Getting safe and getting help: Stalking

woman with shadowy stalker in backgroundStalking Isn’t Like Other Crimes

See this previous post on stalking, with a definition and basic info about stalking. Today’s post will provide you with a safety plan and tell you what to do in a stalking emergency.

Stalking is a major issue for both sexes. Unlike rape, where the victim ratio is heavily skewed toward female victims, stalking happens to over a million women each year–and also to almost 371,000 men, over a third. Eighty-seven percent of stalkers are male, which means women comprise 13% of stalkers, a far higher rate than for any of the other crimes we’ve provided information for so far.

Interestingly, out of the 28% of female stalking victims and 10% of male stalking victims who obtained a protective order, 69% of the female victims and 81% of the male victims had the order violated. For whatever reason, protective orders against stalkers are more effective for female victims than for male victims. (This is not true, however, of protective orders against male stalkers who have committed domestic violence.) This information is worth noting if you’re facing a stalking situation.

The good news: Stalking is against the law in all 50 states. Whether it’s unwanted phone calls, letters, vandalism, threats, being followed, or other stalking actions, you have legal recourse. For information about specific laws in your state, visit “Stalking laws state by state.” For more information that’s well organized and easy to follow, visit Washington State University‘s Stalking Resource Center page (looks like it’s sponsored by their Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response Taskforce).

Stalking Safety Plan: Immediate Danger

If you’re in immediate danger from your stalker, your first priority is to find a safe place. Family and friends can help you get out of a dangerous situation. Be very careful. Don’t pick tactless or argumentative people to help you–pick people who can focus on effectively helping you get out of danger.

  • Home of family/friend, a place your stalker doesn’t know;
  • Police station;
  • Domestic violence shelter;
  • Church;
  • Public area.

Your next priority is to contact the police. Call 911. If the police don’t respond, ask for a supervisor, or ask someone to contact police for you. Identify yourself, report the incident and request confidentiality. If you’ve previously obtained a protective order, tell the police so that the current incident will be linked to the order and the stalker can be penalized for violating the order. You might also decide to contact other social support services in your community as needed, such as a therapist or victim assistance program.

Here’s what the Stalking Resource Center (SRC, part of the National Center for Victims of Crime) suggests as an emergency safety plan*:

While a victim may not be in imminent danger, the potential always exists; therefore, a contingency plan (a sort of “fire escape plan”) may be appropriate. Suggested considerations include:

  • Knowledge of, and quick access to, critical telephone numbers, including:

    • Law enforcement numbers and locations;
    • Safe places (such as friends, domestic violence shelters, etc.); and
    • Contact numbers for use after safety is secured (such as neighbors/family, attorneys, prosecutors, medical care, child care, pet care, etc.).
  • Accessible reserve of necessities, including:
    • Victims may wish to keep a small packed suitcase in the trunk of their car, or at another readily accessible location, for quick departure;
    • Reserve money may be necessary;
    • Other necessities — such as creditors’ numbers and personal welfare items such as medication, birth certificates, social security information, passports, etc. — should be readily available;
    • Miscellaneous items — like always keeping as full a tank of gas as possible in the car, backup keys for neighbors, etc. — are practical; and
    • If a victim has a child(ren), she/he may want to pack a few toys, books, or other special items belonging to the child.
  • Alert critical people to the situation who may be useful in formulating a contingency plan, such as:
    • Law enforcement;
    • Employers;
    • Family, friends, or neighbors; and
    • Security personnel.

Stalking Safety Plan: Not in Immediate Danger

1. Apply for a protection order. These are given at the discretion of the courts–they’re not guaranteed. They may cost money. Contact your local court clerk to find out where and how to apply. While you may need an order to help your case–it’s just a piece of paper, not an armor, and it only takes effect when it’s violated. Continue taking steps to keep yourself safe as suggested below and in other resources listed here.

2. Research and find out your local stalking laws. State laws can be found here, and you may want to Google your local city and county as well. What precisely is defined as stalking? What’s the penalty? What do you need to do to support the legal process in dealing with your stalker? Contact your local prosecutor to find out more, and search “stalking+[your city]” on the Internet.

3. Document your stalker. Take pictures of the stalker stalking you and of any physical damage he/she does to you or your property. Keep a written log of times when you see the stalker–where, when, what circumstances. Keep this file in a secure place. This will support your case against the stalker, and as such, it may become evidence in court.

Steps to Keeping Yourself Safe

The SRC suggests these safety guidelines if you’re being stalked.* Ask police for other suggestions when you report. It may not be practical to, for example, hire a personal bodyguard, but utilize all the safety steps you can.

Preventive Measures.

  • Install solid core doors with dead bolts. If victim cannot account for all keys, change locks and secure spare keys.
  • If possible, install adequate outside lighting. Trim back bushes and vegetation around residence.
  • Maintain an unlisted phone number. If harassing calls persist, notify local law enforcement, but also keep a written log of harassing calls and any answering machine tapes of calls with the stalker’s voice and messages.
  • Treat any threats as legitimate and inform law enforcement immediately.
  • Vary travel routes, stores and restaurants, etc., which are regularly used. Limit time walking, jogging, etc.
  • Inform a trusted neighbor and/or colleagues about the situation. Provide them with a photo or description of the suspect and any possible vehicles he/she may drive.
  • If residing in an apartment with an on-site property manager, provide the manager with a picture of the suspect.
  • Have co-workers screen all calls and visitors.
  • When out of the house or work environment, try not to travel alone if at all possible, and try to stay in public areas. If you ever need assistance, yell “FIRE” to get immediate attention, as people more readily respond to this cry for assistance than to any other.
  • If financial means exist, use a “dummy” answering machine connected to a published phone line. The number to a private unlisted line can be reserved for close friends and family, then the stalker may not realize you have another line.

If someone is stalking you, you need the Stalking Handbook. It’s a terrific booklet full of solid information, not speeches, and it’ll help you stay safe.

Other helpful resources and web pages I found while putting together this entry:

*All rights reserved. Copyright © 1997 by the National Center for Victims of Crime. This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.

Washington State’s Confidentiality Program

Address label with address crossed outAddress Confidentiality Program

I just became aware of a Washington State service called the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). If you’re fleeing from domestic abuse, stalking, or a sexual assault, you may be able to access this program to keep your new address and contact information strictly confidential.

There are certain requirements you have to meet–the Confidentiality Program has to be only one strategy in an array of strategies to keep you safe. Essentially, they don’t want you to use this program as your only safety strategy while ignoring the other safety guidelines given to you by police and other agencies. They want you to be really serious about staying safe.

To access the Washington program, call 1.800.822.1065 or visit the Confidentiality Program web page. While you’re there, click on the More Services for Crime Victims link for more Washington resources.

Available in other states

The better news is that there are ACP programs in 31 states. View a PDF document with program addresses and phone numbers here. You may also want to do an Internet search, because most of these programs also have a web page somewhere with more information. Why the URL isn’t listed along with address and phone number, I don’t know.

Define Stalking

Text on background: "Real Fear Real Crime"Definition of Stalking

Stalking: An intrusive (not necessarily overt) pattern of surveillance directed at a specific person that causes a reasonable person to be unnerved or afraid for her/his safety.

Some one in 12 women is stalked in her lifetime, and over 75 percent of women murdered by a husband or boyfriend were stalked by them first. Did you know that most stalking victims aren’t celebrities, and that most victims aren’t stalked by strangers, but by people they already know?

Considerably more women are stalked than men, but some men also experience stalking.

For more information about stalking laws, statistics, myths, and resources:

Define Sexual Harassment

 

Graphic of steps, with text about harassment.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment: Persistent or unwanted sexual advances or sexualized environment, whether overt or covert; sexually-based and gender-targeted behaviors that ordinary people (encompassing women’s and men’s differing life experiences, physical size, and social power) find disturbing or frightening.

Types of sexual harassment are many and varied. According to several sources, these include but are not limited to:

  • Street harassment
  • Workplace harassment
  • Initiations or hazing rituals
  • Retaliatory harassment (against someone who has made a complaint or report about the harasser)
  • Cyber bullying
  • Stalking

Many resources have already been listed in this blog. Wikipedia’s sexual harassment page is another helpful information source for a basic definition, although there is more to the topic than what is listed on Wikipedia.