Stalking is repeated harassing or threatening behavior, or any unwanted contact that gives the victim reason to be afraid. It’s also a crime. We often associate stalking with celebrities, but the truth is about 3.4 million people report being stalked in the US every year. Most of them know their stalker.
If you’ve been stalked, you know it’s infuriating—and that it can also be terrifying. Your spouse or former partner paces back and forth in front of your office building, or repeatedly appears when you turn a corner. Maybe they track your activities through the kids or friends and then lets you know they know what you did last weekend. Perhaps they email you constantly, or makes unwanted posts to your Facebook page. Chances are they repeatedly plead with you “just to talk,” but what they really want is to resume the relationship.
Someone is stalking you if they:
- Repeatedly follow or spy on you.
- Constantly call you, at home or at work.
- Repeatedly send you unwanted emails, letters, or gifts.
- Vandalize or damage your property or repeatedly leave signs to let you know they’ve been around.
- Threaten you or someone you care about.
- Ask family members or friends for information about you.
- Repeatedly—and inexplicably—show up wherever you are.
Sometimes stalking is obvious and the pattern of repeated and unwanted attention is a clear problem. Sometimes stalking can seem surreal and you’ll wonder if there’s really a problem at all. But if you’re wondering, there probably is.
Stalking is usually a sign that your former partner is unwilling to let go of the relationship, or that your current partner wants even more control within your relationship. It’s also an indication that violence may erupt or escalate. You should always take stalking seriously.
If you think you’re being stalked, here are some steps to take:
- Call the Partners for Peace helpline at 1.800.863.9909 for help making a safety plan.
- Tell the stalker to leave you alone—firmly and only once. Don’t negotiate or engage in conversation.
- Keep a stalking incident log and record every occurrence, including date, time, description of what happened, and the names of any witnesses.
- Make copies if you get a restraining order, and always keep one with you.
- Save everything the stalker sends you—letters, emails, gifts.
- Get a post office box from a private company—like a local mailing center or shipping store—and use it instead of your home address. If you need to receive a package from FedEx or another company that won’t deliver to a PO Box, use the word “Apartment” instead when giving your address.
- Screen calls with an answering machine.
- Save any voicemail messages from the stalker or record them with a tape recorder and save the tape.
- Call the Unlawful Call Center at 1.800.518.5507 to report and get help documenting harassing or threatening phone calls.
- Learn where the 24-hour stores are located and go there or to a hospital emergency room—anywhere there are a lot of people—if someone is following you. Then call the police. Don’t go home.
Here are some informative statistics:
- About 77 percent of female and 64 percent of male victims know their stalker.
- Seventy-six percent of the women killed by a romantic partner were stalked by that person before the murder.
- The average time a stalker keeps stalking is 1.8 years.
- If stalking involves romantic partners, that time increases to 2.2 years.
- Thirty-one percent of women stalked by a current or former partner are also physically abused by that partner.
Stalking involves intentional and repeated behaviors that cause someone reasonable fear about their safety. And, like all forms of abuse, it involves one person’s consistent attempts—often referred to as a course of conduct—to maintain contact with or gain power and control over another person.
For more information visit the Stalking Resource Center.