Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today announced that her bipartisan provision to strengthen federal stalking laws passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, clearing the way for a vote in the full Senate. Klobuchar’s provision, which would help law enforcement more effectively target high-tech predators, was included in legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In preparation for VAWA’s reauthorization, Klobuchar recently held a roundtable discussion in Minnesota with police, prosecutors, judges and victim advocates that focused on new tools to fight domestic violence.
“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how domestic violence can destroy lives and tear apart families,” Klobuchar said.“Earlier this month, I heard from Minnesota law enforcement and victim advocates about the importance of having strong legislation like the Violence Against Women Act in place to help protect women and children from abuse, and strengthening the stalking provisions in the legislation would help keep victims safe as the technology stalkers use advances.”
Current federal anti-stalking laws require that a victim actually suffer from substantial emotional distress in order for the perpetrator to be prosecuted. However, sometimes victims are not even aware they are being stalked, particularly if the stalker is using electronic surveillance, including spyware, bugging, video surveillance, and other technology. Therefore, a stalker can escape prosecution simply by using clandestine methods of stalking that do not incite fear in the victim. The Stalkers Act puts the focus on the stalker’s actions, not on the victim’s emotions, by empowering law enforcement to prosecute any act of stalking that would “reasonably be expected” to cause a person substantial emotional distress.
Cyberstalking is a problem that has grown more severe as digital technology has improved and proliferated. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) estimates that one out of every four stalking victims reports being stalked through some form of technology, such as e-mail or instant messaging. In 2010, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, whose stalker posted unauthorized pictures of her on the internet, joined Klobuchar to call for stronger federal anti-stalking laws.