Stalking Not Just a Problem for Miley Cyrus and Other Celebrities

Teen star Miley Cyrus is the object of millions of adoring fans, but that fame also came with a price for the “Hannah Montana” star – at least one rabid fan who crossed the line into stalking.

A 53-year-old Georgia man, Mark McLeod, has been accused of stalking the 16-year-old megastar. McLeod first came to the attention of authorities when he tried to breach the security perimeter of a movie set on Tybee Island, GA where Cyrus was filming back in July. On August 4th, he again attempted to gain access to the star, but this time was arrested and charged with attempted stalking, a misdemeanor.

According to Cyrus’ security guard, after the first incident McLeod told and investigator that he planned to return to the Tybee Island movie set and “finish things” with Cyrus. Other reports also stated that McLeod told people he was engaged to be married to Cyrus, and that the teen star had sent him secret messages through her television show. The Chatham County judge who heard the case could not deny McLeod bond due to the misdemeanor charge, but did say that he felt that McLeod was a danger and that he would deny bond if he could.

We often think of stalking as one of the downsides to fame, but actually stalking is a crime that can happen to anyone. Stalking can occur when an ex-significant other feels spurned, but it can also occur, as in Cyrus’ case, when someone feels that they are receiving signals or messages from a would-be lover, no matter if that person has ever seen or spoken with the stalker. Other criminals, such as serial murderers and sexual predators who prey on children, may also stalk their victims before committing a crime.

It’s hard to protect your children from becoming stalking victims in the latter case because criminals often single their victims out for reasons only understood in their own heads. But you can teach your children to be observant and follow simple safety precautions to ensure that, if your child does catch the eye of a stalker, they remain safe.

A recent BBC report also spotlighted another trend –teenage stalkers. According to an Australian report, stalking by teens can be significantly more violent than stalking carried out by other offenders. The study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, reported that most teen stalkers act not out of infatuation for their victims but due to either bullying or a perceived injustice (including sexual rejection.)

Victims of these teenage stalkers reported threats of death or rape as well as other physical threats.

The report:

"Juvenile stalking is characterised by direct, intense, overtly threatening and all too often violent forms of pursuit," the authors wrote.

"The seriousness that is afforded to adult forms of stalking should similarly apply to this behaviour among juveniles, given the even greater risks of disruption to the victim's life and risks of being attacked."

Stalking is a dangerous crime and one that does not get the attention it deserves outside of high profile celebrity cases. Check this spot tomorrow for more on what you can do to prevent stalking or protect yourself if a stalker has you in his or her sights.