Being Stalked? - What To Do
I'm not any kind of professional, nor am I an attorney. The information presented here has been compiled from several dozen informational sources and supplemented with information from my own personal experience.
Why Is He Stalking?
Some people bolster their self-esteem by dominating and intimidating their mates. Controlling or affecting his partner gives him some feelings of power in a world where he generally feels powerless. This kind of person, after becoming an "ex", sometimes becomes a stalker to try to continue fulfilling these inappropriate psychological needs.
There are several types of stalkers. This page mostly addresses the "Simple Obsessional" type. The stalker is usually an ex-spouse, ex-partner, or co-worker. Obsessional activities begin after a relationship breaks up, or a relationship is refused, or the stalker imagines mistreatment by the victim. The stalker's goal is to regain control, restore the relationship, or get revenge in some way.
Stages of Stalking
Stage 1 - The persistent ex, or the persistent suitor
The person keeps trying to arrange contact or have conversations with you, even though you feel there is no longer any point.
By itself, this is rarely considered stalking; most people view this as a person simply trying to get a date or patch up a relationship. At stage 1, the victim rarely realizes that this is going to become an escalating problem.
Stage 2 - Uncomfortable contact, interference
The person keeps trying to arrange contact or have conversations with you or gather information about you -- even though the events are now making you feel profoundly uncomfortable. The person's persistence seems a bit "crazy" and although they are not physically demonstrative, their behavior seems somehow "scary" to you anyway. This may be the stage where you realize this person has become a stalker.
During contact they don't seem self-conscious; they don't seem to realize that they're behaving bizarrely. If others witness these events, the behavior seems irrational to them. (Some clueless persons will think you're the one being irrational, for being disturbed by the stalker. Don't let outsiders tell you how to feel or not feel!)
Interference is any contact or activity that they engage in with others, which disturbs your right to live your life without interference. It includes their distributing private information about you to other people, contacting other people to try to have discussions about you, etc.
Stage 3 - Intimidating contact, implied threats, illegal interference
This is the stage at which it becomes obvious that the person has become a stalker.
Contact attempts now include veiled threats and/or physical aggression. A veiled threat is something like "you'll be sorry" -- it is not the same thing as an outright threat such as "I'm going to hit you." Physical aggression includes trying to stand in your way, blocking your path, walking toward you while yelling -- it is not the same thing as physical contact (violence).
Illegal interference includes slander, libel, blackmail, distributing photos of you when they don't have a legal model release, etc.
Make sure you have thorough documentation of any stage 1 or stage 2 behavior, and when you get a stage 3 occurrence, call the police to file a report.
Stage 4 - Threatening contact
Clearly stated threats of what he intends to do.
Stage 5 - Aggression or violence toward inanimate objects
Vandalism or destruction of your belongings, your environment, etc.
Stage 6 - Aggression or violence toward live creatures
Violence toward yourself, those around you, your pets, or animals in your environment.
What To Do
As soon as you feel there is a problem, take the following steps:
If he manages to make contact with you, say no clearly while avoiding humiliating him. (Don't engage in dialogue. Pick a statement and keep repeating it. For instance just say "I'm not interested, there is nothing to discuss.")
Also, say no without any qualifiers. Stalkers interpret certain phrases or actions as "maybes" or as signs that they're getting through to you. Do not say "I'm sorry, I'm not interested." Never include "I'm sorry." This is interpreted by stalkers as a sign that you have emotions for them, which they will see as a victory, or as hope of future change... so they will contact you again later!
To clearly establish that any further contacts are unwanted and will be in violation of your consent, tell them no in front of a witness, or as a last resort, send a succinct certified letter (or have your attorney send a letter).
* Cease all contact. Stalkers thrive on REACTION, ATTENTION, and ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Don't give any of this. Do not be available to him in any way. Behave as though he doesn't exist. If you let him see you reacting to his actions, he will experience it as his personal power. Don't do anything that suggests to him that he affects your world or that you notice his behavior. If there are certain types of contact or communication that are necessary or unavoidable (such as for divorce preparations), appoint a go-between (preferably a man) to handle all communication instead of you.
* Notify friends, family, and your boss that this person is violating your right to peace and privacy, and is interfering with your personal freedoms and quality of life. Ask your peers outright if they will help you in the following manner: Explain that they must NOT dialogue with the person in any way, regardless of any excuses the stalker may give. Then ask them to promise to notify you ASAP any time that they see or have contact with this person.
* Evaluate your mail delivery. If there's any way for him to access your mail, start having it delivered elsewhere.
* Collect information about anti-stalking laws in your state. Figure out what steps you will need to get him arrested on a stalking charge, and follow those steps. When you have enough documentation you can get a Restraining Order (Personal Protection Order). These don't really stop the stalking; their purpose is more so that you can get a good arrest report and court time when they violate the Order. Even if you have children and there are visitation/custody arrangements, you can still have a Restraining Order approved -- it will specify that the only contact he can have is that necessary for visitation arrangements.
Stalking is a crime because it is a pattern of repeated contact. The first event that profoundly scares you will probably be event #4 or #5, and in order to get police involved at that time, you'll need proof of the earlier events, to show that it is indeed stalking.
* Begin a STALKING LOG of all contact and attempted contact. Use a notebook or write on a computer. Entry should include date, time, details of the event, and any witnesses. Include as much detail as possible. If you write the entry on computer, print it out and sign/date it by hand the same day, so no one can accuse you later of having changed the computer files over time. This log may become a legal document later.
* Maintain a file containing all WRITTEN CONTACT AND EVIDENCE, such as letters, notes, envelopes, or gifts he sent to you. Don't write on the documents themselves. Put each item in a zip-lock bag and write the date and time on the bag.
* Install a physical ANSWERING MACHINE and stop answering your phone. This is the stage at which you must begin compiling evidence in case the stalking escalates. If the stalker leaves any messages, at the end of that day the tape should be removed, labeled (date), and filed, and a new blank tape put into the machine. DO NOT ANSWER YOUR PHONE ANY MORE, no matter how tempted you are! Anyone who calls that you want to talk to, you can always call them right back. If you pick up a call and it is the stalker, he will again view it as a victory or as a source of hope -- regardless of what you say to him, even if you scream and yell at him.
* Get a CELPHONE and keep it with you at all times. It will be especially helpful if you are in your car and realize he's nearby.
About 75% of stalking victims were spied on or followed.
Points To Remember
Never underestimate the stalker or the potential for danger. Many stalker cases escalate; at first the problem seems mild, later the problem becomes omnipresent.
Treat all threats, either in person, by phone, or mail, as legitimate. Threats do not have to be words. Implied threats include black roses, a dead animal received in the mail, or a photograph with your image crossed out. Events like these can be reported to police.
Seek support from people who are understanding. Avoid people who minimize the problem or tell you that you are overreacting. Every year, many people are harmed by stalkers -- it's illogical for anyone to tell you that stalking is unimportant.
Being stalked online? Compile physical evidence (save all emails on disk and printed out; save all public posts on disk and as screen captures; collect all IP evidence possible), then contact authorities to report the crime. Once it's filed as a crime, have them get warrants to track more information about the stalker's IP addresses, real name and home address.
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