Stalking definition: The
Department of Justice defines stalking as
"A perpetrator engaging in a course of conduct directed at a
specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for
their safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial
The Office on Women's Health defines
stalking as "Any repeated contact that makes you feel afraid or
This communication or behavior could involve repeated visual,
physical, verbal, written, or implied threats, nonconsensual
communication, or a combination of these measures.
Stalking is against the law. Stalking is a crime.
Stalking can be
charged as a state or a federal crime, and depending on the case,
it can be:
- Misdemeanor - punishable by
imprisonment for up to 1 year or a fine that cannot exceed $1,000,
- Felony - for aggravated
stalking, punishable with up to 5 years in prison or a fine of
maximum $10,000, or both.
Who can be stalked: Anyone. However, 1 in 6
women experience stalking their lifetime and women are twice as
likely to be stalked as men are. (This is according to the National
Center for Victims of Crime.)
Stalking falls into three broad
- Intimate or former intimate partner stalking-
The stalker and victim may be in a relationship, may have lived
together, may be serious or casual partners, or former partners to
- Acquaintance stalking- The stalker and victim
may know one another casually, such as a coworker, neighbor, or
- Stranger stalking- The stalker and victim do
not know one another. This usually includes cases where the victim
may be a celebrity.
Examples of stalking:
- Following you around or spying on you
- Befriending or manipulating your family, friends, or coworkers
to intrude on your inner circle
- Sending you unwanted emails, messages, or letters
- Calling you often
- Harassing you on social media
- Creating fake profiles to keep tabs on you
- Attempting to gain access to your computer, email, or social
- Tracking your computer or internet use
- Using technology such as GPS to track your location
- Showing up uninvited to your house, school, work, or places you
- Leaving you unwanted gifts or tokens of affection
- Damaging your home, car, or other property
- Threatening you, your family, your friends, or your children
and pets with violence
Misconceptions about stalking:
- "Stalking is only stalking if they keep doing it after
you've asked them to stop or have confronted them in some way."
-I hear this sentiment a lot. If someone has been
following you, tracking you, or harassing you and you're just
discovering it, it's been stalking the whole time. They don't get a
magical free pass to do so until you've said no, it's stalking
regardless. And, confronting the perpetrator can often be
- "Only celebrities are stalked." -As previously
mentioned, anyone can be stalked. In fact, 1.4 million people are
stalked every year in the United States.
- "If you ignore the stalker, they will go away." -If
only this were true. Each case varies, but stalking is dangerous,
it's against the law, and anyone that experiences stalking should
- "You can't be stalked by someone you're dating." -Big
huge nope. Biggest nope. You absolutely can. If an intimate partner
is tracking your location, following you around, and making you
feel smothered and afraid, that is stalking. It doesn't matter your
relationship with the person.
When is stalking categorized as
Nowadays, stalking usually includes cyberstalking. As security
professionals, we have to be cognizant of how people use technology
in a way that's malicious.
- Cyberstalking falls under the stalking umbrella. It's yet
another form of stalking and is widely used among perpetrators
because it gives them a relatively easy way of monitoring someone,
particularly if their "digital footprint" is very wide.
- Cyberstalking is the use of the internet or other electronic
means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or
- As mentioned, cyberstalking is often accompanied by real-time
or "offline" stalking, but may be exclusively used as the primary
or only means of stalking.
- Physical or real-time stalking is not necessary for the act to
be considered a crime. Cyberstalking, in of itself, is also a
Something to note: States vary in how they
categorize offenses. By 2009, 14
states adopted legislation on high-tech stalking, punished by up to
18 months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine for a fourth-degree
charge to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for a
What to do if you're being stalked:
The obvious answer may be to blanketly tell everyone to call
911 or contact the authorities. However, the unfortunate truth is
that not all law enforcement officers are trauma-informed nor are
all of them equipped to handle stalking. And, sadly, some of them
may not take the case seriously. Even with that, I highly suggest
reporting, if you feel safe to do so.
Sometimes, your stalker may even be a police officer or
someone that is powerful. It's not always easy to go to the
authorities, particularly if you have been let down in the past or
get grilled by law enforcement as if the stalking is your own
Here are a few other suggestions of who to contact to
- National Domestic Violence or Victim
Resources such as The Hotline Dot Org, Victims of
Crime Dot Org, Stalking Awareness Dot Org, and so on. We will link
all of these resources in the show notes.
- Local Domestic Violence Coalitions
such as YWCA, Palomar, and other non-profits that may be exclusive
to your area.
- Legal Resources or Lawyers that are
trauma-informed specialize in domestic violence, sexual assault,
and stalking cases.
- A trusted friend, family member, mentor, teacher, counselor or
Some steps you can take to help protect yourself and
mitigate a stalker's ability to gather more information about
In an ideal world, we would want to stop the stalkers from
stalking. The onus is on them. It's not your fault you're being
stalked, and these preventative measures do not suggest that this
is in any way your fault, but please- Take these measures into
consideration if you are being stalked.
- Document everything. Record dates. Take screenshots and keep
everything organized. Describe the actions as well as how they made
you feel in the moment. Keep a running timeline, if
- Inform someone you trust of the stalking.
- Carry your cell phone with you and inform your trusted friend
or family member on your whereabouts, especially if the person is
capable of physically finding you.
- On the topic of your cellphone, ensure that it does not have
any unknown applications, tracking, or compromised accounts on it.
Review your installed applications, accounts, and enable
multi-factor authentication where possible.
- Use unique and secure passwords for all of your accounts. (Make
sure your passwords are not easily "guessable."
- Depending on the situation, stopping all communication with the
stalker is ideal. Your circumstances may dictate that completely
cutting them off is actually less safe, so trust your instincts and
document your decision.
- That said, block the stalker on all platforms, if it is safe to
- Limit your social media posts to friends and family. Avoid
posting anything publicly. Be cognizant of sharing, tagging, and
what is shown in images. Minimize mutual contacts.
- Do not share your home address or place of work online.
Additionally, do not share when you're at home, and when you are
- If physical stalking is present: Vary your travel schedule, try
not to use the same route or routine every day if travel is