Stalking behavior is any conduct that is used by a person to affect his or her victim. Every stalking situation is different, but there are a few common tactics that stalkers may employ, including leaving frequent messages, waiting in areas the victim frequents, and giving unwanted gifts. These behaviors may escalate into violent attacks. While there are many different manifestations of stalking behavior, each is motivated by an obsession with the victim that is unsolicited. Like other forms of harassment, whether an activity is a stalking behavior depends on the perspective of the person being pursued.
In most cases, stalking behavior does not surface until the perpetrator is somehow refused by his or her victim. For instance, when a former lover refuses to restart the relationship, the scorned partner may engage in stalking behavior to get what he or she wants. The impulse to stalk may exist prior to the behaviors, but it is only when the fantasy of a connection with the victim is challenged that the behavior starts. Alternatively, a stalking relationship can evolve out of pure fantasy, such as when stalkers target celebrities who they have never met.
Many stalkers rely on communication as their primary stalking behavior. They may engage in telephone harassment, calling frequently and leaving many messages, or use the same tactic with text messages. Email harassment is also possible, although this is often less effective due to spam filters. Letters are an effective way to stalk a person, but this is less popular because it is less direct. The content of the stalker’s messages may be affectionate or violent, but it is mainly the frequency and unwanted presence that links these behaviors to stalking.
Stalkers also often follow their victims. They may wait outside the victim's home or work, or they may follow them during everyday activities. Many victims find this one of the most terrifying forms of stalking because they can often see their stalker. This is a crime that can be deterred by police intervention.
Gifts can also constitute a form of stalking in cases where a stalker tries to gain his or her victim's attention or respect by offering material goods. These can be otherwise acceptable gifts, such as flowers, jewelry, or other items the victim might enjoy. In extreme cases, these "gifts" can come in the form of frightening gifts, such as body parts, disturbing images, or dead animals.
Any activity that demonstrates an obsession with the victim can be considered stalking behavior. Many stalkers who are not deterred while in the stalking phase of their obsession become violent, with the reasoning that if the victim does not love the stalker, he or she can love nobody else either. This is why it is very important to stop a stalker as soon as he or she is recognized. While the activities may seem merely annoying at first, they can quickly become frightening and even dangerous for the victim.