Updated: Mar 9
My friend Susan* has a stalker. They met through a mutual acquaintance, he asked her out, and she said no. That should have been the end of the story. Instead, after she politely declined his dinner invitation, he continued to call and text her. He acted overly familiar, prying into Susan’s personal life, demanding details and giving the indication that he had been watching her. She quickly asked him to stop contacting her altogether.
Instead, he began calling at all hours, texting repeatedly and driving by her house. As he became increasingly aggressive in his pursuit, Susan grew worried for her safety and that of her young son. She varied her routine, taking different routes to work and coming and going at different times, but still he lurked in parking lots and on nearby streets. Susan blocked his phone number to eliminate his calls and text messages, but then felt as though she were missing a valuable indicator of his mental state.
What is stalking?
It can be something seemingly innocuous, like sending unwanted cards, flowers or gifts. A stalker might show up at places you frequent, follow you, or try to speak with you as you arrive at or leave a location. They may drive by your home, school, or workplace, or talk with your friends and neighbors about you. Stalkers have been known to insinuate themselves into the lives of their victims through ploys that trick a friend or family member into giving away information.
These statistics should be a wake-up call for anyone who minimizes the seriousness of stalking:
More than 85 percent of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.
11 percent of stalking victims have been stalked for 5 years or more!
46 percent of stalking victims experience at least one unwanted contact per week.
For more info, refer to Criminal Stalking Laws by State. Here’s the bottom line: if at any time you feel threatened or in danger, don’t wait and try to figure out whether you’re “officially” being stalked or if the person is “really” breaking the law. Law enforcement officers will be more than happy to assist you, and they would much rather clarify a situation and bring it to a peaceful resolution than have to investigate a violent incident that had needlessly escalated.
Make yourself clear.
Having good manners is ingrained in most of us from a very young age, but trying to sugarcoat a rejection or “ease out of” a situation can have unexpectedly negative results in the case of stalking. When your subtle or direct hints, responses, actions and inactions have communicated that you’re not interested in your pursuer (whether male or female, romantic or platonic), it’s time to communicate a direct, explicit and unconditional rejection.
Gavin de Becker’s excellent book, The Gift of Fear, includes an outstanding example in the chapter titled, “I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy:”
“No matter what you may have assumed till now, and no matter for what reason you assumed it, I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever. I am certain I never will. I expect that knowing this, you’ll put your attention elsewhere, which I understand, because that’s what I intend to do.” The only appropriate response? Acceptance.
Stalking is never okay.
Victims of stalking may feel that they somehow “made this happen” or “deserve it.” Not true. No matter what the situation, you cannot control the behavior of another person, nor are you responsible for it. No means no, and if a stalker does not respect that, they may be subject to arrest or legal action.
Trust your intuition and act on it.
Above all, if you feel that your safety or your life is in danger, seek assistance immediately. Be aware, trust your intuition, and stay safe!
*Not her real name, obviously.