Sanctuary for the Abused
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
January is Stalking Awareness Month
Being the target of a stalker can be a dangerous and scary experience. But there are ways to deal with this crime that can make you safe and help you feel empowered.
In a stalking situation, the stalker gets his kicks out of invading your privacy or causing you fear. While stalkers can certainly be dangerous, violence is not necessarily their top priority. If it was, they wouldn't spend time stalking - they would just attack. The problem is that there is no way to tell ahead of time what the stalker's plans are, and if the stalker himself assures you that he means no harm, you should certainly not believe him.
Some forms of stalking involve constant calls and visits. We work with some women who say "Well, he asked me out about twenty times, so I finally said yes because I felt sorry for him." Providing encouragement of any kind to the stalker is a mistake.
In this example, the woman has in effect told the stalker that he will get one date with her for every twenty times he askes her. This also shows the stalker that getting her to feel sorry for him is an effective strategy.
In the dynamics of stalking, the equation is simple. There is one stalker, and one victim. The stalker gets his jollies by causing fear - whether by following her, calling her repeatedly, using foul language, invading her privacy, etc. The male stalker and female victim will also fall into the standard pattern of predator and victim, with both of them assuming the predator is stronger. As a result, the act of causing fear is the payoff for the stalker, giving him a sexual rush, making him feel powerful and omnipotent.
To effectively deal with a stalker, you need to change this equation. Here are some suggestions, based on my knowledge of the laws in Minnesota. The laws in your state may be different. Check them!
How to Stop Stalkers
Start telling others about the stalker. Even if you have responded to him positively in the past, don't let that stop you from taking action now. Tell people what is going on. If you did go out with him, it was a mistake, but you can fix that. Everyone is allowed to make mistakes. Learn from it and move on.
Keep a Diary
Record every incident, no matter how trivial. Stalkers use the triviality of their actions as a defense: "What, I'm not allowed on a public street?'. You need to establish a pattern of behavior. Record dates, times, places, witnesses, phone numbers, addresses, everything you can think of. If this problem has been ongoing, record previous events to the best of your ability. Record every incident as it happens. Call the police every time you are contacted. They may say they can't send a police car or an officer for an obscene phone call. If that happens, say 'Yes, I know; I just need you to make an official note of this incident so I can prove a pattern of behavior.' And follow up - but keep your own notes!
Get More People Involved
Contact your local women's center and tell them you're being stalked. Bring in your record of the incidents. Advocates who work at women's centers have experience with stalkers, and may even know the person who is bothering you. They also know the police, the sheriff, and the county prosecutors. They will have resources, contact, and advice that will help immensely. They will know the laws in your state, county, and city. Once you involve professionals in this problem, the situation changes from you against the stalker to the system against the stalker. My information is based on what I know about the laws in Minnesota. Please contact a shelter or crisis center in your town for the best help and information.
Work with Advocates
Work closely with the advocates from the women's crisis center. Follow her advice. If my advice differs from hers, do what she says. She knows more about the specific laws in your state than I do. Feel free to ask questions and tell her everything that is going on. The advocate's job is to empower you, to work with you, to make you stronger and more confident about every aspect of your life.
Call Non-Emergency Numbers
Call your local police non-emergency number. If you're in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Ask to speak to the Officer in Charge. you will be connected with a relatively high ranking police officer. Explain that you are being stalked, and ask for advice. The officer will make a record of the phone call and tell you what to do.
File a Restraining Order
If the stalker is a stranger, you can file a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO), which is used when you don't have a significant or legal relationship with the other person. Make sure that your advocate help syou fill out the forms, using your documented patterns of incidents. A judge will look over your application, see how many times you have been bothered, and will grant or not grant your HRO request. When it has been granted, every incident is stalking is considered a violation of the order and is a crime.
Facts about HROs
Make sure your advocate tells you what an HRO can and cannot do. Statistically, when an HRO is served, that can be the most dangerous time for you. Work with your advocate to make sure you stay safe. Evaluate the level of danger and make a safety plan accordingly.
Many times, an HRO will cause a power shift in the relationship, and the stalker will leave you alone. It's not fun for him anymore because you are no longer a safe and easy target.
Remember that a restraining order will not stop a stalker who doesn't care about it. The advantage to an HRO is that it will mobilize law enforcement to be on your side. The police must pay attention and respond to any violation of the order.
Penalties for violating an HRO will vary, depending on your state or country. Repeated violations may result in harsher penalties. Remember, the more violations he has on his record, the better your case.
The HRO is between your stalker and the judge. If the stalker violates the HRO, he is violating the judge's order, not yours. The only way the order can be modified is if you go to court to change it.
The HRO is against your stalker, not against you. Sometimes the stalker will threaten, "I'll show up where you are, then I'll report YOU for violating the HRO!". Sorry, no, the HRO is one way only. It's impossible for you to violate the HRO. Sometimes a judge will order mutual HROs, against both parties, but this is rare. Incidentally, if the stalker makes a threat like that, he has already violated the HRO. Report it.
No witnesses? His word against yours? After the HRO is granted, that doesn't matter. The police have to believe you.
Continue to report every single incident, no matter how small. If you don't report every incident, he may begin pushing the boundaries, seeing how far you will let him go before he gets into trouble. Develop a hair-trigger response and report the slightest violation.
Be With Other People
Stay with others as much as you possible can. If an incident occurs, you will have plenty of witnesses. Statistically, you are much safer in a group anyway.
Don't Show Fear
Refusing to show fear may be one of your best weapons. The stalker enjoys provoking fear. Talk to your advocate about your specific case to see if this would be a good approach to take.
Follow these steps and you can stop stalkers. If we all work together we can make the world a safer place.
(while this article was written in the male, stalkers can also be female)
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