It is important that everyone understands what stalking and stalking behaviors look like. Being able to recognize them can help people take steps necessary to protect themselves if they find they are the victims.
Being the victim of stalking behavior can be scary. Today, we want to arm you with the information you need to recognize what stalking looks like and what you can do if you think you are being stalked.
The U.S. Department of Justice says “Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”
Stalking behaviors are specifically defined in each state’s statutes, which you can read here. Stalking behaviors vary and can take many forms, including:
- Calling you over and over again even when you’ve told them to stop.
- Sending constant messages through texts, email, or other messaging apps.
- Leaving threatening voicemails on your phone.
- Following you, your friends, or your family members.
- Sending unwanted gifts to your home or work.
- Watching or tracking you (including using GPS tools).
- Threatening you, your family, friends, pets, etc.
Who can be a Stalker?
There is no one answer to who a stalker is. Stalkers can be the following:
- Strangers obsessed with a person. Many stalkers become obsessed with a stranger and they think their behaviors will convince that person to love then.
- Stalkers known by the victim. In most cases, stalkers are ex-partners, ex-spouses, coworkers, acquaintances, or even close friends. In 88% of harassment cases, the victim knows their stalker.
How Does Stalking Affect a Victim?
Being stalked is terrifying, even if you know the perpetrator. The unpredictable nature of these cases can have an overwhelming emotional and psychological impact on the victims. Each victim of stalking has a different experience, but victims often experience the following:
- Guilt, shame, anger, fear, or self-blame
- Feeling of isolation
- Physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, anxiety, headaches, stomach problems, etc.
What can a Victim of Stalking do to Protect Themselves?
If you think you are the victim of stalking, you can take steps to keep yourself safe.
- Report this behavior to police. Even if they cannot do anything right away (because the behavior has not crossed into the illegal territory), they will at least be aware of what has happened. Report any subsequent behavior to police so they can establish a pattern.
- Tell others. Make sure all of your friends, family members, neighbors, school, coworkers, and security (if you have them where you live or work) know that you are being stalked. Show them a photograph of the person stalking you if the perpetrator is known so they know who to look out for.
- Keep personal information private. Make your personal information as private as possible. This includes all social media accounts. Remove any identifying information like nameplates from your workplace. Shred your mail.
- Carry your phone everywhere. If you are the victim of stalking, always take your phone with you in case you need to call the police.
- Keep away from the perpetrator. If you know who is stalking you, stay away from them. Avoid areas where they live or work if you can. If they come near you or threaten you, call the police.
In many cases, particularly when stalking minors, perpetrators will use the Internet anonymously. They may create fake accounts and pose as someone the victim’s age to gain their trust as they escalate their behavior. In many of these cases, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows, such as a member of the clergy, teacher, coach, or mentor.