Stalking refers to repeated unwanted contact that harasses and threatens a person, causing him or her fear. It does not always involve physical contact, but can escalate to the point of physical violence. Stalking behaviors come from the need for a stalker to maintain a sense of power and control, as seen in domestic abuse.
Stalkers are motivated by a desire to control their victims’ actions and feelings, and by a desire to maintain some type of connection with them – regardless of their victims’ wishes – through manipulation and control. Stalkers will frequently threaten and harass, and in some instances the behavior will progress to physical violence.
Stalking, when any person “willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or harasses another person or a member of that person’s immediate family,” is prohibited by Idaho state law (Idaho Code § 18-1705).
Idaho law defines “harassing” as
a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys or harasses the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.
And “course of conduct” as
a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of this definition.
Documentation: Keeping a journal of the stalking behavior ie: phone calls, driving by, text and social network posting are helpful to law enforcement and prosecutors. When keeping a journal, provide as much detail as possible. Information like: dates, times, witnesses and the type of behavior. Photos are also helpful if property has been destroyed, property has been vandalized or of injuries to your person. This journal should be kept in a secured place.
Patterns of Stalking Behavior
While every stalker’s pattern of behavior is slightly different, there are predictable stages which a stalker may follow. Understanding how a stalker may move through the stages is helpful to show how stalking behavior can escalate in frequency, intensity, destructiveness and level of danger:
Phase 1: Unwanted Contact – Stalkers “woo” their victim.
The efforts here are designed to either establish or maintain a relationship against a victim’s wishes. They attempt to “prove their love” to victims by:
- Gathering personal information from the victim’s friends, employers, family members, neighbors, post office, etc.
- Making repeated phone calls, sending long or a large volume of emails, letters, electronic pages
- Sending notes, flowers, and other romantic gestures
- Following, waiting for, and “coincidentally” running into the victim
- Asking other people to try to “talk to” or “convince” the victim to have a relationship with the stalker.
Phase 2: Escalation – Stalkers begin to use more intrusive behavior.
When a stalker’s initial advances are rejected, or they no longer feel connected to their victim, the intrusiveness, frequency, and severity of the harassment and stalking behaviors usually increases.
As in domestic violence situations, stalkers may intimidate victims in order to coerce them into returning to the relationship, or simply to maintain a sense of connection with, and power over, their victims. Stalkers may now:
- Spread rumors, negative things, and false information about the victim to friends, family members, employers, faith organizations, schools (often, abusers threaten to “expose” their victim, even if the “exposure” is based upon falsehoods and lies – an effort to control other people’s perceptions of the situation).
- Make direct and indirect threats through intimidating phone calls, e-mails, pages, and sending/leaving notes. (IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR A VICTIM TO KEEP COPIES OF ALL COMMUNICATION FOR DOCUMENTATION IN THE EVENT THAT THEY NEED TO PROVE THEY HAVE BEEN STALKED). Threats may be of kidnapping, taking the children, bitter divorce or custody battle, murder or bodily harm, taking the victim to court, destruction of property etc.
- Become more persistent in following the victim
- Leave evidence to remind a victim of their presence
- Break into a victim’s home
- Leave dead animals where a victim will see them
- Leave weapons or bloody objects where a victim will see or find them
Phase 3: Violence – Stalkers resort to more violence.
As in domestic violence relationships, stalkers may turn to violence when the other behaviors either do not get them what they want, or have stopped working. When stalkers/abusers feel they are losing control, they may resort to using violence to assert their power and dominance over their victims. Stalkers may use:
- Severe threats, including blackmail
- Vandalism of the victim’s vehicles and property
- Physical attacks
- Sexual assaults, including rape
- Attempted murder
Other stalking behaviors may include:
- Harassing phone calls – either in frequency, or in the content of the call
- Threats – entering, or threatening to enter a victim’s home when no one is at home; threatening to report the victim to authorities when no crime has occurred; other threats which cause apprehension or fear
- Monitoring the victim’s activities – through GPS devices; by using a victim’s friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers to monitor and report back on the victim’s whereabouts and activities; by requiring that a victim “check in” at certain intervals, or answer their phone at all times
- Spying on the victim – a subset of monitoring the victim; may include literally hiding and spying, overtly showing up at an event or appointment and keeping watch, or cyberstalking.
- Stalking Behavior Checklist
Some stalkers begin the abuse during a relationship with the victim, and use stalking to maintain and demonstrate continued power and control over their victims after the relationship has ended. At other times, an abuser may begin to use stalking behaviors when a victim has asked for changes in the relationship, has asked for or filed for a divorce, or has initiated a separation. These are common situations which provoke an escalation in abuse, including either the onset of or the worsening of, stalking behaviors. In fact, domestic violence victims are in great danger of being seriously harmed or killed when they are being stalked by their abusers. Stalkers can become more violent as they feel less control over their victims.
Common characteristics of stalkers include:
- Needing to have (or feel that they have) control over others
- Being manipulative
- Reacting jealously (sometimes perceiving that a victim is behaving in a provocative or sexual manner when that is not the case; may falsely accuse victim of affairs or suspect affairs when there is no reason for the suspicion)
- Being unable to take “no” for an answer (does not have healthy boundaries)
- Being unable to accept and cope with rejection (as in the case of separation, divorce, “breaking up”. May also perceive rejection when a victim is simply asking for change)
- Lying frequently
- Behaving obsessively
- Feeling victimized (abusers often say they are the ones being abused when their victims enforce boundaries and begin to make changes)
What is Teen Stalking?
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 threatens you. Stalking behaviors can include:
- Writing letters
- Damaging your property
- Knowing your schedule
- Showing up at places you go
- Sending mail, e-mail, and pictures
- Creating a website 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, e-mails 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, page 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 to be 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 of stalking and 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 are and how you can protect yourself.
If you are being stalked, 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
- Have nightmares
- Lose or gain weight
- Not know what might happen next
You’re not alone
- 1,006,970 women and 370, 990 men are stalked annually in the United States.
- 77 percent of female and 64 percent of male victims know their stalker.
- Most victims are stalked for 1.8 years.
- 82 percent of stalkers who pursued female victims followed them, spied on them, stood outside their home, place of work, or recreation; 61 percent of stalkers made unwanted phone calls; 33 percent sent or left unwanted letters or items; 29 percent percent vandalized property; and 9 percent 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, friend, school principal or another person you can trust.
- If you don’t know where to go for help, contact us at 1-800-FYI-CALL or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think about ways 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.
- 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. These items will be very useful to the police.
- If you choose to tell, you should know that some adults are mandated reporters. This means they are legally required to report neglect or abuse to someone else, like the police or child protective services. You can ask people if they are mandated reporters and then decide what you want to do. Some examples of mandated reporters are teachers, counselors, doctors, social workers, and in some cases, even coaches or activity leaders. If you want to help deciding who to talk to, call our Helpline at 1-800-FYI-CALL, or an anonymous crisis line in your area. You might also want to talk to a trusted family member, a friend’s parent, an adult neighbor or friend, an older sibling or cousin, or other experienced person who you trust.
- If you want to get advice about who to talk to, call our helpline (1-800-FYI-CALL) or an anonymous crisis hotline in your area. You might also want to talk to a trusted family member, a friend’s parent, an adult neighbor or friend, an older sibling or cousin, or other experienced person who you trust.
Help Someone Else
If you know someone who is being stalked, you can:
- Encourage your friend to seek help
- Be a good listener
- Offer your support
- Ask how you can help
- Educate yourself about stalking
- Avoid any confrontations with the stalker. This could be dangerous for you and your friend.
The National Center for Victims of Crime
2000 M Street, NW Suite 480 Washington, DC 20036
ph: (202) 467-8700 fx: (202) 467-8701
What is Cyber Stalking?
As more and more people are gaining access to the Internet there is an increasing awareness of a new form of stalking called cyber stalking.
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, and other forms of electronic communications to harass or threaten someone repeatedly. This can involve e-mail, harassment in live chat situations, and using the victims’ code name or e-mail address after leaving inappropriate messages on message boards or guest books, sending viruses, or electronic theft identity.
By using e-mail the stalker can send spam (large volumes of unsolicited junk mail) and send pornographic materials to work or family accounts. They may also send critical, accusatory, abusive emails as in the case of domestic violence especially after relationships have ended. In live chat situations the harassment may involve “flaming”, or on-line verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and repeated attempts at “private chats”. Electronic identity theft is use of the Internet to gain personal information. There are on-line services that will give your social security number, financial history, personal information, and a detailed map to your house.
Cyber stalking can be as terrifying as IRL (in real life) stalking, but often harder to prove and more difficult to control. The anonymity of the Internet works for the stalker, but there are safety procedures to help anyone on-line and those being cyber stalked. Do not give out personal information on-line, do not use your real name or nickname on-line, and be very careful about meeting on-line acquaintances in person. If you are being cyber stalked change e-mail accounts, and if possible keep old account open to document on-going abuse and only give new information to those who really need it. If you cannot change accounts look into filter programs. Within a chat room use gender-neutral nicknames, do not use real e-mail addresses, be careful with profiles, use ignore options, and do not answer individual chat requests. Notify the chat administrator or room moderators of abuse. If you are being harassed through e-mail or through a chat room you can notify the Internet provider; most Internet providers have either a complaints account at postmaster@domainname or abuse@domainname.
Can Cyber Stalking be Dangerous?
YES! If a stalker takes it offline and you start receiving snail mail or harassing phone calls from the stalker, then they know where you live. Stalking is about the need for a stalker to maintain a sense of control over their victim’s actions and feelings, and the desire to maintain some kind of a connection. If a person is stalking you online, they may well be capable of doing the same offline, with the progressive escalation discussed earlier.
For more help on-line and more safety measures: www.haltabuse.org offers suggestions and support to those being cyber stalked.
What To Do if You Are Being Stalked
If you become the victim of a stalker, it is important to educate yourself. Stalking is a crime and there are laws which have been put in place to protect victims of stalkers and hold the stalker accountable for their crime.
If you are in imminent danger, call 911. Go to a safe place: a police station, the home of a family member or friend unknown to the stalker, or a public area.
Develop a Safety Plan . Thinking through what you will need to have in place for your particular safety, BEFORE an emergency, could mean the difference between tragedy and safety.
Tell someone. Do not try to deal with this situation alone. Alert friends, family members, co-workers, law enforcement about the stalker’s behavior, including a description of your stalker. Ask friends, neighbors, school officials, co-workers to document anything they see or hear and record the time of the occurrence.
Gather evidence. Physical evidence is a key component to convicting a stalker. If it can be done safely, photograph the stalker. Also, save and date all written materials (letters, cards, notes, envelopes, emails), voicemails, and gifts. If the gift is perishable, take a dated photograph, and save some piece of the evidence if possible (for example, dry or press flowers, peel the label off food items, etc.). Show the perishable item to another person to serve as a witness.
Document the stalker’s behavior. List dates, times, places, what happened, and any witnesses. Record what the stalker was doing, saying, wearing, driving (license number too), etc. Obtain and keep copies of warrants, protective orders, court orders, etc.
Use an answering machine to screen telephone calls. Have a friend (preferably of the opposite sex) record your answering machine message.
Never underestimate the stalker’s potential for violence. Even though it may be difficult to believe that this person is capable of violent acts, take every threat seriously.
File charges when appropriate or necessary. Call police or go to the magistrate immediately and request a warrant each time the stalker breaks the law. The stalker may be arrested. If arrested, there is a possibility that the stalker will be bonded, and released. Ask that a condition of the bond be that there will be no contact with you. Obtain copies of all documents and the name of the magistrate.
Obtain a protective order when appropriate. If a stalking warrant is issued, you may file for a protective order at the General District Court clerk’s office. If the stalker is a family/household member, or you have children in common, contact the Court Services Unit at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
NOTE: Many victims are urged to get restraining or protective orders. Remember that this is just a piece of paper. It is only as good as the moral makeup of the stalker, who may or may not choose to follow the restrictions. If a stalker feels thwarted, a protective order may provoke rage, and the stalker may feel humiliated and further rejected. Many times, when a victim obtains a protective order, the threat of bodily harm actually increases.
Arrange for a neutral place for your stalker. If you have children with your stalker, arrange for a neutral and safe place to drop them off and pick them up for visitation, preferably a public place.
Consider moving. If you feel you or any of your family members or friends are in immediate danger, consider moving to a safe place, such as a domestic violence shelter or friends’ or families’ residences that are unknown to the stalker.
Canyon County Victim Witness Unit
Denise Himes (Unit Supervisor)
Christina Garcia (Spanish-speaking)
Joana Torres-Fonseca (Spanish-speaking)