What is Stalking? Safety Tips for National Stalking Awareness Month | Break the Cycle

What is Stalking? Safety Tips for National Stalking Awareness Month

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, an issue that plays into the larger role of dating violence and domestic abuse. In fact, 6.6 million adults in the U.S. are stalked every year, and more than half of female victims and over a third of male victims say they were stalked before the age of 25.

Stalking is when someone is being watched, followed or harassed repeatedly, making the victim feel afraid or unsafe. Often, the image of a stalker is a stranger – someone in a trenchcoat or dark clothing, waiting in the shadows. These lurkers are out there, but three out of four times, the victim knows their stalker, whether it’s a current or past partner, friend or acquaintance.

Stalkers may do any of the following and worse:

  • Show up at someone’s home or work unannounced and uninvited
  • Send unwanted text messages, emails, letters, voicemails and social media messages
  • Leave unwanted gifts
  • Call constantly and hang up
  • Use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to track their victim
  • Spread Internet rumors
  • Wait around at places the victim is likely to be at, such as a local hangout
  • Damage their car, home or other property 

Being stalked makes a victim feel stressed, anxious and vulnerable to attack. This can lead to trouble concentrating or sleeping. It’s normal to have nightmares, lose sleep or wake up in a panic, as well as feel as though the stalking will never end, or that they no longer have any control in their life.

Fortunately, there is help available. Obtain a protection order that makes it illegal for the stalker to come near. Save important evidence like text messages, emails, voicemails, letters, photos, videos, unwanted items and gifts, social media requests and more. Moreover, write down the times, places and dates stalking incidents occurred. If someone is in immediate danger, call the police and report everything that’s happened. Developing a safety plan with family and friends can also help the victim feel safer.

Have more questions? Call or chat with a loveisrespect peer advocate for support or speak to someone from the National Stalking Helpline.