Much like domestic violence, stalking is a crime of power and control that annually impacts the lives of millions of Americans.

In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, which was released last year, 3.4 million people self-identified as victims of stalking in the study year, topping the last annual estimate of 1.4 million victims in 1998.

Other statistics:

• 75 percent of stalking victims know their stalker;

• 30 percent are stalked by a current or former intimate partner;

• 75 percent of domestic violence victims report stalking as part of the abuse;

• People aged 18-24 experience the highest rate of stalking;

• 25 percent of stalking victims report cyberstalking — being stalked through the use of electronic technology, such as e-mail, cell phone and text messaging. The spike in numbers from 1.4 million victims in 1998 to 3.4 million in 2009 may be attributed to the increase in technology use.

• Most stalkers (87 percent) are male; most victims (80 percent) are female

Stalking is generally defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Some tactics used by stalkers include persistent patterns of sending the victim unwanted items or presents, following or lying in wait for the victim, damaging or threatening to damage the victim’s property, defaming the victim’s character, contacting the victim repeatedly by telephone, e-mail, fax.

A course of conduct implies the use of these and other tactics on at least two or more occasions, which does not pose a problem for most perpetrators.

Victims of abusive relationships often experience an onslaught of stalking behaviors after they have left their abuser. In these situations, the abuser has lost physical control of the victim and must resort to the types of predatory behaviors that will continue to exert emotional and psychological damage.

The victim does not know when she will be followed or confronted by her abuser — now stalker — when she will find her tires slashed, when she will find white roses (the flowers he said he would send to her funeral) on her doorstep, when she will find messages on her cell phone or voicemail. The damage is done: fear has been instilled.

It’s real, it’s powerful, it’s not romantic, and it’s not the victim’s fault.

If this type of abuse is happening to you or someone you know, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you, including pets:

• Tell the stalker to stop. Do so once and ignore all subsequent attempts to make contact.

• Document and save all contacts, such as voicemail, e-mail messages, written messages, instances of being followed or harassed, and notify the police.

• File a Complaint for Protection from Abuse (this can include companion animals).

• Call New Hope for Women for support, assistance in creating a safety plan for the workplace as well as home, and for referral to other helpful resources at 800-522-3304.