[A note to the reader: This article discusses information about stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault. The content may activate strong feelings for some individuals.]
Stalking is a serious and dangerous crime. This January marks the 17th annual National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), and in recognition of the event, we are sharing the facts and warning signs of stalking. It is estimated that 7.5 million people in the United States are stalked each year. The crimes, however, are often overlooked and rarely prosecuted.
What are the signs of stalking?
Stalking is defined as threats with repeated harassing behaviors that cause a person to feel unsafe. Some of the tactics stalkers use include:
- Unwanted or persistent phone calls and text messages
- Inappropriate or unwanted social media posts or messages
- Approaching the victim or showing up unwanted at their home, workplace or school
- Leaving unwanted gifts or potentially threatening items for the victim
- Watching, following or tracking the victim
- Sneaking into the victim’s home or car, leaving threats and doing things to scare them
Stalking is more common than you think. About 1 in 6 women and 1 and 17 men have experienced the crime in their lifetimes.
How do stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault overlap?
While all stalking situations are different, the act of stalking itself can intersect with relationship and sexual abuse in several ways. About 66% of female victims were stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Oftentimes, the victim can be stalked prior to the relationship, during or after.
Though stalking behaviors may escalate after the relationship ends, many of the actions that an abuser uses to control their partner include stalking. Checking the victim’s phone logs, text messages, emails, confirming their whereabouts and monitoring their social media accounts are all warning signs that the person is in an abusive relationship and/or is being stalked.
Stalkers may also use sexual abuse as a tool to perpetuate their behaviors by threatening to assault the victim personally or share inappropriate pictures. In fact, 31% of women who are stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by that partner.
What should you do if you’re being stalked?
Stalking is extremely dangerous, and precautions should be taken immediately. If you suspect you are a victim of stalking or know someone who is being stalked, here are some great tips from C.A. Goldberg Victims’ Rights Law Firm who are experts in addressing stalking related issues.
1. Don’t engage in the stalking behavior
It’s natural to want to defend yourself against lies or damaging behavior. However, by doing so, you are acknowledging their behavior and giving the stalker what they want. They don’t care if it’s positive or negative, by engaging you are giving the perpetrator attention.
If you are receiving unwanted and repeated contact, especially after requesting it stop, do NOT respond. Instead, gather the evidence—photos, messages, voicemails and emails. Documentation will be crucial if an order of protection is needed.
2. Tell someone you trust
Having a support group of friends and family is beneficial for not only your mental health but your safety. Tell people you trust what is happening and show them the examples. Notify your landlord, neighbor, employer or supervisor about the situation. It’s important for your closest friends and family to know who is threatening you so they can offer assistance, so you aren’t alone and vulnerable. Always use the buddy system and try to stay in public areas as much as possible. You should also cut ties with anyone who is close to your stalker or could inform them of your whereabouts.
3. Protect yourself online
Immediately change your passwords on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, email, iCloud, etc. Set up privacy features to ask for approval before anything you’re tagged in can be posted on your timeline. Block your stalker on social media, block their number and make your profiles private so there is no way they can contact you or see your updates.
4. Protect yourself at home
Do whatever you can to ensure you are safe in your own home. This can be done by installing deadbolts, window locks, visible security cameras, motion-activated outdoor lights, and a home security system. Always have the curtains closed and your doors locked. If possible, you may want to stay with a family or friend until you feel safe.
5. Contact Wellspring for support
If you or someone you know is being stalked or showing signs of being stalked and/or abused, Wellspring is here for support. Our advocates can speak with you one-on-one and give you information on your rights and options (whether that be a legal response or connections to additional supports). Our hotline is available 24/7 by calling 518-584-8188. You can also connect with a Wellspring advocate through our internet-based chat, which is currently available during business hours.
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