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Surviving a Stalker
Surviving a Stalker

Safety for Stalking Victims
Safety for Stalking Victims

Stalking: A Hot Issue
Stalking: A Hot Issue

Every Breath You Take : Stalking Narratives and the Law
Every Breath You Take : Stalking Narratives and the Law

Stalking Definitions

While every state has different specific language defining stalking, there are five main parts of most stalking statutes that must be met in order for law enforcement to treat a case as a stalking case. Those elements include:

  • A 'willful course of conduct'
  • involving repeated or continuing harassment
  • of another individual
  • that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, 'harassed' or molested
  • and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested.

The idea of a reasonable person derives from British Law. It suggests a test that can be applied on the basis of an intelligent non-expert person, that is a reasonable person, being put in a position able to consider the evidence that might have been available at a place or time. The test becomes: what would a reasonable person do under these circumstances, given the evidence or being exposed to a particular situation.

According to most state anti-stalking laws, a person can be charged with stalking for willfully and repeatedly contacting another individual, without permission. Under these laws, assailants could be charged with stalking for repeatedly:

  • Following or appearing within the sight of another. A restraining order is especially helpful with this one. For instance, if someone is legally parked in front of your house, law enforcement might be able to ask them to move on or in extreme cases get them for loitering and prowling. BUT, with a restraining order in place - BOOM - now it's a violation of the court order - making arrest much more probable and penalties much stiffer.

  • Approaching or confronting another individual in a public or private place.

  • Appearing at the work place or residence of another. Again, a restraining order will help with this one. Your boss or anyone in a position of authority can authorize law enforcement to issue a trespass warning against your stalker - meaning that if they show up again, they will be arrested for trespassing - whether you are there or not.

  • Entering or remaining on an individual's property (trespassing)

  • Contacting by telephone, mail, or e-mail (harassing communications)

  • Getting other people to harass on their behalf. This is where your log or journal will come in handy. Make sure you're documenting who is harassing, when, how, etc.

  • Leaving notes on cars, in mailboxes. By the way, did you know that it can be a violation of Federal law for a private individual to put items in a mailbox? If a stalker is making use or your mailbox or you supect that your mail is being opened or stolen, contact the Office of the Postmaster General near you.

Stalking can go had in hand with other crimes as well. It's often accompanied by crimes such as trespass, assault, criminal mischief, loitering/prowling, and vandalism. Stalking can be a crime in and of itself and doesn't require that the stalker and the victim have some level of a relationship or even know each other at all.

In many cases, a person is stalked by someone they've had a relationship with - especially when the relationship is ending and one partner can't accept it. They might stalk you to see if you're seeing someone else, stalk you to find an opportunity to take the kids or commit an act of violence against you, or just to pressure and harass you.

Other stalkers might be total strangers - someone who sees you in a grocery store, for example, and who has serious problems in having healthy relationships. Rather than approaching you and saying "hi, I'm so-and-so" and striking up conversation to get to know you, these types of stalkers might instead follow you from afar, possibly having a type of fantasy relationship with you.

Both of these are dangerous! Don't assume that just because a stalker hasn't ever done anything violent toward you that they're not planning to!

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Last Updated: March 16, 2011