What is stalking?
- A pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
- Stalkers use a variety of tactics, including (but not limited to): unwanted contact including phone calls, texts, and contact via social media, unwanted gifts, showing up/approaching an individual or their family/friends, monitoring, surveillance, property damage, and threats.
- Stalking is typically directed at a specific person – the victim. However, stalkers often contact the victim’s family, friends and/or coworkers as part of their pattern of behavior.
- Many stalkers’ behaviors seem innocuous or even desirable to outsiders – for example, sending expensive gifts. The stalker’s actions don’t seem scary and are hard to explain.
- Anyone can be a victim of stalking. A majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know: a current or former intimate partner, acquaintance, or family member.
- The majority of stalking victims are female. However, people of all genders can be stalked. It is estimated that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men will experience stalking in their lifetime.
- People aged 18-24 have the highest rate of stalking victimization.
Written by One Love Writer’s Corps member Hannah Anain
For many people, stalking is a distant thought: it happens in horror movies, we laugh about “Facebook” stalking our friends, but we couldn’t possibly imagine someone stalking us or someone we know. Unfortunately, stalking is much more common than most people believe, and it is oftentimes difficult to recognize from afar. According to the Stalking Resource Center, approximately 7.5 million people are stalked each year in the United States. An estimated 15% of women and 6% of men have been a victim of stalking during their lifetimes, and of those, around 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims were stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Even when the stalkers are not current or former partners, the victim usually knows them in some way. Below are four big warning signs of stalking to beware of for yourself or loved ones.
- Contacting you Constantly
Calling multiple times a day can be confused with clinginess or interest, but don’t be fooled: constant contact may be an early sign of stalking. A stalker has a need to know what you’re doing at all times. The easiest way for them to do that when they’re not around is to call and text incessantly. In this era of advanced technology, constant communication is all too easy to initiate, therefore it is all too easy to blow off as normal. However, this behavior often escalates into stalking.
- Obtaining Details Before You Provided Them.
Browsing a new fling’s social media accounts is pretty typical, but if someone starts asking extremely specific questions about an Insta-post with your ex, that should raise an eyebrow. Again, technology makes online stalking extremely easy, and an in-depth study of your presence on the internet could lead to digital tracking in the future. Making sure your passwords aren’t obvious is always a good idea because hackers and stalkers alike will try to guess or steal them, making you vulnerable.
- Monitoring you Excessively.
Asking about your day is normal; inquiring countless times a day about your location and company and digitally tracking you are not. What may at first appear as extreme curiosity is often a sign of extreme control. If you notice that someone is asking a few too many questions about your activity, who you’re hanging out with, when you might be free, seek help: especially if they start showing up uninvited.
- Showing up Unannounced
The occasional surprise is sweet if you make it clear to your partner or friend that you don’t mind or like it, but unannounced (and undesired) appearances are the brightest red flag of stalking. (Watch Intensity from our Behind the Post campaign to see a great example of what we mean). If you tell someone that you have plans to meet up with friends after work and he or she is waiting outside as soon as you’re finished, don’t blow it off as affectionate: this type of behavior can become extremely dangerous. Likewise, if you start receiving unwanted, unnecessary, and even inappropriate gifts, you may want to reassess your relationship.
If you only take away one thing from these warning signs, it is that you should always, always trust your gut: if it feels off, it probably is. To learn more about stalking and what you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, visit the Stalking Resource Center or call 800-FYI-CALL (800-394-2255) Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. And check out our top 5 picks for resources on stalking.
For Victims of Stalking
- Trust your instincts.Victims of stalking often feel pressured by friends or family to downplay the stalker’s behavior, but stalking poses a real threat of harm. Your safety is paramount.
- Call the policeif you feel you are in any immediate danger. Explain why the stalker’s actions are causing you fear.
- Keep a recordor log of each contact with the stalker. You can use this log as an example. Be sure to also document any police reports.
- Save evidence when possible.Stalkers often use technology to contact their victims. Save all emails, text messages, photos, and postings on social networking sites as evidence of the stalking behavior. You may also want to consider how to use your technology and your devices in a safer manner. For more information, please visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence Safety Net Project’s Tech Safety Site.
- Get connected with a local victim service providerwho can assist you in exploring your options as well as discuss safety planning.