Stalking is a criminal behavior that involves willful and repetitive unwanted contact, following, and/or harassment.
Virtually anyone can be a stalker, just as anyone can be stalked. However, most stalkers (75-80%)1 are men. They are most commonly ex-intimate partners, but they can also be sexual predators or rejected dates seeking “intimacy”.
Stalking is manifested in many different ways; it really does look different for everyone. Any repetitive behavior that makes you fear for your safety or feel harassed can be considered stalking.
These are some common stalking behaviors2 that should set off red flags:
1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have been stalked in their lifetime3.
An estimated 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually.
Adults between 18 and 29 years old are the primary targets of stalking, comprising 52 percent of all victims4.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and discourage the stalker.
Do not engage. Put your safety first. Collect evidence. Talk about it.
Tell your stalker politely and seriously once to stop contacting you, following you, et cetera.
Once you have made your disinterest clear, stop engaging with them. Do not talk to them, don’t try to convince them, don’t yell at them, don’t send your friends to yell at them. Stalkers consider any interaction with you a victory, so any reaction (no matter how negative) reinforces their behavior. Sometimes, they even seek negative reactions, because (to them) that means their fear and intimidation tactics are working.
(Click on any of the tips below for instructions)
No matter what, your safety comes first. In dangerous situations, you need to do whatever you can to survive; don’t worry about rules, manners, or collecting evidence.
There is a strong link between stalking and other forms of violence in intimate relationships: 81 percent of women who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabiting partner were also physically assaulted by that partner and 31 percent were also sexually assaulted by that partner6.
Protecting yourself, your family, and your space comes first.
Safety looks different for everyone, but here are some general pieces of advice for increasing your personal safety.
Carry a cell phone with you at all times
so that you can call for help if you are feeling uneasy or threatened.
If you have a smartphone, consider using a personal safety app like bSafe you or Circle of 6.
Always lock your doors
whether you’re at home or going out.
Improve your home security.
Consider installing and consistently arming a home security system.
Stalkers who are ex-intimate partners often have familiarity with your home, so you need to be extra careful around your most vulnerable entry points (since they probably know about them, too).
Consider installing a monitored home security system with duress codes, which allow you to discreetly call for help in cases of emergency.
Video security cameras will catch any intruders, providing evidence supporting your claims against the stalker if you decide to go to the police and/or court.
Change your passwords,
especially if the stalker is an ex-intimate partner who knows enough about you to guess or remember your passwords. They may be using your online accounts to track your whereabouts and other personal information (like spending habits, if they have access to your bank accounts).
Have a safety plan.
Consider the worst case scenarios. Think about all the pathways to exit your home, your workplace, and any other place you frequent. Know where the nearest police station is. Have a mental list of important members of your support system that you can call when you need help or protection, and keep them in your speed dial or contact favorites.
Apply for a restraining order
if you are feeling repetitively physically threatened. The process and requirements for obtaining a restraining order are different in each locality.
Change your phone number
if blocking them doesn’t work and the incessant phone calls and messages are disrupting your ability to focus on your day-to-day.
in extreme cases of stalking where the stalker is posing a serious threat to your (or your family’s) safety, and nothing else seems to work.
Keep records of all written messages that they send to you. Write down all the times that they try to call you. Record all of their visits to your home, gym, or office. Collect all of the “gifts” they send you and/or all the notes they leave. Take pictures of any damage that they do to your property. Write down what your friends and family tell you about the stalker’s attempts to contact them. In the moment, one sticky note left on your door may not seem like much. Just another phone call may seem petty to complain about or write down. Victims commonly find themselves thinking “if they do it again, then I’ll take it seriously.”
Stalking is a serious crime. Your safety is important, and you deserve not to be harassed and intimidated by another person who is following you, threatening you, and disrespecting your space and person. Take every threat, every message, every unwanted gift seriously. You will be surprised how it adds up, taxing you both physically and emotionally.
Collecting a record of all of the stalker’s contact attempts as well as the physical evidence they have left behind will not only help you build a case against them legally but also help you validate (to yourself and others) that this is a real problem that you are facing.
It is understandable to feel like this is a secret you need to keep on your own. Women are pressured to seem pleasing and appeasing to everyone. Men are pressured to appear “in control,” especially of women in their lives. Everyone is taught to shy away from asking for help, and our culture often misplaces blame on the victims of stalking, sexual violence, and domestic violence.
Stalking is illegal. You are not responsible for protecting this “secret,” and you are definitely not responsible for protecting your stalker. You deserve peace and safety.
Break the silence, and you may find that more people will relate to you than judge you.
You need support now more than ever, and you don’t have to go through this alone. Tell your friends what is happening. Tell your family.
Furthermore, tell your neighbors, so that they can alert you or the authorities if they see anything suspicious going on around your home while you are away (or even when you are in).
Talk to law enforcement. The conversation you have with your local police department doesn’t have to be a one-time, all-or-nothing report. It’s okay to alert them of the situation, even if they can’t do anything now. Keep calling them anytime something happens. This builds a record with them, so that your experience is officially written down with a law enforcement agency. And, in the worst case scenario, if the stalker ever does hurt you or your family, they will already know exactly who they are.
You never know who you might help.