No one really believes they’ll be the victim of a stalking–until they find themselves dealing with obsessive and unwanted attention from someone.
In most instances, stalking behaviors are exhibited by your “ex”: someone who has not dealt with the reality that your relationship is really over, and that they should move on. It may be hard to believe that someone you have cared for in the past is capable of stalking you, but it happens to over a million people in the United States alone each year.
Are you being stalked by an ex?
Is your ex sending you unwanted letters or making unwanted phone calls to your home or work? Have you seen your ex in the same stores, the same bars, the same parking lots, or where you work –more than is possibly coincidental? Do your friends say they see your ex riding their bicycle past your home regularly–and your ex lives twenty miles away?? That last one may seem silly, but it happened to me after my stalker ex knew everyone in my apartment building was watching for his car.
As a stalking victim, you may experience unwanted phone calls, letters, vandalization, verbal abuse or threats, and in more extreme stalking cases, physical or sexual assault. You may be being spied on or followed–and this may have started before your relationship ended. According to findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, the average duration of a stalking is over a year, and if you’re being stalked by an ex, the average is closer to two years.
If you are being stalked, you and many other stalking victims may know that the effects of being stalked can be no fun at all. It can affect all areas of your life: you can lose time from work, and possibly even require counseling to deal with the anxiety or stress of being stalked. So, how are you supposed to handle your stalker ex?
Tips from successful stalker stoppers
Do not assume that just because a stalker hasn’t ever done anything violent toward you that they’re not planning to! The good behaviors of your ex during your relationship are not any reason to assume that your ex is incapable of harmful or dangerous behavior to you now. The first thing to do is assure your safety.
Every stalking is a unique case: if you believe your ex has access to your house, car, office, or anything else of yours, change your locks and tell your neighbors and close friends or family about your concern. Doing so increases the number of people looking out for your safety. You may also want to inform your employer of your situation, so that they can consider increasing your security at work. It is also a good idea to inform your apartment manager, if you live in an apartment — they will usually help ensure the security of your apartment through security patrols, or the addition of a deadbolt lock, etcetera.
Tip: You can also call the local police and request that officers patrol your neighborhood more frequently.
Once you have taken steps to protect yourself, communicate to your ex in no uncertain terms that you are not going to tolerate the stalking behaviors that you are experiencing, and that there is NO reason for them to continue to pursue you. Once you have clearly communicated this, do not communicate with your ex in any way, as they tend to take it as encouragement. This means when they call, say “Do not call me any more, this is harassment” and hang up. You will not be lying, as harassing someone is by definition, “To irritate or torment persistently; to wear out; exhaust; to impede and exhaust [an enemy] by repeated attacks or raids.” In many states, this is a misdemeanor and is punishable by law.
Tip: Many phone companies are able to block incoming calls from a particular phone number. If you do not want to screen your calls, consider this option.
Now that you’ve assured your safety and told your ex in no uncertain terms to leave you alone, you can take some proactive steps to protect your privacy. Do you have reason to believe that your ex is going through your mail? You should know that opening U.S. mail that is not addressed to you is against the law, and considered mail theft. If you think your ex is intercepting, opening, stealing or tampering with your mail in any way, the United States Postal Service wants you to call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) and ask for a Postal Inspector.
Tip: You can decrease the chances of your stalker getting to your mail by picking it up as soon as you can after its delivery, or asking the post office to hold your mail on days you know you will not be able to pick it up–such as days when you are not at home or on vacation.
One of the most important things you can do is document the actions of your stalker ex. Write down the dates and times of each phone call, unsolicited visit, and each time you or anyone you know has seen your ex following you, spying on you, or stalking you in any other way. Write down any threats or verbal assaults, and definitely take photographs of any physical abuse you have experienced – after you have alerted the police.
Your ex does not have the right to stalk you
The National Center for Victims of Crime define stalking as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that places a reasonable person in fear for her or his safety.” If you are being threatened or assaulted, you need to know that your stalker is violating your rights and breaking the law. You have the right to take several actions:
Call your local police and tell them about your situation, and the actions of your ex. You’ll be surprised how many of their actions are illegal!
File a legal restraining order against your ex. This might be enough to stop the stalking, and if not, violations of your restraining order are definitely taken seriously by the police and the courts.
Notify your ex’s employer of their actions. You’ll be surprised how interested most employers are in the illegal activities of their employees, and how uninterested they are in continuing to employ criminals.
Change your phone number. When you contact the phone company, request an unlisted telephone number. This may cost a small amount of money, but the peace it provides you is worth it, right?
Get help if you feel overwhelmed–there are support organizations in nearly every city, and if there isn’t one in your city, there are national resources, as well.
Supportive information online
The National Center for Victims of Crime operates a Stalking Resource Center (SRC), which can be accessed through their website: http://www.ncvc.org
The Office for Victims of Crime, and the U.S. Dept. of Justice support the “An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection” (AARDVARC) website, which lists the stalking laws and resources for each of the United States of America: http://www.aardvarc.org/stalking/about/stalkingdefined.shtml