Stalking can be defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

Stalking behaviors can include:

  • Knowing your schedule
  • Showing up at places you go
  • Sending mail, e-mail, and pictures
  • Calling or texting repeatedly
  • Contacting you or posting about you on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Writing letters
  • Damaging your property
  • Creating a Web site about you
  • Sending gifts
  • Stealing things that belong to you
  • Any other actions to contact, harass, track, or frighten you

You can be stalked by someone you know casually, a stranger, or a past or current friend, boyfriend or girlfriend. Getting notes and gifts at your home, in your locker, or other places might seem sweet and harmless to other people, but if you don’t want the gifts, phone calls, messages, letters, or e-mails, it doesn’t feel sweet or harmless. It can be scary and frustrating.

Sometimes people stalk their boyfriends or girlfriends while they’re dating. They check up on them, text or call them all the time and expect instant responses, follow them, and generally keep track of them even when they haven’t made plans to be together. These stalking behaviors can be part of an abusive relationship. If this is happening to you or someone you know, there are people you can talk to about it.

Stalking is a crime and can be dangerous. The legal definition of stalking and possible punishment for it is different in every state. Contact a victim advocate or your local police to learn about stalking laws and your rights in your state.

Source: Stalking Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime

Cyber stalking

Cyber stalking is an extension of the physical form of stalking.

  • It can be defined as “threatening or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet or other forms of online and computer communications.” (National Center for Victims of Crime, 2003)
  • Cyber stalking can begin either on-line or off-line.
    • Traditional stalkers can use electronic means, often e-mail, to contact and harass their victims.
    • Additionally, the first contact can begin on-line through chat rooms, message boards, discussion forums, etc.
  • Cyber stalking can take many forms including:
    • threatening or obscene e-mail
    • spamming
    • live chat harassment or flaming (the posting of deliberately hostile messages)
    • leaving improper messages on message boards
    • sending electronic viruses
    • tracing another person’s computer and internet activity electronic identity theft

Adapted from Buffalo State College, Violence Intervention and Victim Advocacy (VIVA) Program.

Stalking Statistics

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men in the U.S. have experienced stalking at some point in their lives in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
  • Two-thirds of the female victims of stalking (66%) reported stalking by a current or former intimate partner and nearly one-quarter (24%) reported stalking by an acquaintance. About 1 in 8 female victims (13%) reported stalking by a stranger.
  • Approximately 4 out of 10 male stalking victims (41%) reported that they had been stalked by an intimate partner in their lifetime, with a similar proportion indicating that they had been stalked by an acquaintance (40%).  Nearly one-fifth of male victims (19%) reported stalking by a stranger and 5% reported being stalked by a family member.
  • More than half of female victims and more than one-third of male victims of stalking indicated that they were stalked before the age of 25.

Source: Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What to do if you are being stalked

(adapted from Stalking Resource Center website)

  • If you feel you are in danger call 5911 on campus phone, 281.290.5911 or 911.
  • Trust your instincts. Don't downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are. If you are on campus, you may call the Campus Police to have an officer escort you to where you need to be on campus.
  • Take threats seriously. Danger generally is higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when a victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
  • Contact a crisis hotline, victim services agency, or a domestic violence or rape crisis program. They can help you devise a safety plan, give you information about local laws, weigh options such as seeking a protection order, and refer you to other services.
  • Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you. Also, decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work, school, or somewhere else. Tell people how they can help you. Go to the Stalking Resource Center for more information.
  • Don't communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
  • Keep evidence of the stalking. When the stalker follows you or contacts you, write down the time, date, and place. Keep emails, text messages, phone messages, letters, or notes. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw. To download stalking and incident behavior log, go to http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/stalking-incident-log.pdf?sfvrsn=2
  • Contact the police. Every state has stalking laws. The stalker may also have broken other laws by doing things like assaulting you or stealing or destroying your property.
  • Consider getting a court order that tells the stalker to stay away from you.
  • Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support. Tell security staff at your job or school. Ask them to help watch out for your safety.

For more information on stalking, go to The National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center.

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