Despite the fact that stalking is a crime in all 50 states, 7.5 million people each year are stalked and harassed according to The National Center for Victims of Crime. In fact, a study by Pew Research Center reveals that 65 percent of young Internet users have been the target of online harassment at some point.
Generally speaking, stalking is specific conduct on a targeted person that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid. Usually, a person is stalked by someone they know – research shows that the majority of the time it’s a former intimate partner.
A stalker might approach a victim in a place that would be unsuspecting; leave numerous, unwanted phone and text messages; use public records to find out more information about someone; listen in on conversations or record a victim’s whereabouts; and, in the end, somehow feel justified in doing it. The reality is that in 78 percent of stalking cases, there’s more than one approach going on at a time.
Which is not only scary for the victim but, in some cases, debilitating. Studies show that people who are stalked are more likely to suffer from anxiety, severe depression, insomnia and social dysfunction for fear of going out and being harassed, attacked … and even killed.
In honor of National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), Health Net is raising awareness to its members – and the public at large – on how to handle in-person and online stalker behavior. If you or someone you know feels vulnerable, fearful, isolated or stressed from unwanted attention, it’s important to take action. Check out the following tips, and then devise a safety plan.
• Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe going certain places alone, then don’t. Let others know your fears, and say specifically how they can help you by watching out for your safety.
• Put the number of a victim services agency in your cell phone, such as Safe Horizon 866-869-HOPE (@safehorizon) and The Victim Connect Resource Center 855-484-2846 (@CrimeVictimsOrg).
• Keep all evidence of stalking, such as photos, messages, letters, and dates/times of when stalking happens, and proof of any bodily injuries or property damages.
• Call the police and report the crimes so you have a running record of incidents.
• Obtain a court order.
• Tell the authorities so there’s record of the harassment.
• Stop communicating with any written or verbal messages.
• Keep all messages (even though you’ll want to delete them). Take screen shots in case they’re accidentally deleted.
• File complaints with your social media outlets, and then block, unfriend or do whatever you have to so that the person cannot reach you.
• Update all your passwords and change your email. Make sure your antispyware software is installed and updated.
• Be aware of the guidelines and tools made available by your online communities to protect your online presence.
What’s also important to note is that it’s not the victim’s fault. However, it’s crucial that the above guidelines are followed so that the victim remains safe. Stalking is a punishable crime and offenders can – and should – be held accountable.
Check out this fact sheet by The National Center for Victims of Crime to learn more about stalking statistics.