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What to do about a Stalker?

Fundamentally, stalking is a series of actions that puts a person in fear for their safety. The stalker may follow you, harass you, call you on the telephone, watch your house, and send you mail you don’t want, or act in some other way that frightens you. Stalkers involve themselves in both your personal and professional life.

The exact legal definition varies from state to state, but all states now have some kind of law against stalking. Virtually any unwanted contact between a stalker and their victim which directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can generally be referred to as stalking, whether or not it meets a state’s exact legal definition.

Stalkers use a wide variety of methods to harass their targets. The inventiveness, persistence, and obsessive nature of a stalker is almost unimaginable, until you have experienced being the target.

Stalking is a serious, potentially life-threatening crime. Even in its less severe forms, it permanently changes the lives of the people who are victimized by this crime, as well as affecting their friends, families, and co-workers. Law enforcement is only beginning to understand how to deal with this relatively new crime. Coupled by the Internet and the wealth of information that people publish online, stalkers now have a pool of information at their disposal. In fact, we always tell people never to post anything online that they wouldn’t mind a criminal seeing.

While it’s terrific and fun to post pictures of your children, your new car, your house, and fun pictures of birthday parties and cookouts, imagine how much information you are sharing with a potential stalker. Take a look at your Facebook profile, your LinkedIn profile, websites that you belong to, forums that you respond on and imagine a stranger collecting information about your life in order to harm you or your family.

Statistics on Stalking

According to the National Institute of Justice, a majority of known stalkers are men — 87 percent. Odds are, you know him or have met him before, at least once. He’s your former partner, or he’s a perfect stranger with whom who you merely crossed paths. Maybe you had the great misfortune of smiling at him absently as you held the door for him at your local convenience store. You barely noticed him, but he noticed you, and your smile meant something to him. Your smile put you on his radar, even if you were thinking of something else at the time.

More likely, though, he was once an intimate part of your life. Among women who have reported stalking complaints, 77 percent say they were once involved with the man who followed or tormented them.

What You Can do About a Stalker

Whether you want your relationship to be over so you can move on, or if you unwittingly sparked the interest of someone as you grabbed your morning coffee, your stalker’s effect on you is the same. He’s out there in the shadows, waiting and watching, and that’s terrifying. It takes control of your life, because you know you’re never really safe.

The worst possible thing you can do is ignore that. Your stalker is probably not going to go away of his own volition. You need to fight back. You have the right to reclaim your life.

You might be afraid that the police won’t take you seriously if you go to them, but they almost certainly will. Stalking is a crime in every state. The United States Department of Justice even made cyberstalking a crime in 1999. Law enforcement considers computer contact and electronic stalking as much of a legitimate threat as physical stalking.

Realistically, your local police department is not going to be able to put an officer on your door 24/7. This doesn’t mean they don’t believe you. It means they don’t have the manpower. It’s up to you to make sure you’re rarely alone while law enforcement takes steps to resolve your situation. Alarm your house; every window, door and entry point. Put motion sensors inside and make sure you create a plan to get out quickly if needed. Have friends or family stay with you for a period of time, stay at someone else’s house with the objective not to be alone.

While you’re protecting yourself, gift-wrap your case for the police. Call your telephone company. If your stalker regularly contacts you by phone, you can arrange to report each call. When you receive a call, you can immediately punch a code into your phone so the company can log in the time. In many cases, the company can even identify where the call originated – do the same with cell phones, email addresses and other voicemails. Save everything – do not delete message, call logs, notes or items that may be left for you.

If your stalker is following you physically, call law enforcement whenever you spot him. Invest in a camera and photograph him. You can create a record of what he doing, even if your stalker is gone by the time police officers arrive.

Stalkers are dangerous and many times fueled by mental health problems. While you want to be assertive and not allow yourself to be controlled, use good judgment. Involve the police, learn about restraining and/or protective orders.

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