also proof of violence against men.

The evidence points to one fact: women prefer handling the situation by themselves. Often, victims have a hard time providing proof of stalking, so they don’t go to the police. That’s why a couple of Roman techs invented the app MyTutela. This app allows people to gather any data received from the stalker’s phone number, archiving the information on Cloud for years, in chronological order. Thanks to this innovation, victims don’t have to worry about finding that specific message. MyTutela was awarded for its purpose and work. Still, not enough people use it.

”Please, do something. He’s sick and he’s accusing me of ruining his life because I want to break up with him. Protect my father,” she wrote on the letter she put under the neighbor’s door. This time, someone did something. This time, she is safe.

If you are a victim of stalking in Italy, call 1522 for help and support. 

 

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