Month: Know It, Name It, Stop It
January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Legal definitions vary but a reasonable
definition would be a course of conduct directed at a specific person that
would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. A stalker can be someone who
you are/were in a relationship with, a co-worker, acquaintance or even a
stranger. These are general suggestions that may not be appropriate in
every situation – please pick and choose the ones that seem relevant to your
situation. Following these suggestions can't guarantee your safety, but
it could help make you safer.
General safety strategies:
• Stop all contact and communication with the person stalking or harassing you
but keep any evidence of the stalking (such as voicemails, texts, emails, etc.
for future court cases or criminal actions). Responding to the stalker's
actions may reinforce and/or encourage his/her behavior.
• Carry a cell phone with you. Keep handy or memorize emergency phone
numbers that you can use in case of an emergency, e.g., the number of the local
police station. If you ever feel you are in immediate danger, call
911. You may also be eligible for a free phone with free minutes from the Assurance Wireless Program, sponsored by Virgin Mobile.
• Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, you may
want to reach out for help, even if nothing immediately dangerous is happening.
• Have a safe place in mind to go to in an emergency. You might go to a
police station, place of worship, public area, the home of a family member or
friend (unknown to the stalker), or a domestic violence shelter. If
someone is following you, it is generally not a good idea to go home.*
• Try not to travel alone. Always vary your routes to and from work or school,
the grocery store, and any other places regularly visited. By changing your
daily routes, it could make it more difficult for someone to learn your
routine. If you run or walk for exercise, you might want to get an
exercise buddy to go with you.
• Be aware of how much identifying information you are posting on the Internet
through social networking sites and online purchases. You may want to select
the highest security settings on any social networking accounts and think
carefully before giving out your personal information through online purchases.
• Alert the three credit bureaus and ask to have a fraud alert put on your
credit reports: Experian (800) 831-5614, Equifax (866) 640-2273 and TransUnion (800) 916-8800. A stalker may try to
obtain your Social Security number and/or mother's maiden name to use this
information to obtain your credit information. Putting an alert on your
credit could help to prevent this and possible fraudulent activity and/or
• Report all
incidents and threats to the police immediately. When making reports to
the police, keep a note of the name of the officer in charge of the case and
the crime reference number, if applicable. You can also ask for a copy of
the police report that is filed.
• Create a stalking log, which records the date and time of each incident as
the incidents occur, what the stalker did or said, what actions, if any, you
took and who was present. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw and
get the witnesses contact information (name and phone number) in case you need
the police or prosecutor to later talk to the witness.
• Save evidence of stalking / harassment. Keep all voicemails, text and email
messages sent by the stalker. You can get hard copies of text messages by
forwarding them to an email address and printing them out or you may be able to
take photos or videos of the cell phone screen. Another option
could be to take the phone to the police and have them photograph the text
messages or document them in another way. Some people may be inclined to
try to show the messages to the judge on the phone itself but this may mean
that the phone itself may be taken into evidence and kept during the court
proceeding, thereby taking the phone away from you.
• Consider getting a protective order against the person stalking you.
Most states allow you to apply for a protective order based on stalking if the
stalker is an intimate partner. Some states allow you to apply for a
protective order based on stalking even if the stalker is not an intimate
partner. If you do get a protective order, carry a copy of it with you at
all times. However, please remember even restraining orders do not always
prevent stalking from escalating into violence. Continue planning for
your safety in other ways as well.
taken from www.womenslaw.org and www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org.