700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Stalking: Recognize, Respond and Refer for Safety

Oct 03, 2023
child looking through blinds with fear in the eyes

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
  • Protection Orders
    • 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
  • Local Law Enforcement – various jurisdictions

For resources outside of Columbus, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline for list of local resources.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing stalking, help is available. For more information, visit the National Center for Victims of Crime or The Center for Family Safety and Healing. To learn more about stalking behaviors, visit The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center. Read more about technology abuse and ways to support safety.

Featured Expert

Alena Schuckmann
Alena Schuckmann
The Center for Family Safety and Healing

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.

Amber Howell
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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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.