If you need immediate assistance with a threatening or harassing situation, contact law enforcement now.
Stalking is an ugly form of domestic violence, made worse by the tools of the information age. While the legal definition varies from state to state and country to country, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service offers this basic description:
“In general, stalking refers to repeated harassing or threatening behavior by an individual, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property. Virtually any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking.”
Stalkers have a variety of motivations—some may have, or have had, an actual relationship with their target. Some don’t and become obsessive anyway. In general, stalkers like to select victims they believe either cannot or will not resist. They act a lot like domestic abusers: isolating and confusing their victims and then applying increasing threats and pressure. So if you find yourself with a stalker, what can you do? Here are some things to keep in mind:
DO NOT try to handle it alone.
If this person were at all afraid of you, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. You need help, lots of it, and fast. Letting your friends and family know what’s going on, and keeping your neighbors in the loop, are all good steps. But further action is needed.
Call the police.
Law enforcement needs to be involved, and you need to make sure that they fill out a report of each complaint. They may or may not be able to do much with any one incident, but you need to start building a record of evidence. Speaking of which . . .
Take screenshots of every text they send to your phone and upload them to an online storage service. (ex. Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote) Make a record of every phone call. Save every email or social media message. If they’re following you physically, use that handy camera on your phone to take photos and video. The more documentation you have, the stronger your position becomes and the easier it is to get legal help.
Lock down your security.
Make sure your home, workplace, and vehicle are as secure as you can make them. If you have outdoor pets, now might be a good time to bring them in. Social media is one of the stalker’s favorite tools, so make sure your online security is equally strong.
Physical self-defense is important.
The right tools, and the willingness to use them, are vital in keeping you safe. Pepper spray, an impact weapon, or a concealed weapons permit and a handgun are all tools in the toolbox that can help deter an assailant if you have the willingness and ability to use them well. Some states issue emergency concealed carry permits if you get a restraining order.
Remember: you’re not alone.
In addition to your friends, family, and the local cops, there are a lot of resources for the targets and victims of stalkers and abusers. Please, make use of them—it’s difficult to deal with a stalker alone. They won’t listen to reason, they won’t respond to your kindness and sympathy. Find the help you need and take appropriate action.
Lawyers and restraining orders are powerful tools.
I’m a strong advocate of the restraining order—it was a great deal of help to me while dealing with my own stalker—and of having a good attorney to assist you through the process.
Get them out of your head.
Stalking is a mind game—they want you to feel helpless, isolated, and powerless. Don’t let them—it’s a long hard slog, but you can do a lot to keep yourself safe and rid yourself of this problem. Get in touch with the resources you need and get the ball rolling.
I hope this article is both insightful and helpful. If you have experiences with a stalker you’d like to share—either openly or in confidence—please get in touch.