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Signs of a Stalker: Are You Being Followed?

Watching someone on a beachThe idea of “stalking” someone in this age of 24/7 information access has become somewhat of an inside joke among many of us. We’ve all heard someone say, “I Facebook stalked him!” or “I didn’t mean to stalk you but I saw your post about your trip to Vegas…” But the truth is, true stalkers can make your life a living hell; stalking is scary, it’s dangerous and in many cases, illegal.

If you’re reading this and asking yourself, “Am I being stalked?” or if you have recently wondered, “How do I know if I’m being stalked?” it’s important to make your safety your first priority. Contact the police or other law enforcement if you have immediate concerns about your personal safety.

It’s important to know what to do if you have a stalker. Here are some stalker statistics, tips on how to identify signs of a stalker and how to deal with the threat.

Startling Statistics About Stalkers in the U.S.

  • 6.6 million people were stalked in one year in the United States.
  • Men are stalked, too: Although 76% of stalking victims are female, nearly one in four stalking victims is male.
  • Stalking tends to happen among young people: Persons aged 18-24 years experience the highest rate of stalking.
  • 3 in 4 stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.
  • Most people know their stalker intimately: 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims are stalked by a current or former romantic partner (spouse, significant other, lover).
  • 76% of women murdered by an intimate partner had been stalked by that person in the year prior to their death.
  • Stalking doesn’t discriminate: Among women who reported having been stalked during their lifetime, 31% are multiracial non-Hispanic women, 23% are American Indian or Alaska Native women, 20% are black non-Hispanic women, 16% are white non-Hispanic women and 15% are Hispanic women.
  • 1 in 4 victims report being stalked through some form of technology such as e-mail or text message.
  • 10% of victims report being monitored with global positioning systems (GPS), and 8% report being monitored through video or digital cameras, or listening devices.

Stalker stats infographic

What is Stalking?

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime1:

Stalking is a complex crime that is often misunderstood and underreported. Although the first stalking law was not passed until 1990, all 50 states and the District of Columbia currently have stalking laws. The statutes vary widely, however, and lack a common definition of stalking. Unlike other crimes that are defined as an incident, stalking is a course of conduct that may comprise individual acts that may in isolation, seem benign or noncriminal. Knowledge about stalking has developed significantly, and research continues to yield important insights about the crime.

What Does A Stalker Do?

Creepy keyboard78% of stalkers use more than one means to obtain information about you, to harass you, or contact you. You can be stalked and not even know it, or it can be glaringly obvious. Stalking is usually defined as a persistent pattern of unwanted behavior committed by another person that makes you feel uncomfortable, threatened or afraid for your or your family’s safety. Stalking often escalates in frequency and severity over time.

Common Forms of Stalking Behavior

  • Following you or showing up wherever you are. They may or may not make contact with you, but it doesn’t matter. Watching someone repeatedly is a form of harassment.
  • Sending persistent, unwanted gifts, letters, notes, e-mails, texts or messages via social media.
  • Damaging your home, car, or other property.
  • Monitoring your phone, computer use or social media accounts to learn about you, your family, your personal life and your whereabouts.
  • Using technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
  • Driving by or hanging out at your home, school, or work.
  • Threatening you, your family, friends, or pets. They may also threaten to reveal information (true or not) that could damage your reputation or relationships.
  • Seeking information about you via public records, online search services, private investigators, or by going through your garbage, personal property. They may also contact your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers to gain access or information about you.
  • Posting personal information or spreading harmful rumors about you.
  • Creating or manipulating situations in order to have contact with you, such as applying for a job where you work or calling you with a personal emergency to make you feel guilty or sorry for them.

How to Identify Signs of a Stalker

Peephole in DoorStudies show that 75% of victims know their stalker in some way, but a stalker isn’t always a stereotypical jilted lover or jealous spouse. In fact, many stalkers may have no romantic interest in the victim, rather they see them as a possession to be owned or controlled.

It is important to remember that being stalked is not your fault. Whether or not you know the stalker, whether or not you’ve had contact with them or have asked them to stop, no one has the right to invade your privacy or to make you feel uncomfortable or scared.

Stalkers are persistent and lack normal boundaries. Even when you make your boundaries clear, such as requesting they leave you alone, they don’t (or they do for a while and then reappear.)

If you have asked someone to stop their unwanted behavior, such as communicating with you, and they persist regardless of your clear and repeated requests, you may have a stalker.

How to Deal with a Stalker

Unfortunately, stalking can be difficult to prove for a number of reasons; stalking can start out subtly, individual incidents may seem harmless or even innocent until they escalate, and there may not be any “hard evidence.” However, if you feel you are being stalked, threatened or harassed in any way, you should not suffer in silence.  Here’s what you can do:

Send a Clear Message

If you do have contact with your stalker and feel safe doing so, tell him or her in no uncertain terms to leave you alone, now. You don’t have to scream or threaten them, but nor do you need to be overly polite. You’re not asking, you’re telling. Be clear, be firm, and be brief. Don’t allow them to engage you in a drawn out conversation, as this is what they may want.

Safety tip: Never confront a stalker alone. If you can, have a witness present when you tell him or her to leave you alone. Be smart and safe; you may not be dealing with a rational person.

Document Everything

Peeking through window blindsNo matter how small or isolated an incident may seem, document what happened including the date and place. Take photos, video and save evidence such as notes or emails. If you have witnesses, great. Stalking can be difficult to prove and many times, there is little the police can do to help without some proof. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to have the person arrested, charged or to obtain a restraining order against them. But don’t wait for the situation to escalate. Contact the police any time you feel uncomfortable or afraid based on someone else’s actions toward you or your family.

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Install a Home Security System

A good way to be preventative and protect yourself from potential stalkers in and around your home is to install an alarm system. Choose a dedicated wireless system so that even if your phone or broadband lines are cut, the system is still active. Home security systems can be installed quickly. Once you have one, use it consistently. Make sure it’s activated even when you’re home. Visit our home security systems reviews to learn more.

Also, many home security companies offer key fobs with panic buttons. If you feel you are at risk, you and your children should each have one with you at all times so that you can alert your home security provider if there are any problems.

Look Out For Your Children

Whether or not an individual has made any direct threats to your family, if you’re being harassed, you should step up security around your children.

  • Alert your child’s school of the situation. Don’t be embarrassed, this is a matter of safety not just for your child but others as well.
  • Make sure your child’s school and any caretakers have a list of who is and who is not allowed to contact or pick up your child from school. If possible, provide the school with photos and a vehicle description of anyone you don’t want near your kids.
  • Depending on your child’s age, explain the situation and help them to recognize the person bothering you. Let them know they are not to have contact with this person for any reason and to tell you if they see the individual hanging around anywhere.
  • Don’t let children walk to and from school or the bus stop alone. Find alternate arrangements or a trusted adult to accompany them if you cannot.
  • Establish a short, simple code word to say on the phone or to text as a warning, a call for help or to tell your children not to come home.
  • Teach your children how to dial 911 in an emergency.

Tell Others

Don’t be embarrassed to tell on your stalker! The more people who know, the more people you’ll have looking out for you and your family.

  • Tell family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Tell your employer; they may have extra security measures they can put into place to help you stay safe. For example, if you leave work at night or have to walk through a parking garage, request an escort to your car.
  • Tell the police. Don’t be discouraged if they can’t do anything at first.
  • Provide photos and vehicle descriptions to everyone.

Limit Social Media Use

Watch what you post on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At the very least, change your Facebook settings to “private” and refrain from posting information about where you are and where you’re going. To be extra safe, close your social media accounts and tell others not to post anything about you or your children. The less information your stalker has, the safer you will be.

Change Numbers, Locks and Patterns of Behavior

  • Change your phone numbers, including your mobile phone. Give out your new number only to those who absolutely need it.
  • Change your locks, especially if there is any chance the person harassing you could have a key.
  • Change your daily patterns. Most people are creatures of habit, driving the same route to work, running the same loop around the neighborhood, stopping for coffee at the same time each morning. Stalkers rely on these predictable patterns. Don’t stop living your life, but find ways to shake up your daily routines.

Dealing With a Stalker Video

Make Personal Security a Priority

Focus on things you can do to ensure your personal security, including carrying a self-defense weapon, like a Taser or stun gun, and develop a self defense plan. For tips and ideas on how to develop your own self-defense plan, check out our article on what to carry if you don’t want to carry a gun. For recommendations on the top-rated Tasers and stun guns, check out our article on the best tasers and stun guns or search for products below.

Source: [1] Victims of Crime

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