Legal definitions of stalking vary from one jurisdiction to another. A good working definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time. Each year, 6.6 million people are stalked in the United States.
Signs of stalking include:
Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications, by phone, mail, and/or email.
Following or laying in wait for a victim at places victims tend to frequently visit including home, school, or work.
Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim or people close to the victim
Damaging or threatening to damage a victim's property.
Harassing a victim through the internet, including email and social networking sites.
If you or someone you know is being stalked, you may feel vulnerable or unsafe, amongst many other feelings of powerlessness. While the victims of stalking cannot control the stalking behavior, they can be empowered to take the following steps to keep themselves, family and loved ones safe.
- Stop all contact and communication with the person stalking or harassing you but keep any evidence of the stalking (such as voicemails, texts, emails, etc. for future court cases or criminal actions).
- Get a new, unlisted phone number and/or block your phone number.
- Always carry a cell phone with you and program the number of your local police station. If you ever feel you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, you may want to reach out for help, even if nothing immediately dangerous is happening.
- Have a safe place in mind to go to in an emergency.
- Try not to travel alone. Always vary your routes to and from work or school, the grocery store, and any other places regularly visited. By changing your daily routes, it could make it more difficult for someone to learn your routine.
- Be aware of how much identifying information you are posting on the Internet through social networking sites and online purchases.
- Tell friends and neighbors not to give your address or phone number to anyone. Explain that they should not even give information to someone posing as a deliveryman or mailman even if this person says s/he has a package for you – this could be the stalker.
- Identify escape routes out of your house. Plan different routes in case the stalker is in front of your home, in the backyard, or if s/he enters the home.
If you believe you are being stalked, tell your family, friends, and coworkers, as they are the people who can provide support and help watch out for your safety. If you believe your vehicle is being followed you should immediately drive to a well lit and populated area or to the nearest law enforcement agency. If you are in immediate danger, always call 9-1-1.
If you suspect any stalking behavior, you should report it to the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station at 623-3500. Be prepared to provide information that establishes patterns of stalking behaviors such as dates, times, and locations, vehicle descriptions, or saved communications.