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Violence against women

Sexual assault
Learn about rape trauma syndrome, date rape, and the impact of rape on relationships

Domestic violence
Learn why it happens and how to get help.

Child sexual abuse/incest
Learn how to spot child sexual abuse and how to report it.

Violence against women

Stalking

Women's Web gratefully acknowledges the University of Alberta Sexual Assault Center (UASAC) for granting us permission to reprint its materials and resources on our website. Be sure to visit the UASAC website for additional information, resources, and link to other sites.

If you have been sexually assaulted, be sure to go immediately to your local hospital or police detachment. If you are unable to get to a hospital, call the police, your community sexual assault center, or your community's 24-hour crisis line.

Sexual assault is a serious crime. Compassionate support is available and such crimes must be reported to the police.

Stalking can be broadly defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing another person.

Being stalked can be a frightening, frustrating, and life changing experience.

Although it is tempting to dismiss stalking behavior in the hopes it will stop, stalking can be a very serious and potentially dangerous offence. Even without the possible threat of violence, stalkers can instill fear and anxiety in those they stalk, and can completely disrupt someone's life. Please remember that if you are being stalked, it is not your fault in any way.

So far, research has been unsuccessful in revealing what exactly leads someone to become a stalker, and what the research has shown is that internal characteristics of the stalkers themselves are the only factors that can be used to form a profile of a potential stalker. It is possible to write a profile of someone who is likely to be a stalker, but it is not possible to write a profile of someone who is likely to be a stalking victim. Therefore, once again, if you are being stalked, it is not your fault in any way; anyone can be stalked for any reason.

Who are stalkers?

A stalker may be a prior intimate partner, an acquaintance, or even a stranger.

Although the majority of stalking cases (75 to 80 percent) involve men stalking women, stalking is a crime with both male and female perpetrators and victims. (i.e., women stalking men, women stalking women, men stalking men, and men stalking women.)

What are common stalking behavior patterns?

Stalking behavior patterns are very similar to those behavior patterns in domestic violence.

The pattern usually begins when the stalker is rejected in some way. This rejection often leads to attempts to "woo" their victim into a relationship; this "wooing" may involve giving gifts or acting in a particular way to "prove their love".

When these attempts are spurned, the stalker often begins to harass his or her victim. This harassment can have many different forms, such as frequent phone calls, following, watching, and uttering threats, and often it becomes more and more frequent and escalates in severity.

The possibility that the stalker may turn to violence—as 25 percent of stalkers do—becomes a serious concern. It is important to remember that each stalker is different, and his or her actions cannot be predicted. Some stalkers will never turn to violence, and others will become violent soon after the stalking has begun.

Another concern is that the stalker may become frustrated if he or she cannot reach the intended victim, and thus might transfer his or her anger to someone else in that individual's life. This person may be seen as what is keeping the stalker from the intended victim, and so the stalker may react violently or threateningly towards this person.

What is stalking behavior?

Stalking has been referred to as a "building block crime" because it usually starts with small incidents that can get more and more serious. These incidents can include such behaviors as:

  • Repeated phone calls, emails, or letters
  • Following, watching, spying, and tracking someone
  • Sending unwanted gifts
  • Stealing from someone's property (including mail)
  • Vandalizing someone's property
  • Threatening someone and/or their loved ones
  • Showing up uninvited
  • Assaulting or threatening to assault someone verbally, physically, or sexually
  • Having friends or acquaintances do any of the above for them

What can I do if I am being stalked?

As well as dealing with the emotional turmoil and stress that is a result of being stalked, you may want to consider these options to keep safe. It is not fair that your life must change, but if following these suggestions helps you feel safe, then you may want to consider them.

  1. Try to document everything. If you choose to do only one thing about your stalking situation this should be it. This is very important because if you ever decide to—or have to—take this situation to the police, the more you have documented, the easier it will be for them to help you.
  2. Try to keep any sort of evidence of contact from your stalker, and try to keep a dated log of his or her contacts and stalking behaviors. Try to document when people are witnesses to his or her behavior. Also document how the stalker's actions make you feel, and what you have done to protect yourself. Try to keep in mind the purpose of this documentation, and try not to include personal thoughts or feelings that could be turned against you. (e.g., feelings of self-blame.)
  3. Trust your intuition. If something makes you feel anxious, suspicious, or unsafe, trust that. Do not discount your gut feelings.
  4. Consider telling the stalker to stop any kind of contact with you, and after that, avoid all contact with the stalker.
  5. Try to keep your address and phone number secret if your stalker does not already know them.
  6. Report to the police. Remember that stalking is illegal, and you can make police reports for each of the harassing or threatening incidents.
  7. Get support. Ensure that you have sufficient personal support from family, friends, and even counseling.

Other options that can increase your safety level include:

  1. Consider varying your schedule, your traveling routes, and your activities. This will make you harder to track.
  2. If your stalker calls you, consider doing the following:
    • Get call display.
    • Use the call screen program through the phone company, which allows you to block certain phone numbers from coming through. Simply press *60 on your phone and follow the instructions.
    • Keep your phone number private by pressing *67 before you dial out. This blocks your name and number. This service is free. Otherwise, you can contact your phone company and inform them of your stalking situation; with this knowledge they may be able to get your phone number permanently blocked.
    • To find out the last number that called your line press *69.
    • Get a new line hooked up, and make the number available only to friends and family that you can undoubtedly trust. Then your old line (which remains hooked up) can be called by your stalker and answered by an answering machine and never by you.
  3. Get a cell phone.
  4. Consider getting your mail sent to a post office box that is not connected with your home.
  5. Have SafeWalk or Campus Security Services accompany you while on campus.
  6. If you are being followed in your car, go to a police or fire station or to somewhere where you feel safe.
  7. Get a computer expert to stop your stalker's incoming emails. (If you have deleted emails from your stalker that you want back for evidence, your service provider should be able to send you copies.)
  8. If possible, make copies of a photograph of your stalker, and distribute them to people at work, your friends, and your family so they can keep an eye out for him or her.
  9. Take any precaution that will make you feel safe, even if it may seem extreme. Your safety is the most important thing.

Stalking and the law

Because stalking can be dangerous, some people choose to involve the police. Since stalking is against the law, the police should be able to provide you with some useful information and some additional protection.

Under §264 of Canada's Criminal Code,

No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

The conduct mentioned in Subsection (1) consists of:

  • Repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
  • Repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
  • Besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
  • Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the person or any member of their family.

In Canada, every person who contravenes this section is guilty of

  • An indictable offense and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
  • An offense punishable on summary conviction.

Reporting to the police

  • Feel free to bring a friend, family member, or even an advocate
  • from the your community's Sexual Assault Centre for support.
  • If you can, try to take notes, or ask the person with you to record:
    • The date
    • The name of the officer with whom you spoke
    • What the officer told you
    • Your file number
  • Bring them a photograph of your stalker if you have one, as well as a written description of him or her.
  • Ask the police to give you a file number. (Write it down, and use it every time you contact the police.)
  • Ask for the Victim Services Unit of your local police service if you feel you are in need of some extra emotional support.

Peace bonds and restraining orders

If you feel that your stalker is threatening your emotional and physical safety, a peace bond, or a restraining order may help. These legal documents do not guarantee your safety, but they do strengthen your case. If your stalking situation worsens, a violated peace bond or restraining order will give you strong evidence that this is a serious situation, and it can give the police the right to arrest, or at least take some action, against your stalker.

Peace bonds and restraining orders are legal documents that outline conditions one must obey. These conditions usually involve staying away from the person he or she was stalking, staying away from their place of work, and staying away from their home. Peace bonds and restraining orders are sought after by individuals who have reason to fear for their personal safety, or by those who are concerned about damage to their property by a certain person.

Violence against women

Editor's picks

Following are just some of the wonderful books on this topic available from Amazon.com. Click on the cover art to learn more.

I Know You Love Me

Why Does He Do That?

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