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Stalking is contact (usually two or more times) from someone that makes you feel afraid or harassed.
Examples of stalking include:
- Following or spying on you
- Sending you unwanted emails or letters
- Calling you often
- Showing up at your house, school, or work
- Leaving you unwanted gifts
You can be stalked by a stranger, but most stalkers are people you know, like a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. Sometimes, a current partner will stalk you by calling very often, texting constantly, or asking where you are all the time. These may be signs of an abusive relationship.
Stalking is a crime and can be dangerous. To learn more about the laws against stalking, contact the National Center for Victims of Crime helpline. Stalking can be very frightening, and can make you feel out of control, anxious, and depressed. It can affect your ability to sleep, eat, and work. If you are being stalked, get support from people who care about you.
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If you think you are being stalked
If you think you're being stalked, consider these steps:
- File a complaint with the police. Make sure to tell them about all threats.
- If you are in immediate danger, find a safe place to go, like a police station, friend's house, domestic violence shelter, fire station, or public area. If you can't get out of danger, but can get to a phone, call 911.
- Get a restraining order. A restraining order requires the stalker to stay away from you and not contact you. You can learn how to get a restraining order from a domestic violence shelter, the police, or an attorney in your area.
- Write down every incident. Include the time, date, and other important information.
- Keep evidence such as videotapes, voicemail messages, photos of property damage, and letters. Get names of witnesses.
- Contact support systems to help you, including domestic violence and rape crisis hotlines, domestic violence shelters, counseling services, and support groups. Keep these numbers handy in case you need them.
- Tell important people in your life about the stalking problem, including the police, your employer, family, friends, and neighbors.
- Carry a cellphone at all times so you can call for help.
- Consider changing your phone number (though some people leave their number active to collect evidence). You also can ask the phone company about call blocking and other safety features.
- Secure your home with alarms, locks, and motion-sensitive lights.
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Cyberstalking is using the Internet, email, or other electronic communications to stalk someone. Examples of cyberstalking include:
- Sending unwanted, frightening, or obscene emails, text messages, or instant messages (IMs)
- Harassing or threatening someone in a chat room
- Posting improper messages on a message board
- Tracking your computer and Internet use
- Sending electronic viruses
- Pretending to be you in a chat room
If you are cyberstalked:
- Send the person a clear, written warning not to contact you again
- If the stalking continues, get help from the police. You also can contact a domestic violence shelter and the National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline for support and suggestions.
- Print out copies of evidence such as emails. Keep a record of the stalking and any contact with police.
- Consider blocking messages from the harasser
- Change your email address
- File a complaint with the person's Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- Never post online profiles or messages with details that could be used to identify or locate you (such as age, sex, address, workplace, phone number, school, or places you hang out)
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Content last updated: May 18, 2011.
Resources last updated: May 18, 2011.
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