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Protect yourself, take action, and stop being a victim of stalking

Take action, protect yourself and stop being a victim of stalking

A coworker, a friend, a sister or a cousin is being stalked by someone and does not know where to turn. You are being stalked and do not know what to do. The sense of helplessness can be overwhelming. There are some things you should do and some things to avoid which will help you to protect yourself and others.


Do

Do tell a friend or loved one immediately

As soon as the stalking begins, even if you are unsure, tell someone. You will need to reach out to people for emotional, legal, and practical support in order to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. Make sure that your colleagues at work know you are being stalked. Once others know they will be more alert to danger signs and better able to protect you.

Do increase personal protection

Your safety is of paramount importance. So first and foremost do not go out alone particularly at night or in deserted places. Try not to come home alone, or go to a garage at work or at a mall by yourself. If you need to do so try to park near security and explain your situation.

Make sure to increase the security at your home and add lighting. If you are in an apartment complex make sure that the managing agent or doorman knows that you are being stalked and has a photo of the perpetrator. If the area around your home is full of bushes and trees consider removing some of them so that you can always have a clear line of sight.

Consider taking a self defense class and getting a dog. Carry a substance such as mace which you can use for your protection. Wear a whistle , it is old fashioned but could scare off your stalker and alert your neighbors

Do get assistance from experts in law enforcement and the court system

Go in person to your local police to explain your problem. It is important that they have a chance to meet you and see that you are credible, which they may not realize over the phone. Get the names of the officers with whom you meet and ask if they can be dedicated to your case so that you will not have to tell the story over and over.

Ask for a safety plan and write it down. If they are going to pay a visit to the stalker ask them to call you immediately, and let you know the results of their interaction.

Reach out to an attorney who is familiar with the different types of restraining orders or orders of protection available in your jurisdiction. Call the local bar association or law school if you do not know how to find an attorney. If you decide to get a restraining order keep a copy with you at all times.

If either the police or court system is not taking you seriously do not be deterred. Ask for a senior police officer to convince them of the severity of your situation.

Do be responsible when using social media

There are different types of stalkers: those angry over a real, failed relationship, and those with an imaginary obsession. To minimize the chance of becoming the victim of a stranger obsession take care when using social media. Do not become close to strangers via the internet and be guarded with your personal information. Excessive emailing and texting can be misconstrued, especially by someone looking for attention.

In either case, whether a former intimate partner or stranger, it will be necessary to minimize your use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites where you post your activities. Instruct your friends not to post photos of you, events that you attended, or information about your plans.

Do collect evidence and document incidents

In order to reach out to law enforcement and the court system you will need “evidence”. You will be taken more seriously if you have hard proof. Keep a diary of everything that has occurred. Report each incident to the police and get a copy of each of those reports. Keep them in a file that you can easily access.

If you have obtained a restraining order make sure you get a copy when it is issued and each time it is reissued by the Court.

Keep all texts and phone messages. Let someone else hear the messages and write down the content, date and time in your diary. If calls have been coming to your workplace ask the secretarial staff to keep a record of the calls. Save all emails.

Try to photograph as much as possible. If the stalker’s car is parked outside your home, place of business, or on a street when you are shopping take a photo.


Don't

Do not minimize the problem

Stalking victims are often not sure where the line is drawn between obnoxious behavior and stalking. Trust your instincts! You will know when the line is crossed, and you cannot manage the situation . The biggest mistake you can make is letting the stalker’s behavior continue and get worse without getting help.
 

Do not have any personal contact

Be sure to tell well-meaning friends and relatives not to make contact with the stalker. Leave this to law enforcement or other professionals. Don’t attempt to diffuse the situation on your own as the stalker will be encouraged and elated at the contact. If you should encounter the stalker, stay calm and go to the nearest store, precinct, hospital or any other location where you can get immediate assistance.

Do not be deterred by the inaction of police or the court system

You are your own best advocate. Although most victims encounter a very concerned and cooperative legal system, there are a few instances when this does not occur. If you encounter this situation reach out to a local advocacy organization for help. They are in existence for exactly this reason and will walk you through the entire process. These organizations can easily be found online or in the phone book. Once you have obtained a restraining order it is easier for the police to arrest the stalker as most states have enhanced criminal penalties for violating these types of orders.

Do not ignore early warning signs

Many stalkers have mental health issues and have stalked before. Victims often blame themselves for not seeing the early warning signs and are embarrassed to admit this to others. Victims can worry about their privacy and be made to feel delusional. Do not worry if you have missed or ignored early warning signs. What is most important is that you act on what you now know. If there were early warning signs, tell that to the police. Detail controlling behaviors, mood swings, psychiatric issues, desire to cut out relatives and friends from your life, issues with prior girlfriends, and the inability to make friends or socialize in a normal setting.

Do not fail to protect yourself

You don’t leave your car doors unlocked. your home open, your key in the ignition or your handbag on the floor of a crowded restaurant. Protect yourself as you do your property—you are so much more important.

When walking in the street be aware of your surroundings. Although it is fun to listen to your iPod or talk on the phone, it will distract you from being alert. Make sure that you walk on well-lit streets and travel with friends. Do not feel embarrassed to ask someone to walk you home or to your car after a night out.

When you are at home don’t answer the door without knowing who is there. Don't allow an unexpected delivery. Add caller ID to your phone bill and refrain from answering any calls if you do not recognize the phone number.


Summary
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The most important thing to do if you are the victim of a stalker is to reach out for assistance from loved ones, friends, advocates and law enforcement. Everyone working together can and will protect you.


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Photo Credits: "Isolated Young Woman Stop Sign, Focus On Hand" by David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Lisa C. SmithProfessor

Professor Lisa C. Smith is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and Brooklyn Law School. At Brooklyn Law School, she is Director of Externship Programs and has taught the Prosecutors Clinic, the Family Law Violence Project and Innovations...

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