Stalking is illegal in all states. While the laws vary, a beginning definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would make a reasonable person fearful. One action or behavior is probably not enough to meet any legal definition of stalking but many directed actions taken together over a period of time may rise to stalking.
Below are some common examples of stalking behavior:
Repeated phone calls including hang-ups to the victim.
Following the victim or seemingly shows up frequently where the victim goes.
Sends unwanted gifts, letters, emails, or texts to the victim.
Damages the property of the victim including their home, car, or personal property.
Monitors the victim’s contact with others via phone, email, or social media posts.
Uses technology to monitor the victim’s whereabouts such as using GPS devices planted on the victim’s car or spy software on their cell phone or hidden cameras to watch the victim.
Hanging out or frequently driving by the victims home, work, or frequented places.
Searching for personal information about the victim online, by contacting friends or family and digging through the victim’s garbage.
Threats to the victim, their friends or family, or the victim’s pet.
Strategies to Prevent Stalking
Stalking is dangerous so safety is always the most important thing to remember. Use caution when selecting any of these options because what works for one stalking situation may not work for another:
Tell the stalker to stop their unwanted behavior. Be clear in your request such as “Do not contact me anymore.” “Do not come to my home or work.” “Stop sending me gifts, I do not want anything from you.” After telling the stalker to stop, do not contact or respond to them again.
Tell friends, family, and co-workers what is happening and instruct them to not share information about you to the stalker.
Change routine. Switch grocery stores and other frequented places. Talk to your employer about changing your hours or location.
Increase security by installing a camera at home. Change passwords for any accounts you think may have been accessed by the stalker. Change the security settings of your social media profiles limiting viewers to only trusted persons. Stop posting your whereabouts online.
Take steps to protect yourself like enrolling in a self-defense course, never answer blocked phone calls, and having friends or relatives stay over at your home or accompany you when you need to run errands.
Call the police if the stalker’s behavior makes you feel afraid. Police officers may be able to warn the stalker of their continued behavior, provide additional safety to the victim such as checking your home and car for any unwanted spy devices, and arrest the stalker if their behavior has violated the law.
Evidence can include many things so document as much activity as possible including the following:
Record or keep a copy of the warning you gave the stalker to stop their behavior.
Use a stalking log to record the date, time, location and method of contact from the stalker. Note the names and contact information of any witnesses to the behavior.
Take photos of any property damage.
Keep any gifts, letters, texts, emails, voicemails etc. from the stalker.
Record video or take a photo of the stalker when they follow you or drive-by your home or work if it’s safe to do so.
What Legal Action can a Victim Take to Prevent Stalking?
You must tell the stalker to stop their behavior first. If the stalker continues their behavior, a restraining order may be necessary. Restraining orders can require the stalker to stay away from the victim and prevent them from contacting the victim. If a stalker violates the order, they may face a jail sentence. Harassment is another crime similar to stalking.
If the stalker commits harassment, the victim may be able to seek a restraining order on that ground as well. By calling the police, the victim may be able to press criminal charges against the stalker. The victim may be able to file a civil suit against the stalker for any damages they have caused.
Do I Need an Attorney?
A civil lawyer, can assist the victim in filing a restraining order and a possible civil suit if necessary. Family law lawyers can also assist if the stalker is an ex-spouse or parent of a child in common with the victim. If you have been charged with stalking then contact a criminal lawyer to find out what you are facing.
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