When Sexual Harassment Becomes Stalking
Stalking is a form of repeated harassment that has an obsessive, escalating quality. The definition of stalking appears in the California Penal Code. Repeated and invasive acts meant to invoke severe discomfort or fear in the victim can indicate serious psychopathology, personality disorder as well as criminal intent. Stalking is a serious crime, in or out of the workplace.
Stalking occurs most often between people who are already familiar, such as ex-partners, employer-employee or co-workers. The stalker is usually in a position of power, and confuses casual contact for intentional intimacy (for instance confusing a work meeting for a date).
Sexual harassment escalates to stalking when the unwanted acts become threatening and frequent. In order for an act or series of acts of harassment to be legally considered stalking, and therefore warrant arrest, the following conditions must be present:
- Repeated, willful, malicious acts – these acts must alarm, annoy or threaten someone, thereby causing severe emotional distress.
- A credible threat – the threat can be verbal, written or electronically delivered. The threat need not be a direct one, nor limited to the intended victim alone.
- Intent to place victim in fear – there does not necessarily need to be intent to carry out the threat on the part of the perpetrator. The threat need be calculated only to have the victim experience fear for his or her personal safety or that of a family member- and cause actual fear.
A person convicted of stalking can be sentenced to three years in prison. If a restraining order was in place prior to the stalking, the sentence could be even lengthier. If you are being harassed or stalked, speak to an attorney. We know that every threat should be taken seriously. Contact Los Angeles County Super Lawyers The Ruttenberg Law Firm, P.C. by calling 310.207.4022 or contact us online for a free consultation.