Living in fear of another person potentially harming you (or your children) can cause an enormous amount of stress and disrupt your life.
But how do you know when the fear is caused by the criminal act of stalking?
According to the Victim Connect Center, a program of the Office for Victims of Crimes, stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Unlike other crimes that involve a single incident, stalking is a pattern of behavior. Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time. While this list isn’t exhaustive, you may be a victim of stalking if someone:
- Repeatedly calls your phone, including hang-ups
- Follows you and shows up wherever you are
- Sends unwanted gifts, letters, texts, or emails
- Damages your home, car, or other property
- Monitors your phone calls or computer use, possibly through spyware
- Uses technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS) under your vehicle, to track where you go
- Drives by or lingers near your home, school, or work
- Threatens to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets
- Performs other actions that control, track, or frighten you
- Uses other people to try to communicate with you, like children, family, or friends
As these events continue and escalate, fear, stress, and mental health are all impacted. You may begin to wonder if you are “going crazy”. Others may not fully understand or realize the severity of what you are experiencing.
How Stalking Can Impact You
- Be fearful of what the stalker is capable of doing
- Feel vulnerable, unsafe, or not know who to trust
- Feel depressed, hopeless, angry, anxious, irritable, on-edge, and hypervigilant
- Have flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, feelings, or memories
- Feel confused, frustrated, or isolated because other people don’t understand why you are afraid
- Miss work or school for fear of seeing your stalker
- Change your normal or preferred social media habits
How to Get Help
While there is no universal set of steps that will work for everyone, and each state’s laws can differ, these actions may help you feel in control of your life again:
- Call 911 for Immediate Assistance – You know yourself and your situation better than anyone. Trust your instincts and call for help if you feel you are in danger.
- Alert Others – Tell trusted friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and/or your HR department to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and so they don’t mistakenly give out information to someone pretending to be a loved one.
- Tell people where you are going.
- Have people walk you to your vehicle and watch you leave or return to your home.
- Connect with an Advocate – Advocates can often be found at local domestic violence and/or sexual assault agencies, police departments, and district attorney’s offices. Advocates can help explain local stalking laws, walk you through filing a protective order, connect you with local services, and help you develop a safety plan.
- Document Every Incident – Make a log of encounters with the stalker, hang-up calls, and public sightings. Save all messages, emails, and your call history. Consider using this incident and behavior log form from the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center (SPARC).
- End All Contact – Sometimes this is easier said than done, but try not to answer calls or messages, even if you are requesting that the stalker stop. Any contact may encourage the stalker to continue the stalking behavior.
- Take Threats Seriously –A direct threat against you is an obvious sign of danger. A stalker can also use threats of suicide or self-harm to manipulate you into staying in contact or a dangerous situation.
- Create a Safety Plan – Develop a personalized plan to keep yourself safe. Find help doing this here or connect with an advocate for assistance.
- Get a back up small cheap flip phone and keep it on you in case your smartphone is taken.
- Use your smartphone to document him if you can do this safely, and best if he doesn’t see you do this.
- Take self defense training.
- Keep a loud alarm with you — and don’t be afraid to use it.
- If followed, don’t go home or to work. Instead call 911 and go to your local police station. If driving, upon arrival, keep your hand in your horn until someone comes to help.
- Consider self protection such as mace or taser, but check local laws first. Your non-emergency police number should be able to help.
- Change your phone number if he keeps calling. Keep a recording of any calls.
- Prepare your children – Teach your children what to do if there is an emergency, like where to hide if there is danger in the house, or how to call the police or a trusted person for help.
- Light your outdoors, either keeping it lit or with a motion sensor..
- Get surveillance, and keep any videos.
- If the situation is unresolved, consider moving, but don’t leave your tracks!
You don’t have to live in fear forever. Taka action, get help, and live free again. YOU deserve so much better!
Visit https://victimconnect.org/learn/types-of-crime/stalking/ for more information and resources.
By Joyce McCauley-Benner