Stalking can be difficult to identify. Legal definitions of stalking vary by jurisdiction, but 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. Victims may initially feel flattered by increased attention, but if stalking behavior escalates it can become threatening.
Some things stalkers do
- Show up wherever you are
- Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails
- Damage your Property (e.g. home, car, etc)
- Monitor your phone calls or computer use
- Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track you.
- Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work
- Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets
- Find out about you by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers
- Posting information or spreading rumors about you online, in a public place, or by word of mouth
- Other actions that control, track, or frighten you
Anyone can be a victim of stalking. Dating and domestic violence survivors can be victims of stalking. Often, stalkers use threats that only the victim recognizes. Many cases also start and end with sexual assault.
Stalkers can be strangers, classmates, co-workers, ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, and even spouses.. Stalking is NEVER the victim’s fault.
Stalking is a Crime
Stalking is a crime under laws in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and the Federal government. Roughly one-third of the states have incorporated into their stalking statutes language relating to stalking through electronic means. Based on the facts of the case, a stalker might also be charged with other crimes (e.g. trespassing, breaking and entering, or harassment). In Virginia, victims are also able to file a civil law suit against stalkers.
- 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime
- Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before
- 77% of female victims and 64% of male victims know their stalker
- 59% of female victims and 30% of male victims are stalked by an intimate partner
- 81% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner and 31% are also sexually assaulted by that partner.
- 1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology
- In 15% of incidents, stalkers have been reported to either threaten or attempted to harm their victims
- Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases
College campuses create controlled environments and easily observed or tracked behaviors (i.e. schedules) schedules. Daily student movement is predictable and access to residence and academic buildings may be easily attained by stalkers.
- 13% of college women were stalked during one six- to nine-month period
- 80% of campus stalking victims knew their stalkers
- 3 in 10 college women reported being injured emotionally or psychologically as a result of stalking
Simple Steps to Campus Safety
- Lock your door at all times—even when inside the room while on or off-campus
- Be cautious of tutors. Use tutors recommended by professors and learning services. Always arrange to meet tutors in public places and never alone in your room
- Ask the registrar to put a freeze on your personal information
- When sharing information online:
- Select privacy options for profiles, e-mail, web-communities, and other on-line activities
- Maintain separate school/business and personal e-mail accounts. Use free e-mail services like Gmail and for miscellaneous web activities
- Never share your password with anyone
- Create gender-neutral names for your accounts. (Ex. email@example.com instead of SallySmith@mail.com)
- Secure your access. Never leave your laptop or PC unattended
- Save all suspicious messages, e-mails, and comments and utilize options to ignore/block/deny anyone unfamiliar to you
Technology-based stalking employs technology to stalk a victim. Stalkers are increasingly abusing a variety of technologies to monitor, harass, intimidate, coerce and frighten former or current intimate partners. Perpetrators are also abusing technology to stalk victims before, during, and after sexual violence.
Many people take technology-based stalking lightly. Often, this behavior is seen as less threatening than stalking IRL (in real life). However, as our interactions (personal, professional, and academic) increasingly rely on technology, technology-based stalking continually impacts the daily lives of victims everywhere.
Victims may experience harassment in the form of
- Unwanted/unsolicited email
- Unwanted phone calls and text messages
- Disturbing messages or images on newsgroups or bulletin boards
- Unsolicited communication about co-workers, friends, and family
- Keystroke logging
- Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
- Internet Databases
Technology Used to Stalk
Below is a list of some of the technologies used by stalkers. For more details on types of technologies used in stalking, and the ways they are used, please visit The Stalking Resource Center or the National Network to End Domestic Violence Technology Safety websites.
- Computer hardware/software
- Cameras (Webcams and Surveillance cameras)
- E-mail Interception
- Impersonation (e-mail, chat, and Internet postings)
If You are Being Stalked
- Tell Someone. If you think you are being stalked, the first thing you should do is get help
- Do not attempt to deal with the situation alone. Inform everyone: your employer, family, friends, neighbor, etc. about the stalker and the events taking place. Everyone needs to know to be able to help
- Develop a support system. Keep in touch with friends who are supportive and understanding
- Document the behavior. List date, time, place, what happened, any witnesses, and if the incident is reported to the police, document the officer’s name and the case number. Save all physical evidence, written materials, notes, letters and envelopes. Take a picture of the stalker, if it can be done safely. This will prove the stalker was in your vicinity. Give a copy of the information to a friend or relative for safekeeping
- Contact law enforcement
- Consider file criminal charges and/ or obtain a protective order. The situation will not go away by itself. Protective orders may, however, increase the threat of violence if the stalker fears losing contact with the target and/or losing control
- Report threatening calls to the phone company and the police
- Seek a trespass warning from police
- Report threats sent by mail to the FBI
Protect Your Personal Information
- Do not communicate with stalker. The stalker may misinterpret this communication as a form of encouragement
- Keep home address and phone number private. Make sure this information is unlisted, and give it to as few people as possible
- If you move, do not leave a “paper trail.” Do not have anything forwarded to your new address. Use a P.O. Box instead
- Lock all doors, at home, in the dorm, and in your car. Use dead bolt locks if possible. Never open the door without confirming the identity of the person on the other side
- Screen Calls. Consider getting Caller ID
Form an Emergency Plan
- Keep all critical phone numbers handy. Have emergency numbers posted by the phone, or stored in your phone’s memory
- Keep cellphone charged. Have cellphone with you at all times
- Prepare belongings to leave quickly
- Keep a packed suitcase in the trunk of the car or in a ready location for a quick departure
- Keep some money reserved for emergencies
- Keep gas in the car and spare keys with a friend you trust
- Do not attempt to handle the situation alone
- If you are being followed, go to a safe area, do not drive home. Drive to the nearest police station or a busy place. Use your horn to attract attention
- Never underestimate the stalker’s potential for violence. Take all threats seriously. Not all threats are verbal; some nonverbal threats may be the sending of unwanted notes, cards, or gifts
Take Care of Yourself
You are not going crazy. Your mind and body are reacting to extreme stress caused by the continuing victimization. As a victim of stalking, you may experience:
- Inability to trust
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns
- Exhaustion and/or frequent crying spells
- Inability to concentrate
- Declining academic performance
Talking to someone who is trained to work with victims and survivors may help
If You Have Been Victimized
These are steps that may help minimize the stalker’s contact with you, but are not meant to take the place of police involvement. WAVES is here to help you through any part of the process. Here are some initial steps you can take.
Under no circumstances should you agree to meet with the perpetrator face to face to “work it out,” or “talk.” Meeting a stalker in person can be very dangerous
- Tell someone. Resources like WAVES are here to support you, and to assist you in getting the help you need. Victims under the age of 18 should tell a parent or other trusted adult about any harassments and/or threats
- Send one clear written warning. This warning should convey that the contact is unwanted, and tell the perpetrator to cease all communications of any kind. Do this only once. Then, no matter the response, under no circumstances have further contact with the stalker.
- Collect and document all evidence. Save all e-mail, postings, or other communications in both electronic and hard-copy form. If possible, save all of the header information from e-mails and newsgroup postings (use the Help feature on whatever service you are using for instructions). Record the dates and times of any contact with the stalker. A Stalking Log may be helpful for this
- Keep a detailed log of stalking behavior. Start a log detailing each communication (e.g. date, time, type of incident, witnesses, etc.). You may also want to document how the stalking is affecting you and any steps you have taken to stop it (e.g. blocked number, defriended on Facebook, asked the stalker to stop).
- File a report with local law enforcement. Save copies of police reports and record all contact with law enforcement officials and the prosecutor’s office. Add these notes to your Stalking Log
- Change your contact information. You may want to consider changing your e-mail address, Internet Service Provider, and/or phone number, and consider using encryption software or privacy protection programs.
- File a complaint with both party’s Internet service providers. Many Internet service providers offer tools that filter or block communications from specific individuals
- Look for the “Message ID” and/or “NNTP Posting Host” lines. You’ll find the real ISP (internet service provider) that the person is using on these lines. Send a copy of the offending mail with the full headers to the ISP at: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ex.email@example.com) firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
- If contacting the ISP does not produce results, do the following:
- Call Mason Police 703-993-2810
- Call Virginia State Police Computer Crimes Unit 804 333-3800
- Call the FBI Computer Crimes Unit 703-762-3160
- Contact online directory listings. Request removal from directories such as www.four11.com, www.switchboard.com, and www.whowhere.com
- Contact WAVES for help and guidance: 703-993-9999
United States Department of Justice Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section:
National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center
National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)
Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Safety Ed International
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Online Privacy Alliance
Network Solutions WHOIS - Helps determine contents of domain name registration
Cyberstalking: Dangers on the Information Superhighway, By: Trudy M. Gregorie, Director of Training, National Center for Victims of Crime
Some information Provided by: Jayne A. Hitchcock