Stalking is a frightening and potentially dangerous form of domestic abuse. An estimated 1 in 6 women will experience stalking at some point in their lives. Among female victims murdered by an intimate partner, 76% were stalked before the homicide. Female survivors of attempted murder by a domestic partner reported stalking in 85% of the cases.
Stalking is a serious issue. Not only does it threaten the safety of the abuse victim, but it also causes severe anxiety, fear, and an inability to move on from the abusive relationship. While stalking is illegal in all 50 states, it’s often difficult to stop a perpetrator and prove a pattern of abuse.
Below, we define stalking and offer suggestions to help victims recognize and report the abuse.
What Is Stalking?
Stalking is a form of domestic abuse that abusers use to gain or regain control over a partner. While stalking happens to people of all ages and genders, women are more likely to be victims of stalking. The abuser is most often a prior romantic partner, acquaintance, co-worker, or family member.
Stalking isn’t always easy to recognize. Any repeated and unwanted action or communication can be stalking behavior. Typical methods used by stalkers include:
- Repeated phone calls or texts
- Written communication
- Following you in person or via technology
- Driving by your home or work
- Sending unwanted presents
- Damaging your property
- Contacting friends, family, or co-workers for information about you
- Monitoring your phone calls, emails, or social media accounts
This is by no means a complete list. Bottom line: if it’s unwanted and uncomfortable and continues despite you asking the perpetrator to stop, it can be considered stalking.
How Stalking Victims Can Stay Safe
If you feel unsafe or are in immediate danger, contact 911. However, many stalkers aren’t overtly threatening, so law enforcement might not be able to help right away.
There are some actions you can take to stop the stalking and keep yourself safe in the meantime:
- Change up your routine. Take a different route to work or school, shop at different stores, and leave/return home at different times of day.
- Never travel alone.
- Alert a friend or family member about the stalking. Ask them to check on your regularly.
- Increase home security, including door locks, alarm systems, cameras, and more outside and inside lighting.
- Ask a neighbor to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
- Report the stalker to the authorities (more on that below).
If the stalker is using technology to harass you, you can change email addresses, block phone numbers of the stalker, and report any online abuse to the proper providers. It’s also wise to bulk up your cybersecurity measures and check your devices for spyware regularly.
Reporting a Stalker and Preventing Future Abuse
If you or someone you love suspects stalking, take action as soon as possible. First, know that you’re not alone. There is no shame in admitting the abuse or asking for help.
Stalking is illegal and potentially dangerous. Protect yourself by contacting your local authorities to report the stalking. While law enforcement and legal services may not stop the stalker right away, contacting them is a crucial first step.
Finally, consider filing for a restraining order. Legal action may not stop the stalking, but it can eventually lead to legal consequences if the stalker doesn’t comply. To strengthen your case, document everything and save potential evidence, including:
- Text messages
- Emails or other written correspondence from the stalker
Most importantly, don’t try to handle your stalker alone. Tell someone about the abuse: a trusted friend, family member, or medical professional. Everyone deserves to feel safe.
For more information about staying safe from stalkers, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website.