Stalking is a crime. It is a crime against the person and it is not to be tolerated. It is not trivial; it is not funny. It is not confined to celebrities; ordinary people get stalked every day. It inflicts pain: psychological, financial, relational and even physical.
One in fourteen people in the USA are stalked each year. Stalking is assumed by most of us to be, stereotypically, the behaviour of a man in relation to a woman. However, it is not so simplistically gender-specific; cases of male-on-male stalking, female-on-female stalking and female-on-male stalking have been recorded also.
Stalking is a psychopathology, an imaginary repetition compulsion holding two people together. Ideally, therefore, another agent has to pull them apart: family, friends, the law. Stalkers don't just fade away, they have to be pushed away or else, unfortunately, get diverted by another target of their obsession.
Just as the internet and the mobile phone has changed everything else in the interpersonal world, so the increasing proliferation of virtual contact fora - text messaging, camera phones, social networking sites, the blogosphere - has changed how stalking operates. The law is struggling to keep up with the latest manifestations of cyber-stalking, where your image or your text may be sufficient to attract a stalker's fascination.
Stalking has been associated with other forms of intimate partner violence. This has confirmed its significance as a threat, as a crime that must be reported and punished severely. Therefore, you should not hesitate to report what you consider to be stalking: unwarranted repeated attention, unwished-for gift-giving, unwelcome messages and/or visits, intrusive surveillance, inappropriate comments on networking sites, etc..
The fact is that stalking is an intersubjective assault and, therefore, the main problem for many victims is that it is a crime identified by personal perception. Typically, victims would say: 'I'm being followed on my blog', 'I'm being deluged with texts', 'S/He's found out where I live and introduced him/her-self to my neighbours as my boy/girl-friend', 'I told him/her I'm not interested but s/he won't take "No" for an answer' and so on. This is emotional, psychological, social abuse but there are no physical injuries, the stereotypical signs of assault.
The law recognises stalking as a psychological, narcissistic injury; the courts accept evidence of intrusive surveillance, of unwonted attention. The law recognises and enforces the boundaries that today's increasingly-permeable society does not sufficiently stress. The teenager who insists on 'Personal space, Mom!', when obscuring her mobile phone's screen from a parent, may have posted her phone number on her Facebook page. The IT Manager may still use the same password for his Linked-in page as he uses for work.
If you think you are being stalked, or you know someone who thinks they are being stalked:
â¨Contact the police. Do not underestimate the serious nature of this behaviour; act quickly and decisively and publicly. Make a report; stipulate publicly what is happening to you. Do not hesitate to request a same-sex police officer to deal with, if you prefer.
Keep a record: Prepare a detailed log of all contacts, listing dates, witnesses, places, verbatim records of what was communicated by the stalker to you - as much detail as possible. Keep any envelopes, wrappers, addresses, or numbers that could be used in an investigation to track his/her whereabouts.
Tell everyone what is happening to you and the effect it is having upon you, particularly:
(i) your family and friends;
(ii) your colleagues: co-workers, boss, receptionist, secretary/PA
(iii) your neighbours, your concierge, your accountant, your building maintenance supervisor, your doctor - anyone who may be asked for information about you, anyone who may be asked to communicate with you or deliver a message/gift to you on the stalker’s behalf.
Cut off all contact immediately: no calls, no letters, no gifts, no texts, no mails. This means that any contact details you have shared with the stalker should be changed, as soon as possible: your phone number, email and, if possible, any other address as well.
Protect yourself: Change your locks. Change your routine. Change your passwords. Buy a personal alarm. Invest in a dog. Take some self-defence classes. Talk to the police about a threat-assessment profile of the stalker. Ask their advice on how dangerous s/he is and what you might do to protect yourself from him/her. If the police recommend it, consider asking someone to accompany you until your stalker is no longer a threat to you.
Contact a therapist. The stalker's conviction in his/her delusion (that you return their feelings, that you desire their interest, etc.) will be daunting and without professional support you will have difficulty challenging that assurance. It is essential that you set a boundary on the intrusion: physical, reputational and psychological.
The stalker’s advantage is his/her manic devotion to the task in hand and therefore this will be a war of attrition. You will need the support of friends, family, colleagues, a therapist or group until this obsession abates or is diverted. Your therapist will explain the particular contingencies that pertain to the confidentiality rule in stalking.
Bear in mind that during this time (which is unquantifiable), the stalker may contact others in your circle to provoke a response from you or to discover your new contact details or perhaps to embarrass/shame you by propagating stories about your ’relationship’. Naming this relationship as ‘stalking’ within your circle will not embarrass you; rather, it will protect you!
Finally, these websites offer clear advice, information, statistics and safety tips. Feel free to bookmark or forward:
â¨Stalking: why do people do it? (BMJ article)
Menstuff: a range of international resource links
Stalking Resource Centre at the National Centre for Victims of Crime
Teenstuff : 'When Love Hurts' - teenagers' hints and resources
Stalkers: the Psychological Terrorist, and
Stalking Safety Tips the Suzy Lamplugh Trust