What is Stalking?
Stalking generally refers to repeated behavior that is of a threatening or harassing nature. Stalking behavior includes, but is not limited to, repeated phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, vandalizing a person’s property, or appearing at a person’s home or place of employment.
Stalking is not a new concept. Documentation of stalking behavior dates back as far as the 19th century with a manuscript recently discovered in 1994. “A Long Fatal Love Chase”, written by Louisa May Alcott, who is best known for her book “Little Women”, is a story that deals with an obsessive relationship of a young woman stalked by her former lover. Unfortunately it wasn’t until the mid 1990’s, and after the murders of popular celebrities, that stalking was legislated as a crime. Fortunately today all 50 states have stalking laws.
Each state’s stalking law is different. To find criminal stalking laws in your state, please go to http://www.ncvc.org/src/main.aspx?dbID=DB_State-byState_Statutes117
To find out if your state has Stalking/Harassament Civil Protection Orders, go to
Who is a Stalker?
About 75 – 80% of stalkers are male
Most stalkers have an above average “criminal intelligence” (this means that they may not be book smart but they understand the law and how to get around it)
- Stalkers are often socially withdrawn
- The average age of a stalker is in the thirties
- Stalkers are usually unemployed or underemployed
- Some stalkers may have mood disorders
- Some stalkers may have personality disorders
- A commonality of stalkers is that they may have had a loss of primary caretaker within the first five years of life or a loss within six months prior to stalking (e.g. the domestic violence stalker)
- The average stalking time is approximately 1.5 years, 2.2 years if there was a previous relationship with the stalker.Â However, stalking can last a lifetime.
There are three basic profiles stalkers are usually categorized under. They are:
- Love Obsession (domestic violence stalker)
- Simple Obsession (stranger stalker)
- Erotomania (delusional stalker)
Simple Obsession – The Domestic Violence Stalker
- This stalker most usually has had a previous relationship with victim
- There usually is a history of abuse and/or violent behavior in the relationship
- The stalker may exhibit controlling and dominating behavior
- The dangerousness in these stalking situations can escalate remarkably quickly
- They are the most common of stalkers (60%)
- This stalker has no real relationship with their victim
- They may fixate on a stranger such as a celebrity, bank teller, favorite waitress, or a person who walked by and smiled at them
- They may feel a sense of entitlement to a relationship with their victim
- They are persistent and dangerous e.g. the murder of Rebecca Schaeffer
- This stalker usually has a mental and/or mood disorder
- The simple obsession stalker makes up about 30% of stalkers
- This stalker has no real relationship with their victim
- They may honestly believe that they have a real relationship with victim, and that their victim loves them
- They might discusses their victim with others as though they were a “couple”
- This stalker usually has a mental and personality disorder, and they are highly dangerous
Indicators of Heightened Violence
- A Previous criminal history
- A Drug History
- A Previous sexual relationship with victim
Common Reaction of Stalking Victims
- Denial – “this isn’t really happening”
- Bargaining – trying to rationalize with the stalker. Keep in mind that stalkers are not rational in their thinking. Agreeing to speak to or meet with the stalker satisfies their need to have contact with you. If you are able, try to cut off all contact with the stalker.
- Anxiety- concern that the stalker is everywhere
- Exhaustion/Depression-tired of always looking out for the stalker. Not sure if the stalking will ever end.
- Self Blame-“If I hadn’t gotten involved with this person in the first place, this would never have happened.” The only person responsible for the stalker’s behavior is the stalker.
- Acceptance – this simply means that one accepts that they are being stalked and that it is not your fault!
Victims may also experience
- Loss of sleep.
- Weight loss.
- Difficulty concentrating.
If you are being stalked your life changes now. It isn’t fair, but you need to be diligent about your safety and take this stalker very seriously. This is not a joke, this is your life.
The following information is provided as a suggestion of ways to plan for safety. Implementing some or all of the suggestions that follow will not guarantee your safety; however, these may help in reducing your risk of harm from the person stalking you. Do what works for you as you know your situation better than anyone. Remember – if you are going to report this behavior to the police, documentation is key. The more information you have the better able they will be to assist you.
We recommend you compile a stalking log – get a three ring binder that you can put your police reports and other essential items in. You can download a report log from the National Center for Victims of Crime at: http://www.ncvc.org/src/AGP.Net/Components/DocumentViewer/Download.aspxnz?DocumentID=39028.
You can also use a notepad – whatever the case, document everything!
Trust Your Gut! If you think you are being stalked – take the necessary actions to protect yourself.
- Tell you stalker you want no contact and to leave you alone – ONE TIME. You do not need to repeat yourself. Make sure you are clear – e.g. “Do not contact me again”.
- Avoid contact with your stalker. This includes telephone contact, letters exchanged, and third person communications. This is what the stalker wants – and the more contact you have with him/her, the more dangerous the situation may become.
- Do not attempt to negotiate with the stalker. This never works and may escalate into a violent situation.
- Be alert for any suspicious persons. Stalkers often enlist the assistance of friends or even family members to help them in their efforts.
- Vary all travel routes.
- Tell trusted family members, friends and neighbors that you are being stalked. Provide them with a description of your stalker (if you know) and picture if you have one. Also provide them with the type of car and license plate number (if you know it) of the car your stalker drives – list all vehicles your stalker may be driving and ask your neighbors to alert you and the police to suspicious persons and vehicles in the area.
- If you have children, notify their school of the situation and provide them with a description of the stalker and the vehicle they may drive. If you have a restraining order, provide them with a copy.
- Try to be with someone at all times. Being that this is not always possible, make sure you inform a trusted friend of family member of where you are going, how you are getting there and what time you are likely to arrive. Make sure that you call before you leave and as soon as you arrive – this way if your friend or family member does not hear from you they can call the police.
- Provide back up keys to your home for neighbors and relatives.
- Be aware of your surroundings!! If you feel you are being followed get to a safe place immediately. If you are in your vehicle drive to the nearest police station, fire department or busy shopping center. If your stalker does not leave you alone at this point, use your car horn to call attention to yourself â€“ stalkers want your attention, not police of public attention.
- Always carry a cell phone and an extra (charged) battery and car charger. This also works if your phone lines are disabled at your home. Remember – though some phones have GPS – give 911 your exact location if possible. Do be aware that there are devices (scanners) that can monitor your cell phone conversations.
- Know the whereabouts of all family members that live with you at all times.
- Always keep a full tank of gas if possible. The rule should be – at the half full mark, fill up with gas. Make sure you have a locking gas cap.
- Carry a camera and small recording device or paper and pencil/pen. This is essential in documenting stalking behavior while you are out of your house.
- Visually check front and rear areas of your vehicle before entering. Also make sure to check under your car and check all tires for damage.
- GPS devices are becoming more and more popular – they are small and can be concealed in your vehicle. If you think that your car may be monitored, call the police.
- Make sure to park in well lit areas.
- Keep everything – letters, cards, flowers, etc that your stalker sends you. Make a copy of these items and put them in a safe-deposit box or keep them at a trusted friend or relative’s home.Â You may need this “evidence” in the future.
- Document everything. Keep a log of all activity regarding your stalker. This includes phone calls, hang up phone calls, drive by’s, sightings, followings, third party communication, gifts or cards mailed to you or dropped off, etc. Make a copy of this log and keep it with a trusted friend or relative.
- Keep copies of all police reports. Some law enforcement agencies will provide these copies for free – others will charge you a fee. It is worth the expense, get copies of your own. Make a copy of these reports to keep in a safe-deposit box or with a trusted friend or relative.
- If you get a safe-deposit box, make sure that a trusted friend or relative can access the information you have stored in it in the event something happens to you.
- If you have a restraining order keep it with you at all times. Provide a copy to your place of employment and make sure you have a copy in your house. You never know when you will need to show the police this order – and though the order should be entered in a computer system that law enforcement can retrieve, don’t rely on it – sometimes computers malfunction.
- Do not have mail sent to your home and never use your home address for anything! If your stalker already knows where you live, having your mail sent to another location will keep them from taking it. If your stalker doesn’t know where you live – using your home address will lead them to you. Get a post office box or a box at a mail center. If necessary use Suite # or Apt. # instead of Box #.
- Register your drivers licesnce to an address other than your home.Â Change your address with the DMV and get a new licesne with the new address on it.
- If you own your home/property, list it is a trust, not your own name.
- If you rent-speak to your landlord about not providing your information to anyone or have someone elseâ€™s name appear on the rental agreement.
- Never list your name on a tenant list on the front of your apartment building.
- Do not list utilities in your name. If you must, talk to your utility company about their privacy policies. Make sure that they mail your bill to your post office or mail box.
- Do not print your address or phone number or driver’s license number on your personal checks.
- Never sign a petition. Signature collectors are not employees of a “petition” company and they have not had a background check. Information that is collected on petitions has been used by the signature gatherers for criminal use such as burglary and sexual assault. Some signature gatherers have been known to have criminal backgrounds including registered sex offenders. There is no monitoring of petetion gatherers. It is a perfect way for predators to get personal information on potential victims.
- Positively identify callers before opening doors. Install wide angle viewer in all primary doors.
- Install dead bolts on all outside doors. If you cannot account for all keys, change door locks. Secure spare keys. Place a dowel in sliding glass doors and all sliding windows.
- If you can afford to – install solid core doors on all outside access doors.
- Keep garage doors locked at all times-automatic garage door openers do not mean that when your door is closed it is locked. Install a manual lock on the inside of the garage door.
- Install adequate outside lighting – consider motion sensor lights.
- Trim shrubbery. Overgrown bushes provide an easy place for people to hide.
- Keep your home’s fuse box locked.
- Have battery lanterns in residence-this will provide light if your electricity goes out or your lines are cut. Keep an extra set of batteries on hand.
- Install a loud exterior alarm bell that can be manually activated in more than one location-install a home alarm system if you can afford it. If not, consider putting up stickers that imply that you have one. You can get these at most hardware stores.
- Keep your windows and doors locked in your home and in your car. Use dowels (small pieces of wood can be purchased at a hardware store) in sliding windows.
- Maintain an unlisted telephone number. If possible, screen all calls, use caller ID and have your number blocked for outgoing calls.
- If the stalker has your phone number, consider not changing the number but getting a second phone line with a separate number. Keep the old number connected – turn down the ringer and hook an answering machine to it. Save all messages from the stalker. Give your new number to trusted friends and relatives only.
- Never talk on a cordless phone – they can be monitored through scanners. Scanners can also pick up conversations via baby monitors and hearing aids.
- Avoid calling 800, 888, 877, and 900 numbers. Your number may be captured by a system called Automatic Number Identification.
- Keep a log of all phone calls from the stalker and/or third party contact.
- Do not provide your name or telephone number on your answering machine. If you are female, ask a male friend to leave the outgoing message for you.
- Do not give out personal information to anyone who calls you. If you need to – obtain the name and company of the person calling and let them know you will call back at a later time. This way you can verify that they are legitimate.
- Any written or telephone threat should be treated as legitimate, notify the proper authorities.
- Be alert for any unusual packages, boxes or devices found on premises.
- Don’t talk to strangers. If someone comes to your door who you do not know, you are under no obligation to speak to them. Do not answer your door. Usually solicitors will leave a business card.
- Tape emergency numbers on all phones.
- Prepare an evacuation plan for everyone in your home. Make sure that you practice this plan.
- Some people may suggest getting a guard dog. Though dogs provide a valuable service as a security agent for our homes, please be advised that a stalker may harm your animals. If you have a dog, make sure that you keep it indoors when you are not home and that you have a secure environment for it when you are home (outside well fenced area). Keep other pets, such as cats, rabbits, Ginny pigs, indoors at all times. Terrible things have happened to family pets at the hands of stalkers.
Safety at Work
- Arrange for someone to screen your calls.
- Have a secretary or someone else monitor your mail and any deliveries; do not accept packages unless you personally ordered them.
- Have a safety plan for leaving work. Make sure you never go to your can alone. Have someone follow you until you feel you are safely in route.
- If you have an assigned parking place, have your name removed from the site.
- If you have an onsite security director, make them aware of the situation and provide them with the stalker’s information.
- Only use your primary email address for people you know and trust.
- Create a free email account for all other correspondence – create a gender neutral name for your email address.
- Avoid chat rooms.
- Do not post any personal information about yourself online.
- Ego surf: Enter your name in quotations in a search engine (www.google.com, www.yahoo.com, www.dogpile.com, www.zabasearch.com) and see what comes up under your name.
- You need to know what personal information is listed about you on the internet. Many companies compile public record information and sell it for a small fee to anyone. Check out the following sites (these are just a few) to see if your information is listed. Though it is difficult, if not impossible, to have the information removed – at least you will know what is there. www.switchboard.com, www.whowhere.com, www.four11.com.
- Do not fill out surveys on line.
- Save all correspondence from your stalker and print a copy for law enforcement.
- Consider using a “safe” computer at a library or community center.
Computers can be tapped into by wireless devices created for this purpose. If you feel that your computer may be monitored, call the police.
If you are being stalked it is possible that it is by someone you know – an ex-partner, former spouse, co-worker, or friend. They may know a lot about you – including banking information, social security number, and credit card information. Pass word protect all of your accounts and check your credit reports at least one time per year.
Equifax Credit Bureau
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta GA 30374-0241
P.O. Box 9701
Allen TX 75013
Trans Union (Credit Bureau)
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester PA 19022
It is important to remember that each stalking case is different from another. If you are a victim of stalking, you know your situation best. Work with your local law enforcement to assist you in safety planning and stay aware of your surrounding at all time.
Other resources that may be of assistance are:
The National Stalking Resource Center
The Stalking Victims Sanctuary
The Anti-Stalking Website
You may also contact the Crime Victims Assistance Network (iCAN) Foundation for more information and assistance at 916-273-3603 or 1-888-235-7067.