Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize stalking.
- A pattern of unwanted behavior that involves monitoring, harassing, repeatedly contacting or following another person.
- Behavior that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, threatened or intimidated; and actually causes these reactions in the person being contacted, monitored, harassed or followed.
Whether or not the stalker intends to frighten, intimidate or threaten someone does not matter, as long as the stalker knows that such behavior could cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated or threatened.
Stalking is a “course of conduct,” meaning it involves repeated, continuous behavior. Unwanted behaviors may not seem that alarming if considered separately as single incidents, but when the pattern of behaviors is considered altogether and over time, stalking becomes apparent and alarming.
Cyberstalkingis a form of stalking that specifically involves unwanted, harassing or threatening electronic or online communication. It may include someone using the internet (email), an electronic device (such as a cell phone, spyware or GPS tracker) or a social media platform (such as Facebook or Twitter) to harass, threaten or embarrass another person. It may also include disclosing intimate or embarrassing images of or information about another person. Stalking and cyberstalking behaviors often overlap—stalkers often use a combination of physical (in-person) stalking, monitoring, tracking and electronic harassment.
Stalking is a community concern
- 7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the U.S.
- An estimated 15% of women and 6% of men have been a victim of stalking during their lifetimes
- 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims were stalked by a current or former intimate partner
- 25% of female victims and 32% of male victims are stalked by an acquaintance
People react in all sorts of ways to stalking, from minimizing it to experiencing much fear and stress. Being stalked can take a big toll on someone. It can lead a person to feel a loss of control over their life and a loss of their autonomy and privacy. Many people experience high anxiety, distress or fear, hypervigilance, or worry that it’s never going to end or that no one else takes it seriously. It can lead to health concerns, difficulty concentrating, time lost at work, and can create financial troubles.
It is important to remember that stalking is a crime. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT it is happening to you.
Because it seems extreme, many do not think to call what they are experiencing “stalking”. Other terms people might use to describe stalking behaviors can include:
SurveillanceFollowing, showing up, spying, using technology to keep tabs on someone
Repeated unwanted contact in person or by phone, social media, text, email, card/note, gifts, messages, or through others
Implcit and explicit threats, third party threats, forced confrontations, property damage, or threatened suicide
Interference and Disruption of someone’s life professionally, socially and personally.
Some things stalkers might do
- Follow you or show up wherever you are
- Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or emails
- Damage your home, car, or other property
- Monitor phone calls or computer use
- Become fixated or behave in obsessive ways
- Use technology like spyware, cameras or GPS to track
- Threaten to disclose intimate or embarrassing images of you (sometimes called “revenge porn”)
- Drive by or hang out at or near your home, school, or work
- Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets
- Find information about you by using public records, online search services, spyware, investigators, or by contacting friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers
- Show signs of mental illness or instability
- Post information or spread rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth
- Other actions that control, track, or frighten
Identifying a stalker
A stalker can be someone you know well, or just a little, or barely know, or do not know at all.
- More often than not, people are stalked by their current or former intimate partners. If your stalker is a current or ex- partner, spouse, someone with whom you have children, family or household member, or even a current or former roommate, your relationship qualifies you for a different type of protection that specifically addresses domestic violence. Please see protectionorder.org for more information.
- A stalker can also be a stranger or an acquaintance, such as a co-worker, fellow student, client or customer, someone you met online or who found you online, or someone you encounter during daily routines (at the bus stop, coffee shop, store, school, gym, etc.).
Understanding Stalking and Other Unwanted Behaviors
It’s important to distinguish between different types of stalking and other unwanted behaviors because it determines what kinds of legal protections may be available to you and what course of action to pursue. Here are some scenarios that may help you determine your options.
Maybe I’m overreacting... or maybe I’m in more danger than I realize... How can I get a better sense of my situation?
There are resources available that can help you recognize and get help with what is happening. Here is a helpful tip sheet for recognizing stalking safety risks. An online tool called the Stalking and Harassment Assessment Risk Profile (SHARP) can help you get a better sense of your situation. It takes roughly 15-20 minutes to complete, is research-based and can help you determine next steps you may want to take to increase your safety.
How is Stalking Different from Harassment?
Stalking can look like harassment at first but it’s actually different. Harassment involves unwanted contact that seriously annoys or alarms someone, causes them emotional distress, and can involve a single incident.
Stalking, on the other hand, involves a pattern of repeated unwanted behavior (two or more incidents) committed over time that causes fear. If you feel you are being harassed, you can file for an Anti-harassment Order. The petition for an Anti-harassment Order and Stalking Protection Order are actually the same petition and paperwork: the court will decide which type of order best fits your situation.
How is Stalking Different from Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is a form of stalking but is its own crime under the law. Someone can stalk a person by using electronic devices and online technologies rather than physically or in person. Cyberstalking, sometimes called “online abuse,” occurs when an individual uses the internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass another person.
Cyberstalking may include monitoring, threats, solicitation for sex, disclosing intimate images of someone, using spyware, using social media or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass. Cyberstalking is a crime that is indeed on the rise as technology improves and becomes more accessible. If you are a victim of cyberstalking you can apply for a Stalking Protection Order.
What if the stalker is someone I’ve been in a relationship with, or a family member?
If you are being stalked by a spouse or intimate partner, or someone you date or used to date, or someone with whom you have a child, a roommate or former roommate, or a family member, you should seek protection in the form of a Domestic Violence Protection Order. Please visit protectionorder.org for more information and assistance.
What about Bullying?
Bullying is a type of harassment, commonly seen in school settings or with young people that can involve in-person or electronic intimidation, cruel teasing, humiliation and threats. It can be repeated, like stalking, or it may only occur one time. If the bullying you are experiencing is causing you distress, you may consider filing for an Anti-harassment Order, or if the behavior is repeated or part of a pattern causing fear, you may consider filing for a Stalking Protection Order. More information on bullying is available at https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/washington.html
If you are being stalked:
If you think that you or someone you know is being stalked, we encourage you to follow the “STEPS” action plan created by stalking experts to engage in active and ongoing safety planning:
- See it (and acknowledge it as stalking)
- Threat Assessment
- Evidence Collection
You're not in this alone
More safety tips and stalking related resources are available through numerous national and local organizations.