What To Do If You Are Stalked
PART ONE: SAFETY
First of all, make sure that you are safe. If you need to call 911, do it! If you feel threatened or unsafe, get the police involved.
Many people know their stalkers and are reluctant to call the police. Some of their reasons are feelings of guilt, fear of looking foolish, or feelings of pity for the stalker. This is often the case with an ex-boyfriend or girl-friend. You often hear, "I feel terrible .... I broke up with him and I don't want to make him feel worse by calling the police on him. It's probably nothing. He'll stop." Nice people think that way, but a stalker wont stop stalking because someone is nice. Niceness usually gives the stalker the power to continue stalking. If you have told him no and he is still after you, he probably isn't going to get tired of stalking you.
If you are afraid of looking foolish to the police, don't be. They have seen it all, and someone worried about a stalker is nothing to them. They would rather take the time to do the paper work on a possible stalker than do the paper work on a murder victim. Believe me, the police want to protect you, and they know how stalkers operate. Even if it turns out to be nothing, you should have your case on record with the authorities. Don't minimize your situation or your fear to the police. Tell them everything and give them details, even if it is embarrassing. (Remember, they have seen it all and heard it all!) If you are afraid, say so, but avoid hysteria. Avoid emotional personal attacks on your stalker. Just give them the facts. Ask them for advice. Most police officers will gladly give you numbers to local victim's resource centers and make sure your home is safe from attackers.
It is a good idea to know your state's laws about stalking. The police can explain the law to you, or you can ask an attorney. If you can't afford a lawyer, ask a local victim resource center to refer you to legal aid.
Always assume that your stalker is watching you and act accordingly. Don't go anywhere alone! Your stalker may follow you. Have a friend go with you to the store, to the ATM, to the Laundromat, everywhere. This goes for male victims of stalking as well. Women stalkers are dangerous too. Some stalkers, male or female, are more likely to back off, or at least remain in the shadows, when another person - a witness- is present.
Keep your gas tank full and have some cash on hand. Keep a small bag packed and ready with a couple of days worth of clothes, toiletries, and medication in case you need to get away suddenly. Keep those doors and windows locked! Make a habit of locking the door as soon as you close it. Do the same when you are driving. If you need to, add a dead bolt lock. Make sure there's no way your stalker could have a key to your house, office, or car. Change the locks if you must. Light the outside of your house or apartment at night and make sure the bushes are cut low.
Tell everyone you know what you are going through. Alert your friends and relatives. Your landlord needs to be informed. Most landlords will not give away information about you and will refuse access to your apartment without your written permission, but stalkers are clever and manipulative. Make sure your landlord knows to tell you if someone contacts him about you. Most bosses prefer to know, too, but be sure to add that you don't intend to let your situation interfere with your job performance if you are worried about your boss' reaction. Tell everyone who this person is, what he is doing, and what you have done to stop him.
PART TWO: STOP THE STALKER
Tell your stalker in no uncertain terms, "NO!" Have a witness if possible. Do not try to be rude, but do not waste your energy trying to be polite. If you convey any sort of message other than "NO WAY" to your stalker, he is going to assume you meant "keep trying" and he wont quit. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend until you think you have it right. Without being antagonistic, tell this person to leave you alone. If you stalker calls you, tell him you will not talk to him. Don't say, "I can't talk to you." Instead, tell him, "I wont talk to you."
Refuse flowers or other deliveries. Some stalkers will send flowers or balloons anonymously to cover their tracks, but refuse these also - they can always be sent to a local hospital or nursing home if you refuse to accept them. If he visits you at home or at work, tell him to leave.
You are going to need to collect evidence. Do this as a precaution even if you do not intend to take legal action. Every detail, no matter how small, is important. Some stalkers are very smart and it seems like they are hiding their identities. Maybe they are, but save everything anyway. Keep a journal of every single thing that happens. Leave nothing out. Include dates, times, witnesses, and detailed instances.
If your stalker is calling you on the phone, invest in Caller ID if you can afford it and it is offered in your area. Many markets have Enhanced Caller Id which shows the caller's name as well as his phone number.
Many stalkers know that they can punch in a code to keep their name and phone number private. If possible, you can have calls marked "private" blocked. This way your stalker wont be able to get through to you unless he is willing to divulge his name and phone number. Other times stalkers will start using pay phones.
If you can afford it, get a second phone line installed. If you have your number changed, a stalker can get your new number, even if it is unlisted. If you get the second line, he may never know about it and will keep using the first line to call you. Just turn the ringer off that phone and hook up an answering machine. Save the tapes for the police. You don't even have to listen to the messages if they upset you too much. You wont miss any calls because your family and friends will have your private number to the second line.
What if you can't afford Caller ID or a second line or an answering machine? It is more difficult to prove stalking and harassing, but it can be done. You must contact the phone company. They have equipment to trace calls. Again, keep a detailed journal with times, dates, and what was said. As soon as you realize it is your stalker calling, hang up the phone. Unplug it if the stalker calls back and the ringing gets on your nerves, but don't answer the phone.
Some stalkers operate by getting your friends or family involved. Your stalker may badmouth you, try to get your friends on his side, or even threaten and intimidate your allies. If your stalker is badmouthing you, tell your friends your side of it. Let the facts speak for themselves.
Do not have your friends play games with your stalker. If your friends are playing detective trying to get evidence or if they are trying in other ways to be helpful, they could be endangering you and themselves. The goal is to have no contact at all. Tell your friends and family to stay away from this person, even if he appears to be nice. Stalkers are not nice people; they are manipulative people.
If your stalker has threatened your friends or family, the police need to know about it. Call them immediately. Have any corroborating evidence for the report.
Often victims of stalking will want to get restraining orders. Call your local clerk of court for information on how to get a restraining order. Remember, sometimes it costs money to obtain a restraining order, and even if you ask for one you may not necessarily get one. Even if you do get a restraining order, you are not safe just because you have the order. All it means is that your stalker is legally supposed to stay away from you - it does not mean that your stalker will stay away from you. He may violate the order, and may in fact become antagonized by your obtaining the restraining order. Having the restraining order will make arrest and prosecution easier, but it wont necessarily stop the stalker from stalking you - or worse. Use your best judgment about obtaining restraining orders. Depending on the circumstances of your stalking, you might be able to have your stalker arrested for trespassing, threatening communications, or other crimes he commits instead.
PART THREE: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Usually the more you understand about a situation, the better you are able to handle it. That's usually the case when you are being stalked. Learn everything you can about stalking and stalkers. You may never understand your stalker's mind, but you may learn what to expect. Most of all, you will know that you are not alone in being stalked. Most major cities have local victim's resource centers, and they are excellent sources of information from local laws to support groups.
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