January is Stalking Awareness Month

Stalking, as defined by Dr. J. R. Meloy, is defined as "the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person." Stalking can affect anyone no matter gender, race, socio-economic status or geographic location. According to data in the United States, 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime.

Although significant attention has been devoted to adult perpetrators and victims of stalking, there is persuasive evidence that stalking begins at a much younger age. Research suggests that stalking tendencies begin in childhood and have developmental issues related to attachment, identity formation, and emotional states involving jealousy, envy, and anger.

It's important to know that a stalker can be anyone, male or female, a stranger or someone familiar. There appears to be no single characteristic that indicates a person may display stalking behaviors. This is one of the reasons why every stalking case must be handled on an individual basis. Often, a stalker is someone the victim knows, like an ex-spouse, ex-boy/girlfriend, coworker, casual acquaintances, but a stalker can also be a stranger. Stalking can occur in real time, and even in cyberspace. One thing is for sure, being shadowed by an unwanted individual is unnerving to say the least.


Statistics:

• 3.4 million people over the age of 18 are stalked each year in the United States.
• 3 in 4 stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.
• 30% of stalking victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
• 10% of stalking victims are stalked by a stranger.
• Persons aged 18-24 years experience the highest rate of stalking.


Things To Do:

No one ever deserves to be a victim of a stalker. Every situation that involves stalking is different, but here are some recommended guidelines to follow:

• Convey to the stalker that you wish to have no contact with him/her. Leave a paper trail or voice mail trail of this "one and only time" communication.

• Inform friends, family and your employer of the situation.

• Inform your local police department that you are a victim of a stalker. This is necessary safety precaution even if you don't intend to file charges.

• Document the situation in which you have seen or had any type of contact with the stalker. This can be done in a personal diary or journal. Save all letters or emails, phone calls, voice mails, texts, etc.

• Change your phone numbers, email address, website or blog, if necessary.

• Also document any other pertinent information such as a license plate number if the stalker is unknown to you, or personal appearances where you have witnessed this person. These steps can help you if the situation escalates into something more dangerous.

• File for a restraining or protective order. Information on filing can be obtained from your local court.

• Create a contingency plan for an emergency. Have a list of critical telephone numbers; e.g. local police, friends, domestic violence centers, an attorney.

• Have a necessities bag clothes, cash, etc. just in case you can’t go home.

• Always make sure you are never low on gas in your car.

• Take preventative measures to protect yourself from the stalker. Vary your routine. Don't do the same activities at the same time every day. For example go to work a little earlier than usual and use a different route.

• Have co-workers, roommates or family members screen phone calls and visitors.

• Do not travel alone if at all possible. There is safety in numbers.

References

McCann, J.T. (2000). Stalking in children and adolescents: The primitive bond. Washington: APA Books.

Meloy, J. R. (1998). The psychology of stalking: Clinical and forensic perspectives. New York: Academic Press.

Pathe, M. (2002). Surviving stalking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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