Most stalking cases involve a previous relationship between the stalker and the victim. In fact, divorced or separated spouses are more likely than others to be stalked by their former partners. If your ex is stalking you, get the police and courts involved as soon as you begin to feel concern. Stalking is a serious crime and you are entitled to protection.
Just as you would if you were dealing with domestic violence, make sure people around you know what’s going on and can support you, and have a safety plan. (For more information about taking those important steps, see "Leaving an Abusive Relationship: How to Protect Yourself."
COVID-19 Update: The coronavirus outbreak has impacted how the courts and domestic violence organizations are able to operate. To learn how their services are affected and what resources are still available to you while shelter-in-place orders are in place see our article, Temporary Restraining Orders.
This article focuses on some things to think about when stalking is involved.
Though the specific legal definition varies from state to state, any repeated, unwanted contact that frightens you or makes you feel threatened most likely constitutes stalking. (To learn specifics about this crime, see Harassment as a Crime, by Peter Followill.) At first, stalking may seem harmless enough, involving actions that are perfectly legal under ordinary circumstances, like calling you or sending emails, text messages, or even gifts. However, what may seem innocent in the beginning can cross the line into stalking when the behavior is frequent and makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable. Usually, the stalker is attempting to force a relationship that you don’t want.
If your ex is engaging in any of the following behaviors, you may be a victim of stalking:
If you think your ex may be stalking you, begin to keep a detailed record of each incident that makes you uneasy. Below, you’ll find a link to a stalking behavior log you can print out.
If you don’t respond the way the stalker wants you to, the situation may get worse. Your ex may try to force you into a relationship by intimidating or threatening you. When thwarted, some stalkers become violent. For this reason, it’s very important that you don’t downplay your misgivings or fear. Take action to protect yourself and put an end to the stalking behavior.
Begin by contacting the police to report the stalker. Then learn about stalking laws in your state and what local resources are available. The information below can help you get started.
If your ex is stalking you, the website of the National Center for Victims of Crime: Stalking Resource Center offers a number of good resources to assist you:
When looking for help as a victim of abuse, remember to consider how private your computer, Internet, and phone use are. Consider whether there's anything you can and should do to prevent someone else from learning that you’re doing research or seeking help. Some victims, for instance, might use the same computer or device as the abuser or might have a phone plan that allows the abuser to see the calls they make and receive. Other kinds of technology, like home security cameras and GPS in phones and cars, can also allow for monitoring by the abuser.