Please see below a series of articles published in our local paper during Stalking Awareness Month. I think these give a good progressive overview of Stalking!
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia, yet many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact.
In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for homicide of women in abusive relationships.
Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.
Stalking can be difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits. One in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, such as computers, global positioning system devices, or hidden cameras, to track the victim’s daily activities.
Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes. Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime. “If more people learn to recognize stalking,” said Samantha Twiford, Project SAFE, Inc. , “we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies.”
Stalking awareness: BEHAVIOR.
Most stalking situations occur with people we are at least acquainted with - and sometimes it’s someone we know well or have been in a relationship with. When you add in the fact that it can be difficult to describe or define precisely what constitutes stalking, victims may not always realize that what they are going through is a crime.
If that seemed confusing, here are some examples and a starting point for your reference:
Stalking IS NOT generally considered to be any one of these behaviors:
Someone giving you a compliment. Someone holding the door open for you. Someone flirting with you. Someone calling your phone but not having the courage to talk to you. Someone being at the same public place at the same time you’re there. Someone enquiring about you, where you live or your family. Someone you are not dating sending you flowers. Someone walking their dog down the street you live on. Someone driving by your house. Someone sweeping the snow off of your car or your sidewalk. Someone texting or messaging you on social media.
Behaviors that COULD BE considered Stalking:
Literally any combination of the “Stalking IS NOT” list, especially once you have told the person they need to leave you alone. Someone taking pictures of you repeatedly without your consent or otherwise placing you under surveillance. Stalking can also be someone calling or messaging you regularly with little or no reply on your part, if it is combined with other behaviors.
Actions you feel to harassing or controlling in nature, that are repeated. It can include any combination of the “is not” and “could be” lists, especially if you have asked or told them to stop!
These examples are not all-inclusive. They are just a guideline and reference point.
If you believe you are being stalked, document and report it.
Wyoming State Statutes
Today I thought I might give you a little more black and white information about it, as well as an action plan to follow if you are the victim of a stalker.
Per Wyoming State Statute 6-2-506, stalking is illegal. This statute I pulled off the website, http://legisweb.state.wy.us/statutes . Statutes typically follow the outline of providing the definitions (a); then the verbiage of the actual crime (b); exceptions, and then the penalties (neither of which are included here).
(a) As used in this section:
(i) "Course of conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over any period of time evidencing a continuity of purpose;
(ii) "Harass" means to engage in a course of conduct, including but not limited to verbal threats, written threats, lewd or obscene statements or images, vandalism or nonconsensual physical contact, directed at a specific person or the family of a specific person, which the defendant knew or should have known would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and which does in fact seriously alarm the person toward whom it is directed.
(b) Unless otherwise provided by law, a person commits the crime of stalking if, with intent to harass another person, the person engages in a course of conduct reasonably likely to harass that person, including but not limited to any combination of the following:
(i) Communicating, anonymously or otherwise, or causing a communication with another person by verbal, electronic, mechanical, telegraphic, telephonic or written means in a manner that harasses;
(ii) Following a person, other than within the residence of the defendant;
(iii) Placing a person under surveillance by remaining present outside his or her school, place of employment, vehicle, other place occupied by the person, or residence other than the residence of the defendant; or
(iv) Otherwise engaging in a course of conduct that harasses another person.
What to do:
So, now that we know the legal definition, what should you do if you believe you’re being stalked? MOST importantly, make sure you are safe at all times. Don’t leave personal information available. Don’t park next to bushes or trees. Always be situationally aware!
After that, here are some suggestions:
- Tell them to stop. If there have been any threats made to you, or you are concerned for your safety, contact police immediately. The can refer you to Project SAFE to discuss a Stalking Protection Order.
- Start a stalking log. Document the suspicious or aggressive behavior & include: DATE, TIME and DESCRIPTION of the incident.
- Save texts, call logs, emails and messages. Print them out if possible. Include them on your log. Take photos of any suspicious “gifts” or damages, etcetera, you may encounter.
- Do not associate with your stalker/harasser further. Block and ignore them.
- Share your story. Tell those you trust about the situation. This can provide support for you, but also ensure they are more aware of the information they may inadvertently share with your stalker.
- Report to law enforcement. If you are still being contacted, harassed or you are otherwise concerned for your safety, contact the police.
- Consider getting a Stalking Protection Order.
From personal experience, I can tell you that having a stalker (of any kind) is scary. Mine was fairly benign, but I still felt like I had done something out of line or inappropriate to encourage it. - Of course I had not.-
And fortunately my stalker stopped following me after he was spoken to by law enforcement. He stopped wandering my street and knocking on my neighbors’ doors because he found my vehicle and was trying to find out where I lived. Stopped dropping off “gifts”, cards and notes at my job. Stopped chasing me down in public places while I was working, to engage me in an inappropriate personal flirtation. I know it is not my fault…but I still cringe every time I see his vehicle. I still avoid going places I see a vehicle that resembles anything I have ever seen him drive. His behavior was not normal, not ok. And I have the right to feel safe.
Stalking is a crime. It is not your fault. It is not a joke. It is not romantic. It is not OK.
This link has some very good information and stalker handling examples. Definitely worth reading! http://www.crime-safety-security.com/Stalker-Warning-Signs.html .
For additional resources to help promote National Stalking Awareness Month, please visit http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org and www.ovw.usdoj.gov.