Stalking and domestic violence, which is when one person gains and maintains power and control over another person, often go hand-in-hand. Stalking is when someone repeatedly, persistently, and unwantedly follows, harasses, or monitors your activities, both in-person and online, causing fear or safety concerns. Like domestic violence behaviors, stalking is a crime of control and power.
Stalking may seem like something that only happens in the movies – a stranger lurking in the bushes, a shadowy figure following you down the street. Unfortunately, stalking is more common than you might think, and over 85 percent of people who experience stalking are stalked by someone they know, such as a current or former partner.
While anyone can be a victim of stalking, statistics show:
1 in 4 women and 1 in 13 men have experienced stalking at some point during their lifetime.
In the United States, 5 million people are stalked each year.
Young adults ages 18-24 experience the highest rates of stalking.
If you or someone you know is experiencing stalking, it is important to remember to follow the three Rs: Recognize, Respond and Refer.
Recognize – Know the Signs
Stalking is a repeated pattern of behavior that includes following, watching or harassing a specific person. It occurs over time and could be defined as threatening behavior. While many see stalking as a physical act, technology, like social media and tracking devices, has increased access for those who stalk.
Making unwanted calls, sending text messages, letters or emails
Monitoring the victim, which may include technology surveillance
Leaving unwanted items for the victim (presents, cards, photos or flowers)
Making false claims of romantic involvement
Participating in other crimes, such as: identity theft, stealing money, threats, physical assault, injuries and threats with weapons
Respond – How to Get Help
Most people who are stalked know their stalker, and many might feel like they can manage the behavior on their own. Unfortunately, this is not a safe or sustainable option. People who experience stalking may have high rates of anxiety, sleep deprivation and other stressors that can affect their day-to-day life. This could continue after the stalking behavior ends. Help is available to support people who experience stalking, such as creating a safety plan. This may include setting aside cash, important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, etc.), a set of keys and a change of clothes, all of which can be easily accessed in a crisis.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of stalking, it is important to:
Call police or local law enforcement
Stop all contact with the perpetrator
Collect and preserve any evidence for investigators and prosecutors
Alternate routes to work or school
Change your cell phone number
Block unknown social media accounts
Keep a journal of any contacts made by the perpetrator and document dates, times, and details
Refer – Taking Next Steps
Fortunately, help is available for those experiencing stalking. Protection orders are a way to have the courts set firm limits with someone who is crossing safe boundaries. Law enforcement can take reports on stalking behavior and file criminal charges. Advocates can support a survivor as they move through these processes and organize their evidence.
Local resources include:
Advocacy and Adult Service Intake Team: The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH) 655 E Livingston Ave., Columbus, OH - 614-722-8293
For domestic relationships: Family Protection Center (Domestic Relations) – 373 S. High St. 6th Floor; Columbus, OH - 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mon-Fri.
For other relationships: Franklin Co. Common Pleas General Division – 345 S High St., 2nd Floor; Columbus, OH – 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mon-Fri.
Prosecution Resources: MBS/Stalking Unit at the City Attorney Zach Klein’s Office – 375 S High St., 17th Floor; Columbus, OH - 614-645-6232
Alena Schuckmann is the Digital Communications Specialist for The Center for Family Safety and Healing. Alena graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in art from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Alena is a skilled digital content creator who has had various articles and photographs published locally and nationwide.
Center for Family Safety and Healing
Amber Howell is a Clinical Supervisor for the Community Response team in Adult Services at the Center for Family Safety and Healing. She provides advocacy to DV/IPV victims on-scene with law enforcement and within the domestic relations court. She graduated from Ohio University and has over 20 years’ experience working with survivors of Domestic Violence/Staking/Sexual Assault.
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