Around one in six women and one in fifteen men have been stalked. The question many ask is “What is Stalking?” and “How do I know if I am being stalked?”
Stalking is repeated communications that are unwanted and intrusive.
A stalker can be a complete stranger, someone you met online, a workmate, a client, or an acquaintance.
Around half of all stalkers are former partners. Stalking often evolves from domestic and family violence.
Stalking takes many forms and common stalking behaviours include following, e-mailing, letters, phone calls, threatening suicide, spreading lies about the victim, visiting the victim at home or at work.
Stalking can be difficult to identify because many stalking behaviours can seem quite ‘normal’ if we look each behaviour on its own however it is only when we ‘join the dots’ that we can really see the problem.
How do I know if I am being stalked?
Do you bump into this person too regularly? Do you feel that you are being intruded upon? Have you told this person to go away/leave you alone but they are still contacting you? Is the person asking other people about you/finding out information about you in other ways? Have you been threatened or do you feel threatened? Is this person invading your boundaries? Trust your instincts.
Are stalkers dangerous?
Stalkers can be dangerous and violent, particularly ex-partner stalkers. A stalker does not have to be violent to be dangerous. Most stalking victims report physical consequences that are not related to injury. Stalking victims report a financial impact, for example from being forced to change jobs or courses of study or from paying legal and security costs. Victims report physical and psychological consequences, such as anxiety and appetite and sleep problems. Social consequences are also common, including loss or friends and being forced to give up social activities.
Why do people stalk?
Many stalkers can’t handle rejection. They may see their victims as belonging to them. Some are mentally ill, but many are not. Some stalkers seek revenge, perhaps for the loss of a relationship. Others may believe their victim is really in love with them.
What can I do if I think I am being stalked?
Wherever possible, not engage with the stalker or react to the them. This is not easy, especially if the stalker is an ex-partner with shared custody of children, or if they are a work colleague.
If you must communicate with your stalker, try to do so through a third party (e.g. a mediation service such as The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, or an app such as Kidganizer) however if you must communicate with your stalker, keep calm and keep things businesslike.
Take any threats seriously, including threats of suicide made by the stalker.
Be mindful that stalkers rarely go away easily.
Tell other people: family, friends, neighbours, workmates and get them to keep records of any communications they have with the stalker.
Keep a detailed log, save photos, videos, e-mails, letters, screen shots, car registration details, medical evidence (psychological as well as physical). If saving these things is too upsetting, ask someone else to hold onto them for you.
Contact the police. Because stalking can be difficult to prove, you must provide the police with as much evidence as possible. This is why keeping a detailed log is important.
Boost your security. Adjust social media privacy settings, change passwords, alter routines, ask friends to accompany you, meet with the police for personalised safety advice.
Be aware of what stalkers are capable of. Stalkers can engage in stalking for many hours per week over months or even years so remain alert.
Apply for a Restraining Order. Stalkers often breach these but this can give police an opportunity to make an arrest.
Keeping a log
Start a new page for each incident.
State the date and time of each incident.
Describe in detail exactly what happened and how it happened:
• who did it and how do you know who they are?
• what exactly did you see and hear?
• what was said to you and by whom?
• was damage caused? If so what and how?
• how did it make you feel (emotional, angry, upset, frightened etc.)?
• did anyone else witness the incident/behaviour? If they did, note their name, address and telephone number and any other details known to you, e.g. place of work.
The person making the entry should sign, date and time each entry. Be sure to keep:
– phone texts
– answer phone messages on landlines and mobile phones
– relevant letters
– objects used in incidents
– anything else relevant to the stalking.
Dr Lorraine Sheridan, a partner in Defuse, is a Chartered Forensic Psychologist. She completed Europe’s first PhD on stalking. Lorraine has so far published five books and more than 80 academic research papers on a range of topics relating to stalking and other forms of threatening behaviour.