Stalking And Relationships

by Josey Allen

 People often think stalking is something that only happens to the leads on TV shows, such as the popular Netflix original, You, but stalking happens in real life more than you think. The show is dramatized, of course, and stalking usually begins much more subtly. It can appear seemingly harmless. Stalking is much more common than many people know. A stalker can be someone you’re in a relationship with, they don’t have to be a creepy stranger to be dangerous. 

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. The purpose of this month is to bring awareness  of the dangers and prevalence of stalking. Being able to identify the early signs of stalking and knowing what to do if you are experiencing them can potentially save your life. Stalking is legally defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes them fear. Often times this fear grows so intense that the victim loses jobs, friends, opportunities, and can become depressed and struggle with severe anxiety. 

If you feel endangered or threatened by someone’s behavior, it is a good idea to reach out to Day One or a trusted adult or friend for help. 

Know The Facts 

For many victims of stalking, it can be difficult to know when to reach out for legal help and involve law enforcement. Often times victims may feel as if they are overreacting or will not be believed. It is important to know what can be classified as stalking. If someone’s repetitive behavior is causing you fear for your safety, this might be considered stalking under the law. For instance, sending unwanted gifts is not always considered a crime. However, if the unwanted gifts are paired with, for example, the sender finding your address through illegal means (like unlawful surveillance), then this would be considered a crime. 

Legally, there are a few different types of stalking, including erotomania (the delusional condition that causes the stalker to believe their victim is in love with them) and intimate partner stalking, which can be even more dangerous than an unknown stalker. This is because they know personal details about your life and may feel scorned and seek revenge. 

A study conducted by the National Institute of Justice showed that intimate partner stalkers are more likely to physically assault their victim than a different type of stalker. Unfortunately, this study also shows that it is one of the most common forms of stalking. Nationwide, approximately five percent of college women have reported that they had been stalked by a former partner. In fact, people ages 18-24 are at the highest risk of being stalked. Sixty-one percent of female stalking victims and forty-four percent of male stalking victims were stalked by an intimate partner

When a former or current partner stalks, it is a controlling tactic. They typically stalk out of jealousy and rage. Because of this, intimate partner stalkers pose a larger threat to third parties than another type might. For instance, the stalker may see that their victim is dating and lash out at this new person. 

Intimate partner stalkers are also different from other stalkers because they are less likely to be stalking due to a delusional state or mental disorder. The end goal may be to cause the victim harm, control their life, or even murder them. This type of stalking is often intense and escalates quickly. They are also more likely to show up and attempt to make contact with their victim than others. If they share a child with their victim, they are able to use the child as a tool of their stalking. For example, they could repeatedly take the victim to court for custody, use the child as an excuse to see the victim, pass threats through the child, or even threaten to harm the child.

Identifying Early Signs of Intimate Partner Stalking

It’s important to remember that stalking can take place while you are in a relationship. It is not normal or okay for a partner to constantly demand to know your whereabouts, follow you, check up on you, or relentlessly text and call. This obsessive behavior is not an indication 

of love; it indicates that this person needs complete control over you and the need for control can quickly become dangerous. 

It may be something you at first found endearing, a sign that they really loved you, but quickly became irritating or even threatening. Your partner may have escalated from “promise you’ll never leave me” to “I’ll kill myself if you leave.” Perhaps they called to check in every night but those calls turned into incessant texts and phone calls disrupting your day. Suddenly, they are showing up places “just to say hi” and causing issues in your personal life. All of these things may seem innocent at first, and in some cases they may be. You can read more about stalking in relationships and intimate partner violence on Safe Horizon’s website. 

What You Can Do: Know Your Rights 

Keep in mind that you always have the right to feel safe. Some examples of stalking are several unwanted phone calls and text messages for no good reason, keeping surveillance of you and the people you surround yourself with, breaking and entering your property, vandalizing your property, threatening to harm you, your loved ones, or pets, and sending unwanted gifts. Some of these are crimes on their own but when put together, this is stalking. You should document what this person is doing and notify the police. Day One recommends creating a Stalking Log to keep track of these incidents. 

Law enforcement may not initially take your complaints seriously. It is important to be persistent and document everything your stalker does, but do not engage with them. They are trying to incite a reaction and it is important not to feed into their fantasy or game.

If you or a friend are experiencing stalking, please seek help by reaching out to Day One or another organization. 

Click here to learn more about the services we offer. 

Click here to see a more complete list of local service providers.

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