General advice for victims
When victims of stalking seek assistance, they usually ask the following questions:
- Am I in danger?
- Will it continue?
- If it has stopped, will it start again?
- Will I ever get over this?
- What do I need to do to stop it?
This website contains some basic information and advice to answer these questions. More information is available in the book ‘Surviving Stalking’ by Michele Pathé (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
Although there is no “one size fits all” list of recommendations that will be applicable to all stalking situations, there are four Golden Rules that should be followed if you find yourself the victim of stalking:
- Have NO contact with the stalker
- Tell others
- Increase personal protection
- Collect evidence
1. Have No Contact with the Stalker
After the stalker has been told by the victim in a calm, clear and firm manner that their attention is unwanted and that they are to stop all contact, the victim, their family and friends should have no further contact with the stalker. Stalkers want a reaction whether it’s positive or negative. It is crucial to ensure that:
- Everyone involved understands the importance of not appealing to the stalker to stop, threatening them or retaliating to provocation
- The police should be the only ones to confront the stalker
- If contact is necessary due to the shared custody of children, arrange for a professional organization or police station to be the handover point. The victim should never meet the stalker alone or at their home
- If there is accidental contact with the stalker, the victim should try not to show any emotion and leave the situation as soon as possible. Seek refuge in the closest shop or business and call the police emergency number if the stalker tries to approach.
2. Tell Others
Although many stalking victims are reluctant to inform others of what they are going through, it is important that those around the victim know what is happening. This includes family, friends, co-habitants, work colleagues and even neighbors. By explaining the situation the victim can:
- Reduce the possibility of others inadvertently providing information to the stalker or access to the victim
- Alerts them to the significance of any events they witness
- Helps to provide stronger evidence should the case go to court
- Obtain the necessary support to get through the ordeal
What to tell others
- Give clear instructions not to initiate any contact with the stalker and tell them what to do should the stalker make contact with them; e.g. avoid any aggressive or hostile interactions and not provide any information.
- Describe the stalker or give them a picture.
- Provide the make, model and license number of the stalker’s vehicle(s), if known.
- If they can, get them to photograph the stalker without the stalker knowing and tell them to contact the police.
- Children should be told not collect the mail or answer the phone
3. Increase Personal Protection
- Change daily routines e.g. the route or times going work, gym or other frequently attended locations
- Know the location of the closest police station and those along the routes frequently travelled
- Keep a list of critical telephone numbers including emergency services and other supports next to your home telephone and have them on speed dial on your mobile/cell phone.
- Have an unlisted telephone number and be discerning who that is given to. Have caller ID on your phone and screen all calls from unknown numbers by using an answering machine or service.
- Ensure that telephone calls and visitors are screened at work
- Avoid walking alone at night or in quiet remote areas
- Have an escort to your car when leaving work
- Get a personal duress alarm
- Consider whether self-defence training would be useful
- Let people know where you are going and how long you will be
- Join an auto club so that you can call for assistance if you find you have a flat tire/s or your car has been tampered with
- Check your car before getting in. Regularly check for tracking devices and turn off the GPS on all mobile/cell phones
- Inform schools or day care centres that your children attend of the situation
- Always carry a mobile telephone so you can call for assistance, including when you are at home
- Develop a safety plan that includes how to exit your home quickly and arranging a safe place to go
- As a last option, you may have to consider moving to a new location. If you choose to do this, ensure that you take measures to ensure that your are not traceable.
Improve Home Security
- Change locks – install deadlocks, window and manhole locks
- Install sensor lights that are beyond easy reach
- Keep torches in easy to access places around the home
- Install fire alarms and ensure that they are always in working order and have battery back-up and have all purpose fire extinguishers available
- Have peephole in the doors
- Remove hiding places (trim bushes)
- Don’t leave ladders or other means of climbing around the house
- Lock your power box
- Get a post office box or at least have a lock on the letterbox
- Get a dog
- Protect pets
- Get a home security check. Many police stations offer this service
Protect Personal Information
- Only give personal details to those you trust
- Get a post office box or at least have a lock on the letterbox
- Shred all paperwork before throwing it out
- Consider having property owned by a trust fund
- Don’t give out personal information online
- Close accounts such as Facebook, Bebo, Myspace, including children’s accounts
- Don’t show your name at the entrance to your residence
- Don’t have personalised number plates on your car
- Remove details from the electoral role if applicable
- Don’t use your home address for anything related to business
- Be careful what you say on cordless telephones as conversations can be monitored by scanner. Baby monitors can also transmit conversations in the home.
- Ensure your computer has a strict firewall and is well protected against viruses
4. Collect Evidence
Proof is crucial in preparing a case against the stalker and it cannot be overestimated how important it is to keep all evidence and document your encounters and experience. The following are some ways in which to collect evidence:
- Compile a journal that is a chronological summary of events from that first day through to the present. Keep it brief and include everything you can remember, even if it seems trivial, and record dates, times, and witnesses to the encounters. Include telephone calls, items left or sent and any encounters with the stalker. You may start to see a set pattern develop. Don’t ever lie about or minimise your involvement with the stalker. If the stalker is prosecuted and it is discovered that you did not tell the truth, it will damage your case as they will suspect that everything else you say is untrue.
- Organise paperwork in a filing system e.g. Police reports, hard copies of e-mails telephone records or by date.
- Keep originals in a safe place and a copy of everything in another location. Scan any paperwork, pictures etc and send an e-mail copy to an e-mail account specifically set up for this purpose and send a copy to a friend. Keep the copy up-to-date.
- Don’t scribble on original documents, add notes.
- Save everything. Keep e-mails on the computer and in hard copy.
- Keep a log of expenses and receipts as they may later be important in regards to any claims for compensation.
- Keep a small camera or use a mobile phone to take pictures of any items in the location in which they are found. This is also important for perishable items such as flowers or damage to property. If there is a time/date facility on the camera use that. If photographing the stalker, use extreme caution, try not to be obvious and under no circumstances compromise safety.
- If items are delivered, contact the delivery service to determine who placed the order, when, and how it was paid for (cash or credit card). Try to obtain a description of the person who placed the order.
- Handle all evidence carefully so as not to smudge fingerprints. Either hold items by the corner or use tweezers. Keep the item in separate plastic bag.
- Keep the tapes from answering machines or, if your machine is digital, keep a second recording of the message elsewhere.
- Have someone else listen to any messages
- Try to record the message so can be stored in another format.
- Keep text messages on the phone, download to computer and show others
- Have a generic message on all phones or have a same gender friend record your voicemail message to discourage the stalker from calling you to hear your voice
Reporting the stalking to police
- Go with someone else if possible
- Present evidence in a collated organized fashion
- Know the anti-stalking legislation applicable to your jurisdiction (see our list of international anti-stalking legislation)
- Include copies of previous court orders related to the stalking situation
- Keep a copy of all material presented to police
- Record where, when, and to whom the report was made
- Ask for a copy of the report or obtain the report number (quote with future contact)
- Ask if you can have one or two officers allocated to the case so you don’t have to keep repeating your story
- Ask to be kept informed of any contact the police have with the stalker so that you can be prepared for the possibility of retaliatory acts. This includes the issuing of warnings, the serving of protection orders or laying of charges
- Consider whether you want to apply for a protection order (see our page on protection orders)
- Ensure that all breaches of protection orders are recorded and reported to police immediately
- If you have relocated, ensure that your new details are not inadvertently provided to the stalker in legal paperwork
- If the complaint is not taken seriously or breaches of protection orders are not acted on, request to speak to a senior officer. If the outcome is still unsatisfactory, lodge a formal complaint. However, remember that unless there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed, there is often little that the police can do
Mistakes Victims Make
- Providing too much information about themselves to people they don’t know
- Not giving a clear calm message that they are not interested in a relationship
- Not listening to their intuition.
- Ignoring the early warning signs
- Not taking the situation seriously
- Responding to a stalker in any way, shape, or form
- Trying to reason or bargain with a stalker
- Blaming themselves
- Not taking adequate privacy and safety precautions
- Seeking a restraining or protective order without thinking of the potential consequences.
- Failing to obtain support from others either personally or professionally, including family, friends, work colleagues and police
- Expecting police to solve the problem and not taking responsibility their own safety
- Obtaining a weapon that can be used against them
- Ignoring their emotional needs during and after a stalking