Violence against women
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
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
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
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,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Trust your intuition. If something makes you feel anxious, suspicious,
or unsafe, trust that. Do not discount your gut feelings.
- Consider telling the stalker to stop any kind of contact with you,
and after that, avoid all contact with the stalker.
- Try to keep your address and phone number secret if your stalker
does not already know them.
- Report to the police. Remember that stalking is illegal, and you
can make police reports for each of the harassing or threatening incidents.
- Get support. Ensure that you have sufficient personal support from
family, friends, and even counseling.
Other options that can increase your safety level include:
- Consider varying your schedule, your traveling routes, and your activities.
This will make you harder to track.
- 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
- 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.
- Get a cell phone.
- Consider getting your mail sent to a post office box that is not
connected with your home.
- Have SafeWalk or Campus Security Services accompany you while on
- If you are being followed in your car, go to a police or fire station
or to somewhere where you feel safe.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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.