Stalking (psychological terror)
Stalking - originally associated with hunting - has become the established term for acts of persistent persecution that cause its victims psychological strain. They include daily phone calls to victims' homes (also during night-time) or workplaces, "waylaying", bombarding with letters, emails and SMS messages, unwanted gifts, as well as spreading disparaging rumours, psychological harassment, threats, physical violence and sexual assaults.
The so-called "Antistalking Act", 2006 Act Amending Criminal Law (Strafrechtsänderungsgesetz 2006), BGBl. I No. 56/2006, took effect on 1 July 2006. Not only did it make stalking an offence that can be prosecuted under criminal law, but it also created the possibility - irrespective of a complaint - to apply for an interim injunction for the "Protection against invasion of privacy (Schutz vor Eingriffen in die Privatsphäre)". Further legal improvements were effected by the 2007 Act Amending the Law of Criminal Procedure (Strafprozessrechtsänderungsgesetz 2007), BGBl. I No. 93/2007, the Second Protection Against Violence Act (Zweites Gewaltschutzgesetz), BGBl. I No. 40/2009 as well as an amendment of the Security Police Act (Sicherheitspolizeigesetz), BGBl. I No. 152/2013.
Stalking victims are entitled to support. As far as required for the victims' protection, the police can call on the local Violence Protection Centre/ Intervention Centre, which will then promptly and actively contact the endangered person. Naturally, persons affected by stalking can also directly - i.e. without prior police intervention - contact the:
"Violence Protection Centre/Intervention Centre or any other specialised facility" (link list in German) (PDF 159 KB).
Criminal law offence "Persistent persecution"
Pursuant to section 107a StGB (Criminal Code) entitled "Persistent persecution (beharrliche Verfolgung)" it is possible to counter the psychological terror caused by various forms of persistent persecution by resorting to criminal law.
Behaviour is deemed persistent if sustained over a longer period. It is liable to punishment if it interferes with the victim's life to an unacceptable degree and can be counted among the following behavioural patterns:
- trying to be close to the victim (e.g. following by car, waylaying at home or in the workplace)
- contacting by telecommunication or any other means of communication or via third parties (e.g. frequent letters, emails or text messages)
- ordering goods or services for the victim by using the latter's personal data (e.g. clothes from a mail-order company)
- inducing third parties to contact the victim by using the latter's personal data (e.g. placing contact ads on behalf of the victim)
The offence can be punished by imprisonment of up to one year. "Persistent persecution" constitutes a criminal offence rendering the accused liable to public prosecution, which means that if the police learn about a stalking case, they are obliged to intervene ex officio.
Interim injunction EO for the "Protection against invasion of privacy"
Irrespective of a criminal complaint with the civil court of their place of residence, stalking victims can apply for an interim injunction pursuant to section 382g for the "Protection against invasion of privacy (Schutz vor Eingriffen in die Privatsphäre)". In such cases, the court can impose the following prohibitions:
- prohibition of personal contact and persecution
- prohibition of contacting via letters, phone calls or other means
- prohibition to stay in precisely identified places
- prohibition to disclose and/or circulate personal data and photographs of the endangered person
- prohibition to order goods or services with third parties by using personal data of the endangered person
- prohibition to induce third parties to contact the endangered person
In principle, such injunctions are issued for a maximum of one year but can be extended if legal proceedings are instituted or if the perpetrator fails to comply with the requirements. If the perpetrator acts against the court order to avoid personal contact with the victim or to persecute the victim or to stay away from specified areas, he can be given a fine of up to 500 Euro. In case of persistent violation he can also be arrested.
- The brochure in German: "Frauen haben Recht(e)" (PDF) lists the options available to women seeking protection and trying to assert their rights, summarises the major procedures and gives a comprehensive list of facilities providing counselling and help.
- Aid facilities in Austria - link list, in German: Hilfseinrichtungen (PDF 159 KB)
- Specific offers of information and support for women with disabilities, in German: "Gewalt gegen Frauen mit Behinderungen"
- Recommendations by the Federal Office for Crime Prevention (in German)