"That's why celebrities have such a hard time knowing how to respond to a stalker," said Levin. "Any small bit of sympathy, no matter how faint, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, can inspire a stalker. A psychotic stalker can take the smallest pat on the back and turn it into a major confirmation of profound love."
When Someone Can’t Let Go
Celebrities cannot look for or react to potential warnings signs because in most cases, they do not have any real relationship with their stalkers. They can only react after someone has repeatedly sent them threatening notes or tried to reach them by trespassing on their property.
However, stalking is not just a problem for the rich and famous. According to the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 8 percent of women and 2 percent of men in the United States have been stalked at some time in their lives. Many stalking cases involve breakups in which ex-boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses cannot let go of a failed relationship.
Stalking, some critics say, is rooted in the emphasis society places on relationships and marriage. Most relationship stalking cases involve men who pursue and threaten women. Approximately 78 percent of stalking victims are women, according to the National Institute of Justice, while 87 percent of stalking offenders are male.
Though men are rarely stalking victims, some people believe these cases could be under-reported and more prevalent than believed.
"You don't find many men who are stalking victims," said Downes. "Most don't like to think of themselves as victims in that way. Men are more likely to stalk women. In our society, men are raised to be aggressive, the pursuers, while women are taught to be more patient, lay back a little bit. Still, cases where women stalk men may be a bit underestimated."
Sign of True Love — or Danger?
Experts say that men who stalk their girlfriends during the relationship or after it has ended tend to be jealous, possessive and relentlessly persistent. However, it may be difficult for potential victims to recognize stalking warning signs.
They may interpret the signs as demonstrations of love and affection.
"There are warning signs early in the relationship but the problem is that the woman may not see these as negatives," Levin said. "She sees these as a confirmation of love. A very jealous, possessive boyfriend will be seen as someone who's deeply in love. And that kind of jealous reaction from a partner will be seen as a compliment, something flattering from someone who's deeply in love. That is the time when a woman should think long and hard about having a partner who simply will not take no for an answer."
In intimate stalking cases, the spurned lover or spouse cannot stand rejection and wants to maintain power over the victim. They may be trying to compensate for the lack of power they feel they have over their own lives, experts say.
"Many of these stalkers often suffered a great deal as children and because of that suffering they grow up feeling a profound sense of powerlessness," Levin said. "So later in their relationships with adults, they do everything in they can to maximize a sense of power. They can't take no for an answer, and treat everyone as instruments, possessions."
Still, partners have to balance common sense with caution in their relationships. Not every flash of jealousy is a prelude to a restraining order.