If you are in immediate danger, CALL 911.
What is Stalking?
Similar to domestic abuse, stalking is a crime of power and control.
The definition for stalking varies from state to state, but it's generally understood that stalking is a series of actions that puts a person in fear for their safety. Stalking involves obsessive attention, intimidation, and harassment. In some jurisdictions, stalking is considered a criminal offense, punishable by law.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, "Virtually any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking."
Stalking is a serious, frequently violent, life-threatening crime that can escalate over time.
Stalking, even in its less severe forms, has a serious impact on the victim's life, bringing on loss of sleep, nightmares, anxiety attacks, depression, memory loss, and other physical and emotional symptoms. The victims of a stalker are left with feelings of anger, fear, and helplessness. The stalking-necessitated changes in their daily habits include damage to properly, loss of a job, and moving expenses. Victims of stalkers suffer greatly.
If you're being stalked, please remember that it's NOT your fault.
Who ARE Stalkers?
Stalkers can be someone a victim knows well or someone the victim does not know at all. However, most stalkers have dated or have otherwise been involved with their victims. Intimate partner stalking escalates quickly.
Most stalking cases are composed of men stalking women, but stalkers can be women stalking other women, women stalking men, or men stalking other men. It turns out that the stalker is often younger than his or her victim.
Stalkers have an increased likelihood of prior psychiatric, criminal, or substance abuse histories, and they tend to have a higher intelligence than other criminals.
One-third of all stalkers have stalked before.
Types of Stalkers:
Resentful Stalkers - pursue a vendetta due to a sense of grievance against victims, mostly motivated by the desire to frighten and distress their victim.
Intimacy Seekers - try to establish a loving, intimate relationship with the stalking victim. To many intimacy stalkers, the victim is a long-sought-after soul mate, meant to be with the stalker.
Incompetent Suitors - have poor social or courting skills and have a fixation - or a sense of entitlement - to an intimate relationship with the one they want to date. Their victims are often dating other people. These stalkers often have grand delusions of a romantic relationship with their victim.
Predatory Stalkers - spy on their victim to prepare and plan an attack (often a rape) on their victim.
Vengeful/Terrorist Stalker - these stalkers do not seek a personal relationship with the victim; instead, they seek to force their victims to emit a particular response. The vengeful stalker seeks to get even with those who have previously wronged them, while the terrorist stalker intends to accomplish a political agenda.
Band Back Together has a resource page about cyberstalking. Click to read more.
Am I Being Stalked?
Take a look at the following situations. If you answer yes to any of them, you may be the victim of a stalker. If you are the victim of a stalker, call 911 (if in immediate danger) or 1-800-FYI-CALL to learn more about stalking.
Repeatedly call you - including hanging up when you answer.
Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or emails to you.
Follow you around, showing up wherever you are.
Damage your house, car, or other properties.
Monitor your phone calls or computer usage.
Use hidden cameras or GPS to track your movements.
Drive by or hang out at your house, school, or work.
Threaten to hurt you, your family, your friends, or your pets.
Find out information about you through public records, online searches, hiring private investigators, going through your garbage, or asking friends, family, neighbors or coworkers.
Engage in other actions that scare, control, or otherwise track you.
Common Victim Reactions To Stalking:
Unfortunately, stalking cases seem to follow a pattern that will end in the victim changing their behavior, not the stalker.
The cycle follows:
1) Denying the reality (rather than being proactive), the victim inadvertently puts him/herself at a disadvantage.
2) Stalking victim tries to bargain with their stalkers, setting a terrible precedent by allowing the stalker to control the behavior and actions of their victim.
3) Anxiety overwhelms the victim, who obsesses about the stalker.
5) Stalking victim begins to blame him/herself.
6) Stalking victim becomes extraordinarily angry, ready to do anything to get their stalker away from them.
7) Victim accepts that this is their New World Order. Only then can they deal with the situation objectively.
Help! I'm Being Stalked!
Stalking is both dangerous and unpredictable - no two situations are the same. It's possible that what works for one person might not help another. However, you CAN take steps if you are being stalked. Here are some things you can do if you are being stalked:
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 without hesitation.
Tell family, coworkers, friends, roommates, and neighbors about the stalking to enlist their support. Let security on campus or at school know. Have others help watch out for your safety.
Trust your gut - don't try to downplay the danger. If you're feeling unsafe, you probably are.
Call the police to learn about local stalking laws and identify any other laws the stalker may have broken, by damaging property, stealing, or assaulting you.
Consider a court order of protection that tells the stalker to stay away from you.
Contact a crisis hotline, victim services agency, or domestic violence program. These programs can help put together a safety plan, provide information about local stalking laws, refer you to other services, and discuss options like seeking an order of protection.
Create a safety plan, using the tips below, including things like changing routine, staying somewhere else, or having someone with you as often as possible.
Do NOT communicate with the stalker in any way. Don't respond to ANY attempts to contact you.
Keep all evidence of the stalking, including times/places the stalker follows you, emails, voicemail messages, texts, letters, and notes. Take pictures of anything the stalker damages. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.
How Can I Protect Myself If I Am Being Stalked?
The following list is fairly inclusive, and should be followed if you are in danger. Safety isn't a place to be lazy.
If you are in immediate danger, CALL 911.
For Mail-Related Issues:
- Remove your address from checks, business cards, and any other stationary.
- Record and document all evidence of stalking.
- Use a P.O. Box for all mail.
- Change your address with all your utility bills, credit cards, and phone companies.
- Get a copy of your credit report and change your address on there.
- Use the P.O. Box address for voter registration cards.
- Have the major credit bureaus flag your account to ensure no fraudulent access is made.
- List any properties in a trust, not your name.
- Make sure your phone isn't listed in any directories, like the phone book.
- Don't list your name on the front of your apartment building.
For Phone-Related Issues:
- Get an unlisted phone number.
- Get a second phone number rather than disconnecting your first number and record all messages.
- Don't talk on a cordless phone or cell phone, as they can be intercepted.
- Remember that scanners pick up inside noise from baby monitors and hearing aids.
- Never verify any personal details over the phone.
- Make sure the area where your phones are hooked up to your house isn't accessible.
- Let people know what's going on and enlist their help. Give them a picture or photograph of your stalker so they can be aware.
- Carry an air horn and use it if you're approached.
- Plan ahead. Know your routes and the various police stations, fire departments, and busier areas. If you're followed, go there, honking.
- Vary the routes, routines, and social engagements you attend, even if it means finding new places to go.
- Park in well-lit areas or a secure garage.
- Make sure office visitors go through a central area.
- Do a visual check of the rear and front compartments before getting into a car. Lock doors when not in use.
- Get a locking gas cap for your car that is only accessible from inside the car.
- Don't stop for stranded motorists.
- Ask a friend to go with you whenever possible.
- Don't go out alone at night.
- Take your kids to the bus stop or school and always know where they are.
- Teach your kids that they should never give out personal information to strangers.
- Inform schools and day cares about any protective/restraining orders.
- Keep doors and windows locked.
- If your stalker has visitation rights, have a third party drop off and/or pick up your children.
- Positively identify anyone at your doorstep before opening the door.
- Install outdoor lighting at home.
- Use deadbolts and an alarm system in your house.
- Don't hide emergency keys outside.
- Lock garage door and use an electric garage door opener.
- Trim any bushes or shrubs around your house.
- Lock your home's fuse box.
- Install an exterior alarm bell that can be activated by hand from several locations.
- Maintain fire extinguishers and smoke detectors in your garage and home.
- Prepare and practice an evacuation plan.
- Place lights and television on a timer when away for the evening.
- Get a dog if you can't afford an alarm system.
- Post emergency numbers by all phones.
If Someone You Love Is Being Stalked:
Listen to them. Being stalked is a terrifying, overwhelming and awful feeling - just having someone close who listens can mean a world of difference.
Be supportive and do NOT blame the stalking victim. Being stalked is not their fault.
Remember, while listening to your loved one, that each situation is different. The victim is allowed to make his or her own choices as to how to handle the stalking - even if you do not agree with them.
Find someone YOU can talk to about the situation. A lot of the feelings the stalking victim experiences may make you feel overwhelmed.
Make sure you're safe too.
Call 1-800-FYI-HELP if you need more ideas about how to help.
Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund: the nation's oldest legal defense and education fund dedicated to advancing the rights of all women and girls.
Nicole Brown Foundation: a non-profit national advocacy organization against domestic violence. Site offers resources for domestic violence coalitions by state.
National Organization for Victim Assistance: a private, non-profit organization of victim and witness assistance programs and practitioners, criminal justice agencies and professionals, mental health professionals, researchers, former victims and survivors, and others committed to the recognition and implementation of victim rights and services.
National Center for Victims of Crimes: provides stalking laws by state.