Stalking is best defined as unwanted attention, harassment or pursuit that causes fear. Many behaviors can be called stalking and most often victims know their stalker.
Some common behaviors include:
- Unwanted calls, texts or facebook messages
- Inappropriate approaches or confrontations
- Tracking on facebook
- Showing up uninvited to events
- Unwanted gifts
- Using friends to gather information
- Damage to property
If you are Being Stalked
STATE CLEARLY ONCE (since even negative attention can encourage stalkers) that you do not wish to receive any further communication. Don’t respond to any emails, calls or correspondence from a stranger; when you reply you are verifying your contact information to the sender and the stalker may consider any additional contact as reason to hope and persist in pursuit. It can be difficult to make firm statements of no contact to someone with whom a victim once had an intimate relationship. Here are some examples:
- I am not interested in having a relationship with you. Do not continue to call, stop by, or have any contact with me whatsoever.
- I want you to stop trying to contact me. If I discover that you have followed me, been on my property, or called my work or home, I will call the police and file stalking charges.
- I am ending our relationship. Do not make any attempt to try to get back together. I will not change my mind. I do not wish to have any contact with you now or in the future. If you try to contact me, I will file a complaint.
- I will no longer tolerate this harassment. If you try to contact me in any way, I will call the police.
SAVE ALL COMMUNICATION as potential evidence if the behaviors persist. Print out the messages and save them on a hard drive or disk. Make sure that the copies of email contain the full headers—this information at the top of the communication may not be understood but contains vital data that can help track the source of an e-mail (for more information visit www.haltabuse.org). Keep letters, notes, other writings or gifts sent to you.
DOCUMENT ACTIVITY. Include dates, times, locations, and any exact words you can remember. Include any witnesses and their contact information if possible. Also document how the behaviors made you feel and your response to the behaviors.
FILE A COMPLAINT with the administrator of the harasser’s internet service provider (ISP) if online, or with the Title IX Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONTACT THE POLICE. The Title IX Coordinator can assist you in filing a police report and explain the process in more detail. In some cases filing a restraining order can discourage stalking behavior and help law enforcement build a strong case.
There are no easy answers to ensuring your safety. It is important to come with a plan if you are in a crisis and to reduce your risk.
- Inform trusted neighbors, roommates, hall staff of the situation and provide them with photos or descriptions of the offender
- Keep a cell phone with you at all times
- Lock doors and windows
- Ensure you utilize adequate outdoor lighting
- Vary your travel routes, especially when walking
- Ensure you park in secured, well-lit areas
- Be selective in sharing your phone number and personal information
Risk Reduction for Internet Stalking
- When setting up a personal e-mail account, select an address or screen name that is gender-neutral. Remove any personal information such as your address or phone number from your “signature” line.
- Limit who has access to your online website accounts such as blogs and Facebook. You can limit who has access to your personal information on these sites. A good practice is to not post any information that you wouldn’t give a stranger on the street.
- Consider setting up two e-mail accounts. Establish a primary address that you give only to family and friends. For other activity such as shopping and communicating with newsgroups or chat rooms, use a free account with a username that is nothing more than a series of numbers or letters.
- Once a month, type your name into Internet search engines to see what information, if any pops up.
Adapted from “Protecting yourself on the Internet” from the Stalking Resource Center.