Stalking

Stalking is repeated contact that makes you feel afraid or harassed. Someone may stalk you by following you or calling you often. Stalkers may also use technology to stalk you by sending unwanted emails or social media messages. About one in six women has experienced stalking in her lifetime.1 Women are twice as likely to be stalked as men are.2 Stalking is a crime.

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What is stalking?

Stalking is any repeated and unwanted contact with you that makes you feel unsafe.3 You can be stalked by a stranger, but most stalkers are people you know — even an intimate partner. Stalking may get worse or become violent over time. Stalking may also be a sign of an abusive relationship.

Someone who is stalking you may threaten your safety by clearly saying they want to harm you. Some stalkers harass you with less threatening but still unwanted contact. The use of technology to stalk, sometimes called “cyberstalking,” involves using the Internet, email, or other electronic communications to stalk someone. Stalking is against the law.

Stalking and cyberstalking can lead to sleeping problems or problems at work or school.

What are some examples of stalking?

Examples of stalking may include:3

  • Following you around or spying on you
  • Sending you unwanted emails or letters
  • Calling you often
  • Showing up uninvited at your house, school, or work
  • Leaving you unwanted gifts
  • Damaging your home, car, or other property
  • Threatening you, your family, or pets with violence

What are some examples of cyberstalking?

Examples of cyberstalking include:

  • Sending unwanted, frightening, or obscene emails, text messages, or instant messages (IMs)
  • Harassing or threatening you on social media
  • Tracking your computer and internet use
  • Using technology such as GPS to track where you are

Are there laws against stalking?

Yes. Stalking is a crime. Learn more about the laws against stalking in your state at the Stalking Resource Center. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

You can file a complaint with the police and get a restraining order (court order of protection) against the stalker. Federal law says that you can get a restraining order for free. Do not be afraid to take steps to stop your stalker.

What can I do if I think I’m being stalked?

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Find a safe place to go if you are being followed or worry that you will be followed. Go to a police station, friend’s house, domestic violence shelter, fire station, or public area.

You can also take the following steps if you are being stalked:

  • File a complaint with the police. Make sure to tell them about all threats and incidents.
  • Get a restraining order. A restraining order requires the stalker to stay away from you and not contact you. You can learn how to get a restraining order from a domestic violence shelter, the police, or an attorney in your area.
  • Write down every incident. Include the time, date, and other important information. If the incidents occurred online, take screenshots as records.
  • Keep evidence such as videotapes, voicemail messages, photos of property damage, and letters.
  • Get names of witnesses.
  • Get help from domestic violence hotlines, domestic violence shelters, counseling services, and support groups. Put these numbers in your phone in case you need them.
  • Tell people about the stalking, including the police, your employer, family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Always have your phone with you so you can call for help.
  • Consider changing your phone number (although some people leave their number active so they can collect evidence). You can also ask your service provider about call blocking and other safety features.
  • Secure your home with alarms, locks, and motion-sensitive lights.

For more information or emotional support, call the Stalking Resource Center National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline at 800-FYI-CALL (394-2255), Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

What can I do if someone is cyberstalking me?

If you are being cyberstalked:

  • Send the person one clear, written warning not to contact you again.
  • If they contact you again after you’ve told them not to, do not respond.
  • Print out copies of evidence such as emails or screenshots of your phone. Keep a record of the stalking and any contact with police.
  • Report the stalker to the authority in charge of the site or service where the stalker contacted you. For example, if someone is stalking you through Facebook, report them to Facebook.
  • If the stalking continues, get help from the police. You also can contact a domestic violence shelter and the National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline for support and suggestions.
  • Consider blocking messages from the harasser.
  • Change your email address or screen name.
  • Never post online profiles or messages with details that someone could use to identify or locate you (such as your age, sex, address, workplace, phone number, school, or places you hang out).

Did we answer your question about stalking?

For more information about stalking, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or check out the following resources from other organizations:

Sources

  1. Smith, S.G., Chen, J., Basile, K.C., Gilbert, L.K., Merrick, M.T., Patel, N., et al. (2017). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010-2012 State Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. National Center for Victims of Crime. (n.d.). Are You Being Stalked?
  3. Stalking Resource Center. (2012). What is stalking?