You are being stalked when a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses you, making you feel afraid or unsafe. A stalker can be someone you know, a past boyfriend or girlfriend or a stranger. While the actual legal definition varies from one state to another, here are some examples of what stalkers may do:
- Show up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited.
- Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails.
- Leave unwanted items, gifts or flowers.
- Constantly call you and hang up.
- Use social networking sites and technology to track you.
- Spread rumors about you via the internet or word of mouth.
- Make unwanted phone calls to you.
- Call your employer or professor.
- Wait at places you hang out.
- Use other people as resources to investigate your life. For example, looking at your facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending your friends in order to get more information about you.
- Damage your home, car or other property.
If you’re being stalked, you may be feeling stressed, vulnerable or anxious. You may also have trouble sleeping or concentrating at work or school. Remember, you are not alone. Every year in the United States, 3.4 million people are stalked and youth between the ages of 18-24 experience the highest rates. Most people assume that stalkers are strangers, but actually three in four victims are harassed by someone they know.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and report everything that’s happened to the police. Get additional support by obtaining a protection order that makes it illegal for the stalker to come near. Know that the person harassing you may also get arrested and convicted in the criminal justice system.
Remember to save important evidence such as:
- Text messages
- Letters, photos and cards
- Unwanted items or gifts
- Social media friend requests
You should also write down the times, places and dates all incidents occurred. Include the names and contact information of people who witnessed what happened.
Stalking is traumatic. You may experience nightmares, lose sleep, get depressed or feel like you’re no longer in control of your life. These reactions are normal. It can help to tell your friends and family about the stalking and develop a safety plan.
One of the ways perpetrators stalk victims is through the use of technology. You may have heard the term cyberstalking to refer to these types of interactions. “Use of technology to stalk” is a broad term that is used to cover all forms stalking that rely on technology.
Some uses of technology to stalk include:
- Persistently sending unwanted communication through the internet, such as spamming someone’s email inbox or social media platform
- Posting threatening or personal information about someone on public internet forums
- Video-voyeurism, or installing video cameras that give the stalker access to someone’s personal life
- Using GPS or other software tracking systems to monitor someone without their knowledge or consent
- Using someone’s computer and/or spyware to track their computer activity
As technology and digital platforms continue to grow, so do the chances that someone could interact with you in an unwanted, sexual manner. Not all of these behaviors are considered stalking, but they can be violating and make you feel uncomfortable.
The following list includes some of the ways a person can use digital technology in a sexually explicit or violating way.
- Catfishing, or lying about one’s identity online in order to initiate a romantic or sexual relationship
- Cyberbullying, or the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” often to threat, harass, or humiliate another, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center
- Cyberstalking by monitoring someone’s whereabouts with GPS or other tracking systems or persistently contacting someone against their will through text, email, social media, or other digital platforms
- Distributing or threatening to distribute sexual or intimate images of someone without their consent, also known as digital sexual assault or revenge porn
- Hacking into someone’s online accounts or devices to steal personal images or information not intended for public sharing
- Harassing someone through an online gaming platform or forum
- Posting shaming, embarrassing, sensitive, or otherwise inappropriate information about someone on social media or other public sites, whether it is true or not
- Pressuring you to send explicit images of yourself Sending sexually explicit emails, chats, texts, photos, videos, or emojis that are unwelcome or unsolicited
- Taking sexually explicit pictures or videos of someone without their consent
- Trolling, or deliberately posting upsetting or provocative statements or photos in order to provoke others
- Unsolicited or unwanted sharing of pornography or pornographic images