How do we know if a situation is trouble or love? At first, it can be very flattering to receive love letters, cards and gifts. However, a person may receive unwanted attention by someone who is known or unknown to him or her. When a person (female or male) receives unwanted attention a stalking situation may be occurring.
Stalking situations can begin with flattering attention. But as unwanted attention continues it becomes annoying, potentially dangerous, and can even turn deadly. Every stalking situation has the potential to escalate to violence.
In general, stalking is defined as continued or repeated behaviour that would cause a person to feel in fear for his or her safety. Stalking behaviour includes activities like continuous phone calls, showing up at a person's home or work, sending unwanted emails, and/or following a person wherever they go. One stalking survivor said that whenever she went on a date, she had to mention to her date, that they might be followed. It did not help her love life.
We hear more about celebrity stalkings because of the media, but the vast majority of stalking cases occur within the general public. Women make up the largest percentage of stalking victims, but men are also stalked.
There is no one set profile of a stalker. They can't be identified by the way they look, their profession, or how much money they make. One stalking survivor said her stalker could have posed for GQ magazine. If anything, stalkers are very adept at fooling those around them. They come across as charming and attentive, and are able to hide their true personality for an extended period of time. Stalkers are often able to pull the victim into a relationship before the victim knows what is happening.
Warning signs that may indicate a potential for future stalking behaviour includes someone who is very controlling and manipulative. Stalkers want to have power over their victim(s). They may show signs of extreme possessiveness and jealously. They may also have a preoccupation with weapons and talk about having a destiny with the victim forever.
If a stalking situation occurs, the victim should:
1. Immediately tell the stalker that they don't want any contact from the stalker ever again. The victim should ensure that they don't have any contact with the stalker, because any contact, even negative contact, will be interpreted by the stalker, that the victim is testing the stalkers love for the victim.
2. The police should be contacted when the victim feels threatened.
3. Document all contact with the stalker. Keep a log of every phone call, card, letter, and gift given by the stalker. The log needs to be very specific with dates and times, what was said, witnesses, etc. Some victims want to throw the "negativity" out, but evidence is needed to build a case against the stalker, should the victim have to go to court.
4. Tell family, friends, and co-workers so they can help keep the victim safe.
Receiving attention can be very flattering. However, unwanted attention can be uncomfortable and may turn into a stalking situation. Being aware of the warning signs may help prevent a stalking situation from occurring. Also, knowing what to do when a stalking situation arises can help lessen its impact and duration. Even though the crime of stalking exists in our society, people are surviving stalking situations and are going on successfully with their lives.
- Paula LaRue
** Paula LaRue is the author of "Stalking: Surviving the Hidden Terror." She has hosted a documentary on stalking and teaches criminal justice and security administration courses at Henry Ford Community College. Paula has also developed and conducted seminars on stalking for police executives at the Criminal Justice Training Center and is a coordinator/speaker for a police chief training program at the Center for Excellence in Police Management Studies. **