Stalking is one of the most common forms of harassment that people encounter. The internet and popular social media outlets have made it very easy to both find and keep an eye on someone through even the smallest bit of information. Many times this is harmless and we are unaware that it is happening. However, this behavior can easily become obsessive and even dangerous. Stalking doesn’t always stay contained to just the immediate target either; it can extend to family members and friends. A victim can be stalked for several days, weeks, or even years. A statistically small, but visible, number of stalking victims are celebrities, though victims can be casual acquaintances or random targets of a stalker. Through constant harassment, stalkers try to make themselves the main focus in the victim’s life.
For the victim, life can become a nightmare as they become a prisoner in their own home. Most stalking takes place between people who have known each other intimately. Domestic violence stalkers constitute the most dangerous and potentially lethal group of stalkers. Abusers often feel their victims belong to them and are theirs to control or punish for trying to leave. These abusers rationalize their inappropriate behavior by blaming the victim. Leaving an abusive relationship requires care in planning and execution. Remember that you do not deserve to be stalked or battered in a relationship.
What can you do if you are stalked?
Stalking involves one person’s obsessive behavior toward another. The stalker’s actions may be motivated by either an intense affection or by an extreme dislike of the victim. A stalker intentionally engages in behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to be distressed or fear bodily injury to themselves or someone they know.
If you find yourself in this situation:
- Keep records – film and record all stalking and harassing behavior. It is better if there is a private investigator or video.
- Keep a list of accurate dates, times and locations of where events took place, items received and names of any witnesses. Safeguard this information where the stalker cannot find it.
- Keep all threatening or inappropriate letters, envelopes and all packing materials.
- Remember that a threat doesn’t require words.
- Try to avoid personal contact. Get away from the stalker as soon as possible and contact the police.
- Tell your stalker once, clearly, "Leave me alone. I don’t want you in my life. I will contact the police and I will have you stopped." Then walk away. People unwittingly encourage stalkers by trying to reason with them, which only gives the stalker the contact they desire. After that one conversation, do not engage your stalker in any way if possible.
- Don't let personal information be disclosed to outsiders. Tell friends, family and co-workers not to release information about you or them and explain your reason. Make sure people are aware of your situation. The more aware the people in your life are (including family, friends, and coworkers), the safer you will be. Nothing bothers stalkers more than when their game is turned around on them. Try to limit social media posts, tweets, and comments by yourself, your family, and all your friends.
- Inform people. Describe the threatening person to those around you. Photographs work even better. Describe his or her vehicle and give the license plate number to family members, neighbors, co-workers, school officials, secretaries, and police. If the person is stalking you by phone, record all the calls. Keep the digital files/tapes in a place where someone else knows where they are and make a record of each call.
- Be aware of abuser allies who may support someone doing you harm. This could be a family member as well.
- Tell people at work. Notify your supervisor, security director and receptionist at work.
- Tell security, coworkers, and everyone who works near a door or entryway about the stalker. Don't go it alone!
- Screen mail and telephone calls.
- Be alert and be aware! Don't hesitate to ask a security guard or co-worker to escort you to your car.
- Secure your property. Keep personal property locked in your desk drawer, always keep your car locked, and never leave personal property out where someone might take it.
If you feel as though there is reason to be concerned, do not talk yourself out of it. Being careful is far better than taking a risk in this situation, as you can never be sure just how far someone’s obsession can go. Getting someone else involved is usually a good idea, even if you are only mildly concerned—tell someone what is going on.
When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.
Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!