Being stalked, in person, online or through technology is a serious problem. Furthermore, it’s highly desirable to know about stalking in order to protect yourself.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) defines stalking as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other kind of conduct directed at a person that would cause the person targeted to feel fear. Similar to crimes of sexual violence, stalking is about power and control. Stalking laws and definitions from state to state can be found in the Stalking Resource Center.
Stalking behavior can take many forms including:
- Making threats against someone, or that person’s family or friends
- Unwanted communications, such as repeated phone calls, emails, text messages, and unwanted gifts
- Repeated physical or visual closeness, like waiting for someone to arrive at a certain location, following someone, or watching someone from a distance.
Another term used for technology stalking is cyberstalking, which involves various uses of technology. Examples are:
- Sending unwanted communications through the internet, such as spamming someone’s email inbox or social media platform
- Posting threatening or personal information about someone on public internet forums
- Installing video cameras that give the stalker access to someone’s personal information.
- Using GPS or other software tracking systems to monitor someone without their knowledge or consent
- Using someone’s computer to track their computer activity.
Reactions to Being Stalked
Although DOJ uses “fear” to define the stalking experience, other experiences can include anxiety, isolation, stress, and depression.
Incidence of Stalking
Each year in the United States more than 3 million adults are victims of stalking. The majority of victims are young, between 18 and 24 years old, and know their stalker. As technology and digital platforms continue to grow, so do the chances of a person being stalked. Not all of these behaviors are considered stalking, but they can make a person feel uncomfortable.
What to do if You’re Being Stalked
If you think you are being stalked, you should be concerned. Therefore, consider the following stalking tips.
- Try to avoid the person stalking you. This can be difficult if the person stalking you is close to you or in your family.
- If you are being stalked through communication technology, like email or text messaging, make it clear that you wish to stop contact. Once you’ve made it clear, don’t respond to further communications.
- Keep any evidence received from the stalker such as text messages, voicemails, letters, packages, emails, etc., but don’t respond. .
- Inform family, friends, supervisors, and co-workers of the situation.
- If you have children, create a code word that lets them know they need to leave the house or call the police.
- Consider reporting the stalking to local law enforcement.
- Keep a log of all incidents connected to the stalking.
- Become familiar with computer safety and ways to stay safe online.
To speak with someone who is trained to help with stalking issues, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!