It’s Not ‘Okay’: A Guidebook for Stalking Victims
Author: Akayla Gardner
January is National Stalking Awareness Month. An estimated 6 to 7.5 million people are stalked in the U.S. every year. Stalking is a crime, yet many forms of stalking go unaddressed or unreported.
Stalking is defined as a course of conduct that involves repeated harassment made against the wishes of another individual that terrorizes the victim causing them to feel fear, harassment, or intimidation. Stalkers often try to intimidate, harass, and control their victims. The behavior may start slowly and escalate to the point that the victim has lost their sense of personal safety causing both physical and psychological trauma.
Education on this issue has the potential to spark action in everyday people and law enforcement to support victims. This guidebook was created to help individuals recognize stalking behavior and find solutions to victimization.
Stalkers usually use several tactics to pursue victims to include:
Showing up to locations the victim is known to frequent
Sending unwanted messages or calling repeatedly
Hacking devices and accounts to garner information about the victim or cause fear
Vandalism to victim’s property
Fraud though running up bills on the victim’s accounts or identity theft
Threats - physical and verbal
Making slanderous remarks about the victim to people the victim knows or publicly
Stalkers may also target a victim’s circle of friends and family in an effort to communicate with the victim or harass others that the victim knows.
It’s essential to know these signs because many stalking cases turn violent. Stalkers can turn to vandalism, threats and even assault against the victim and their loved ones. It is important to take action early to try and stop the stalking before it turns violent.
Preventive measures and solutions
According to the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center, women are significantly more likely to be stalked than men, but it can happen to anyone.
The majority of victims are usually stalked by someone they know, likely a former boyfriend or girlfriend, acquaintance, etc.
If a victim knows who is stalking them, they should tell the stalker once, and only once, that they want their behavior to cease. Then, cut all ties with the stalker. While a victim might be tempted to continue communicating with the stalker, it is best not to answer calls or texts and avoid situations where the victim might run into the stalker. Interacting could lead the stalker to believe their behavior is wanted or increase their desire to follow the victim.
Stalkers use social media to track victims' whereabouts. It’s safest to keep profiles private and turn off location services on your phone and other accounts. Even if your account is private, stalkers can follow your location through friends and family who may tag you in posts. Ask your circle not to post during the same time period you may be in a certain area or ask them not to include the location at all. And just to be safe, always use a hard-to-guess passcode to keep your phone and other accounts secure.
Never leave your cell phone unattended near anyone you suspect may be stalking you. Stalkers can quickly install spyware software onto your cellphone. Also, do not click on links you may receive via text or email that you were not expecting, as these can be ways stalkers install spyware as well. Spyware may allow the stalker to read your texts and emails, listen to your conversations, gain access to passwords or accounts, and track your whereabouts.
When you suspect stalking behavior beginning to take shape, start documenting incidents you are aware of in a log. Record the date, time, description of the incidents, location of the incidents, and the names of anyone who witnessed the incidents. Write down odd occurrences as well, even if you aren’t sure if they are related to the stalking. Also, take photos or screenshots of any evidence when possible. Save voicemails, emails, letters, and any physical evidence from stalking incidents. This will be useful information to present to law enforcement to show a history of the behavior and possibly intent or motive, as well as being used if legal action must be taken to resolve the stalking.
Other helpful tactics include:
Change account passwords often
Change your phone number and limit those who know the new number
Prepare an emergency bag in case you must leave your home at a moments notice
Develop a safety plan for the unexpected
Contact a victim-support agency or crisis hotline
Tell friends and family about the stalking
Alert your workplace security
Shred all unwanted mail or papers with personal information
Get a post office box for your mail
Avoid traveling alone if possible
Switch up your daily routine and normal routes that you walk or drive
The usual course of action from law enforcement is issuing a restraining order which must be approved by a judge. Even if you’re unsure if you have enough evidence, alerting law enforcement early will help them become familiar with your case and have prior evidence to arrest the stalker should anything else come across their radar of the suspect.
Many victims fear the stalking will never end. If you know anyone being stalked, support them and encourage them to take action. There is life after being a victim of stalking.
Ashleigh Diserio Consulting assists victims of stalking and other crimes through victim advocacy. Our services can be found here. Contact us if you need assistance. You are not alone.
Ashleigh Diserio Consulting works with individuals and organizations, assisting them in gleaning insight into a person’s life, motivation, and past and future behavior, so certain areas of behavior can be understood with a high degree of accuracy. We provide services in the areas of criminal and intelligence investigations, management support, threat assessment, insider threat support, and education and training.