Stalking is a pattern of behavior that makes you feel afraid, nervous, harassed, or in danger. It is when someone repeatedly contacts you, follows you, sends you things, talks to you when you don’t want them to, or otherwise threatens you. Stalking behaviors can include:
- Writing letters.
- Damaging your property.
- Knowing your schedule.
- Showing up at places you go.
- Sending mail, email and pictures.
- Creating a web site about you.
- Sending gifts.
- Stealing things that belong to you.
- Calling you repeatedly.
- Or any other actions that the stalker takes to contact, harass, track, or frighten you.
You can be stalked by someone you know casually, a current boyfriend or girlfriend, someone you dated in the past, or a stranger. Getting notes and gifts at your home, in your locker, or other places might seem sweet and harmless to other people. But if you don’t want the gifts, phone calls, messages, letters or emails it doesn’t feel sweet or harmless. It can be scary and frustrating.
Sometimes people stalk their boyfriends or girlfriends while they’re dating. They check up on them, text or call them all the time and expect instant responses, follow them, and generally keep track of them even when they haven’t made plans together. These stalking behaviors can be part of an abusive relationship. If this is happening to you or someone you know, you should talk to someone.
Stalking is a crime and can be dangerous. The legal definition for stalking and the possible punishment for it changes from state to state. Contact a victim service provider or your local police to learn about stalking laws in your state and how to protect yourself.
If you are being staked, you might…
- Feel helpless, anxious, fearful, angry or depressed
- Feel like you can never get away from the stalker
- Think the stalker is always watching you
- Feel frustrated that the stalker won’t leave you alone
- Have difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Lose or gain weight
- Not know what might happen next
You’re not alone
- During a 12-month period an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking
- About half (46%) of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11% of victims said they had been stalked for 5 years or more.
- The risk of stalking victimization was highest for individuals who were divorced or separated—34 per 1,000 individuals.
- Women were at greater risk than men for stalking victimization; however, women and men were equally likely to experience harassment.
- Male (37%) and female (41%) stalking victimizations were equally likely to be reported to the police.
- Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).
- 46% of stalking victims felt fear of not knowing what would happen next.
- Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.
- More than half of stalking victims lost 5 or more days from work.
- 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the United States.
- Most victims are stalked for close to 2 years
- 82% of stalkers who pursued female victims followed them, spied on them, stood outside their home, place of work, or recreation; 61% of stalkers made unwanted phone calls; 33% sent unwanted letters or items; 29% vandalized property; and 9% killed or threatened to kill a family pet.
If you are stalked, it is not your fault. Stalkers are responsible for their behavior, not the victims. If you believe that someone is stalking you you can:
- Contact the police
- Tell your parent, a friend you can trust or your school counselor or principle
- If you don’t know where to go for help, you can contact your local victim service provider.
Think about ways that you can be safer. This means thinking about what to do, where to go for help and who to call ahead of time.
- Where can you go for help?
- Who can you call?
- Who will help you?
- How will you escape a violent situation?
Here are other things you can do:
- Let friends or family members know when you are afraid or need help.
- When you go out, tell someone where you are going and when you’ll be back.
- In an emergency, call 911 or your local police department.
- Memorize the phone numbers of people to contact or places to go in an emergency.
- Keep spare change, calling cards, or a cell phone handy. (The Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance has 911 cell phones that are free to victims)
- Save notes, letters or other items that the stalker sends to you and keep a record of all contact that the stalker has with you.
Help someone else
If you know someone who you believe is being stalked, you can:
- Believe them
- Encourage them to seek help
- Listen to them
- Offer your support
- Ask how you can help
- Give them information about the Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance