How to Protect Yourself From a Stalker

Approximately 3.4 million Americans are stalked every year; women three times more often than men. Forty percent of them will be victims of violence or crime. Who's at risk? Almost anyone. That's why protecting yourself from becoming a stalker's target is so important. 

What is stalking?
The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) says, "Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear."  It's a crime in all 50 states.

Who are stalkers?
More men than women are stalkers and they're usually someone the victim knows, has dated, or had intimate contact with. Only about 10 percent are strangers. He might be an ex-spouse, boyfriend, co-worker, acquaintance, or someone met briefly. 

How do they do it?
Stalkers usually use a combination of ways to contact or harass their target including: sending letters or gifts, making frequent phone calls and leaving messages, following, visiting, or waiting for the target. They might stalk online through email or social networking sites, dig up personal information, then use it to threaten or frighten their target.  They might take pictures (often without the target being aware of it) and mail or post them online. They might put GPS, bugging, or computer monitoring devices on their target's car, phone, or technological devices so they can track them. NCVC says:

  • 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily.
  • 78 percent use more than one means of approach.
  • Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 20 percent of cases.
  • Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before.
  • Intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets and their behaviors escalate quickly.

How can you protect yourself from a stalker? 

  • Follow your gut. If someone seems overly controlling, wants too much information, shows up at unexpected places, or makes any kind of threat towards you, don't take it lightly. Tell a friend or family member about it.  
  • If it happens more than once, contact the police. Don't be afraid to be a squeaky wheel. Call authorities often, especially if the stalker is threatening you. 
  • Get a restraining order. 
  • Tell your employer, roommates, family members, neighbors, and other people you trust about the stalker and ask them to keep their eyes and ears open.
  • Get someone to walk you to and from your car, work, bus/train station, etc. 
  • Vary your schedule and travel routes so your stalker won't know your whereabouts and routines.
  • Never give personal contact information (including email address) to anyone you don't know well and trust.  If that information is already "out there," change it. 
    • Get an unlisted number or new cell phone number.
    • Change your email address and passwords on all the sites you visit regularly. 
    • Change the master password on your computer and cell phones. 
  • Use an answering machine or voice messaging service, and screen calls. 
  • Ignore all attempts the stalker makes to contact you. Never answer his calls, return emails, or comment online. 
  • Document everything the stalker does to contact you, where you've seen him, all threatening activities. Keep a record of all emails, texts, and voice messages.
  • Create an action plan and an emergency bag in case you need to escape your stalker in a hurry.

Stalkers are persistent in their efforts to terrorize and manipulate their target. Never try to manage a stalker on your own. Getting help could stop a stalker in his tracks.



Stalking Resource Center