Stalking is used with some differing definitions in psychiatry and psychology, as well as legal terminology in the act of a criminal offense. Stalking is unwanted or obsessive attention sometimes leading to threatening or dangerous situations as well as discomfort for the victim. Unlike other crimes which usually involve one act, stalking is a series of actions that occur over a period usually consisting of an accumulation of actions which in themselves can be legal, such as phone calls, sending gifts, or sending emails, showing up in public places at the same time as the victim and the like.
While most people view stalking as a problem only celebrities encounter, it is actually more common among civilians who have a jilted ex-partner, an envious co-worker or ex-friend, and sometimes even strangers who seem to grow an unhealthy interest in their victim (perhaps a customer at the victim’s place of employment, the ex of someone the victim is newly connected with or even someone they discovered on social media and became obsessed with).
In modern times, stalking has become more prominent due to social media and political conceptions. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, group stalking is becoming more commonplace. Group stalking is when 3 or more people driven by the same feelings unite with a goal of harassing their victim. Cyber stalking has turned into a household word and, due it the simplicity of cyber stalking, it has also grown to be the most common type of stalking today.
Here are some Do’s & Don’ts if you feel you are being stalked:
- Don’t call, write to, speak or respond to your stalker in person if you can avoid it. Stalkers often feel as though they are in a relationship with their victims and any contact the victim makes with them is perceived as validation of their relationship (which is nonexistent). Remember, even being overtly rude or yelling at your stalker can be misconstrued as communication of affection or interest.
- Do hide your personal information. If a stalker does not have personal information about you they can retrieve it by searching on the internet, listening to your conversations, or picking up items you discard in public places. If possible, provide a secondary phone contact number whenever able and use a P.O. Box for your address.
- Don’t rely on arming yourself as a deterrent. Without proper training, you or a loved one could get hurt. Also, should you physically harm or kill a stalker, you could be held criminally liable resulting in life altering penalties. It is always best to know self defense techniques, but when using weapons (such as guns) it becomes a slippery slope where, as a victim, you could become a offender.
- Do inform others about your issue. Although many stalking victims are reluctant to tell others what they are going through, it is important that those around you know what is happening. This includes family, friends, co-habitants, work colleagues and even neighbors. Sharing helps reduce the possibility of others unintentionally providing info to the stalker that could provide access to you, makes them aware of any significant things they observe and helps you with evidence and witnesses should you have to bring your stalker to court.
- Don’t ignore red flags or your instincts. Often times we think a stalker will give up and go away or that we will not be taken seriously if we tell others we feel suspicious about someone. Depending on the level of threat a stalking incident is, do not let even the mildest incidents extend beyond 3 occurrences without noting details, saving any evidence and beginning to inform others you may have a problem on your hands.
- Do collect all forms of evidence. Try to journal all incidents, organize copies of any correspondence and save any recorded messages, and photograph any evidence or incidents whenever you are able to do so safely. If an item is delivered to you, contact the delivery service to determine who placed the order, when, and how it was paid for (cash or credit card) and try to obtain a description of the person who placed the order. Handle all items received from your stalker carefully to avoid smudging fingerprints (for instance; hold items by the corners using tweezers. Keep the item in separate plastic bag.
- Don’t leave a hidden key outside or avoid changing locks if your stalker once had access to your residence. This should be obvious, but often times we forget these safety measures in the daily shuffle and more especially when we are already stressed. It’s always wise to change your locks after a roommate (of any nature) moves out.
- Do make your home as safe and secure as possible. A monitored security alarm system is always best, but not always affordable. If you can’t afford to purchase such a system, there are also alarms that do not report to a monitoring company but still make startling alert sounds that can deter offenders. Other smart ways to secure your home are listed in our Tips for Protecting your Home as well as our Burglar Prevention Blog.
Remember your local police are there to protect and serve YOU! You can drop by a police station and discuss your issues or seek advice, but in busier cities it is not always as easy to do. If you feel you need advice or assistance from the police or even just want to put a statement on record, consider calling to schedule an appointment to meet with an officer to do so. If you’ve reached a place where a restraining order is your best option, you can approach it the same way as you would seek advice from the police but it is important that you remember the following; often times restraining orders infuriate stalkers and conditions worsen before they improve, a restraining order does not replace any of the aforementioned safety measures and any failure to strictly enforce a restraining order may send a message to the stalker that the victim is not being protected. If you decide police intervention is best, be sure to provide them any evidence you have collected.
When stalking behaviors persist for more than a few days, there is a serious probability that they will continue indefinitely and it is a good idea to learn how to manage the situation. To learn more about the risks of being stalked, check out these websites and articles: stalkingriskprofile.com, How to Deal with a Stalker and Safety Tips for Stalking Victims.