January is Stalking Awareness Month, an annual call to action to recognize and respond to stalking. Stalking is defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear,” and someone who is obsessed with the victim and involved in an unwanted pursuit.
A recent pop culture example of stalking is Joe from the Netflix show “You” — throughout the series, he chooses a woman as his new obsession and proceeds to stalk her. He follows her around, watches her from hidden locations, makes his encounters with her seem random, and — spoiler alert — kills several people. Definitely reason to fear.
While stalking may not always go as far as it does in “You,” stalking does have a negative impact on the victim’s life. Stalking victims suffer much higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social dysfunction than people in the general population.
How do I know if I’m being stalked?
According to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center, people aged 18-24 have the highest rate of stalking victimization, and nearly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point in their lifetime.
So, what qualifies as stalking?
- Approaching the victim or showing up in places when the victim didn’t want them to be there
- Repeatedly making unwanted telephone calls
- Repeatedly leaving the victim unwanted messages (text or voice)
- Watching or following the victim from a distance
- Spying on the victim with a listening device, camera, or GPS.
1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology (such as e-mail or instant messaging), and 8% report being monitored through video or digital cameras, or listening devices.
What qualifies as cyber-stalking?
- Hacking into your social media accounts or email
- Using technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go
- Monitoring your phone calls, computer use, or social media account
- Repeatedly sending you unwanted messages on your social media accounts in a threatening way
What should I do if I’m being stalked?
If you are being stalked, do not engage with your stalker directly; however, completely ignoring your stalker can be dangerous. Here are some tips on what to do if you are being stalked [source: CBS News]:
- Be alert and proactive to protect yourself from the possible threat
- Avoid all contact
- Enhance security measures in your life, such as locks, alarms and security cameras
- Inform key people in your life of the potential threat
- Save and document all messages, voicemails, letters, and cards
- Photograph and document things that are damaged and quickly get that information to law enforcement so that police can begin to intervene in the process.
As always, if you require emergency assistance, call 911 immediately.
- Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN)
- Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center (SPARC)
- Stalking Resource Center (SRC)
- Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Victim Connect Resource Center: 1-855-484-2846
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline:1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
At Fact Not Fiction, we want everyone to have the right information, regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, or whether or not you’re sexually active. Stalking can happen to anyone, and we want everyone to be prepared and know how to react if such incidents occur.
Whatever you do, with whomever, don’t do it in the dark. And ALWAYS make sure it’s done with consent.