Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.
Hunting and Haunting
While most of us are taught to be most fearful of strangers, in most cases of stalking the perpetrator is someone known to the victim. The stalker may be a family member, friend, spouse, co-worker, partner, ex-spouse or ex-lover – the common denominator being a sense they have an emotional ‘tie’ to their target.
Stalking is a form of harassment which is illegal in many countries, where it can also be valid grounds for a Protective Order or even criminal charges depending on severity.
Stalking can be overt (confrontational) or covert (hidden), and a stalker may employ one or both forms.
Overt Stalking is characterized by confrontations, demands for attention, threats, pleading for recognition, persistent unwelcome advances and intrusions, phone calls, personal appearances and the like.
Covert Stalking is hidden and includes following, tracking, spying and secret manipulation, for example.
A vivid portrayal of stalking most people are familiar with is Glenn Close’s character Alex Forrest in the movie Fatal Attraction.
What it Looks like
- Following an individual or tracking their movements and actions.
- Presenting oneself repeatedly to a person who has asked to be left alone.
- Persistent unwelcome phone calls, emails, text messages, letters, parcels, third-party messages or Online postings to personal web pages.
- Intruding or inserting oneself into the relationships of another person without their explicit permission.
- Intercepting another person’s mail, email, phone calls or messages.
- Uninvited handling, manipulating or observing the property, assets or communications of another person.
Stalking may or may not be accompanied by acts of violence or threats of violence towards the person being stalked and their possessions.
How it Feels
Being stalked is a terrifying experience. One is left with a difficult choice between protecting one’s own rights to privacy and getting into an ugly and potentially dangerous confrontation with a person who is demonstrating very little respect, self-control, ethics or sound judgment.
People who are stalked are often familiar with the person who is doing the stalking and are familiar with their habits. However, they are often afraid to confront them for fear the perpetrator will “blow up” or for fear of escalating the harassment. They may also feel afraid to involve others or request help for fear that they will be judged for “over-reacting”.
People who are married or related to a person who is stalking them often feel that they have no legitimate right to protect their privacy and their assets or demand an end to the intrusive behavior. Many cultures promote the idea that loving relationships are unconditional and that for a person to be a loving spouse or a family member they should keep no secrets, expect no privacy or have no boundaries within the relationship. Stalkers also use such arguments to intimidate a victim into surrendering their rights to privacy. This can cause the victim to feel trapped, with no recourse to support from the outside world.
What NOT to do
If you are being stalked, harassed or your privacy is being invaded:
- Don’t ignore any acts of violence, threats of violence or destruction of property. Avoid the tendency to write it off as “an isolated incident”. Most victims of domestic violence have written off incidents and haven’t seen “the worst” yet. Report it to the authorities immediately every time. That is the only effective way to protect yourself and make it stop.
- If the person is violent or threatens violence towards you do not confront them. Let a restraining order and a police officer do the talking for you.
- Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret. Stalking thrives on isolating a person.
- Don’t nominate yourself to the position of the person who must help the stalker, make them feel better, change their ways and heal. You can’t do it.
- Don’t give up any healthy relationships with family, friends and acquaintances or let them slip away because of pressure from another person.
- Don’t give up a good job, good habits, career, hobbies or interests for the sake of another person. What is good for you makes you stronger and is good for your loved-ones. True Love never asks a person to sacrifice something that is good for them.
- Don’t immediately fall for a “hoover” if a stalker suddenly promises reform and a change of their ways. If they ever do change their ways they will need a long time to work on their stuff and your involvement will only slow them down.
What TO do
- Report all acts of violence, threats of violence or self-harm to the authorities immediately every time. And document the incident and your report in a diary in case records go astray or you need to give a lawyer a chronological account. This will also help you see any patterns to the behavior.
- Learn what you can about the Personality Disorder your loved-one suffers from, and how that is likely to affect their behavior, their thoughts and their moods.
- If your stalker has ever shown signs of violence, undertake a MOSAIC threat assessment (www.mosaicmethod.com) to get a clearer picture of the risks.
- Unless they are violent, confront the person who is doing the stalking. Preferably do it in daylight, with a friend by your side, in a place where you can easily get out - like outdoors on a sunny street or in a cafe. Tell them simply, gently, but firmly, that you do not want them to continue that behavior. Try to criticize the behavior rather than the person. Tell them that it is not welcome to you and you are moving on. Don’t wait for them to understand or try to get them to see your side. Just tell them plainly that that’s just the way it is and leave it at that.
- Talk to trusted friends and family about what you are dealing with. This helps to compare your thinking with other people who can perhaps see things in a different light and can tell you if what you are dealing with sounds reasonable.
- Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Develop an emergency plan for any scenario that may include violence or abuse being directed towards or your children.
- Maintain your healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships. You will need them. Explain to your loved one gently, if necessary that you have made your decision and that is that and then move ahead. If they really do love you they will be happy to support you in what is good for you.