The original article was published in http://www.lifescript.com/, (November 9, 2008) and was written by Stephanie Tallman Smith. Its content follows for the benefit of all of our readers.
10 Signs That You Are Being Stalked
Stalking has become one of the most dreaded crimes against women in recent years. According to a 2000 study conducted by the federal Department of Justice, one woman in 12 will be stalked during her lifetime. This figure is startling when compared to the fact that 1 in 3,000 will be raped, based on current FBI statistics. Many women know their stalker personally and as a result, are hesitant to believe the situation is potentially dangerous. Being aware of these alarming signals can help you determine if you are being stalked and what to do about it.
1. Lurking around your workplace or your neighborhood.
Are you constantly bumping into the same guy after work or at the grocery store? Does he conveniently park next to you in the garage or near you on the street? Running into him every night at the gym does not make him a stalker, however, seeing him afterwards at the mall or parked in your neighborhood when you get home may be cause for concern. Likewise an occasional meeting could be serendipity. Repeated meetings could signal stalking.
2. Being watched.
Different than the lurker, the watcher will follow you from a distance, gathering personal information about you and those closest to you. They may photograph you, ask your friends about you or collect information from other sources such as public records or online research firms. Some will even hire a private detective to follow you so that they can learn every detail about your private life. If you get the feeling you are being watched, or persistently recognize the same person in a crowd, you may be under the surveillance of a stalker.
3. Repeated phone calls.
This does not mean a daily check in with someone you have been seeing regularly. This means multiple calls every day from someone you know only casually. It can also mean hang-ups or silent messages left on your machine. Try telling the person to stop and if the calls persist, call the police.
4. Inappropriate gifts.
Some stalkers start out by sending flowers or candy to indicate a romantic interest. When their affections are not returned, they escalate the situation by sending inappropriate and often pornographic gifts. A typical tactic is to send the gifts to your office, so that you are embarrassed in front of your peers and are forced to acknowledge them, even if only by stating you have no idea who sent them. Stalkers will often follow up their gift giving by calling you to see if you received it. If you have a company receptionist, see if that person can screen deliveries for you. The receptionist may also be able to describe the person who dropped off the package, in case it was delivered personally.
5. Finding yourself in the position of needing to be rescued.
While anyone can experience a flat tire or mechanical breakdown on the highway, many stalkers enjoy the feeling of playing the hero and will create situations that require you to be rescued. These can include a flat tire with no obvious signs of tire damage or running out of gas unexpectedly. The stalker will then suddenly appear and gallantly change your tire or have a spare gas can that solves your problem. As tempting as their assistance may be, politely decline and tell the person you have notified a tow company and they will be arriving shortly.
Some hero-complex stalkers are even more subtle in their approach. They will follow you on a rainy day and offer the use of their umbrella or through sleight of hand “borrow” your keys and then miraculously present them to you stating you must have dropped them while in line at the cashier. While most of these instances are in fact just gentlemanly behavior, it is better to be cautious with anyone you do not know personally. A true gentleman will understand your concern and politely excuse himself.
Stalkers are looking for interaction with their victims and will often manipulate women into having contact by filing frivolous lawsuits. These legal measures can range from the ridiculous to the ruthless. The point is that in defending yourself, you are forced to deal with the stalker. Other forms of manipulation include threats against themselves, requiring the victim to intervene. They may threaten suicide, or hurting another person if you do not return their affections. If you find yourself being manipulated into behavior that you otherwise would not condone, you are likely being stalked and should report the person to the police immediately.7. Internet stalking.Modern stalkers send numerous emails to their victim each day. They will bombard their victim with instant messages, invitations to chat rooms, or links to suggestive web sites. Internet stalking is often an extension of physical stalking, although not always. In some cases, the stalker may not even know the “true” identity of the victim, having seen the victim’s profile in an online forum.
This does not make Internet stalking, also called cyber-stalking, acceptable. In fact, Internet stalking can be even more dangerous than physical stalking because it limits the victim’s access to online information, intimidates the victim into changing their online habits and can open the victim’s personal computer and the information it contains to the stalker’s hacking. The good news is most law enforcement agencies have cyber-crime units and often Internet stalking is treated with more seriousness than reports of physical stalking.
If you find yourself being harassed online, report the situation to both your Internet provider and local law enforcement.
8. Defamation of character or insults.
Stalkers often try to isolate their victims from family and friends. They release character-damaging information, regardless of whether it is true or not, in hopes of ostracizing the victim from those closest to her. When hurtful or damaging information is made public, your first reaction may be to retreat or withdraw from the public eye. This is exactly what the stalker wants. Instead, fight character defamation and public insults vehemently. If there is truth to the information, accept responsibility quickly and tell your side of the story. The important thing is to maintain your presence within your normal circles and not isolate yourself from support systems that could help you in the event your stalker moves closer.
The use of threats or violence to frighten their victims is a common strategy for many stalkers. You car may be vandalized or your home burglarized. While these crimes happen all too often in today’s environment, the non-stalking criminal will not contact you afterwards. If you receive threats or direct contact from someone who claims to have been responsible for a recent crime, report this immediately to the police. The information you provide may help them piece together physical evidence from the crime and solve your stalking case at the same time.
10. Cumulative unwanted contact of any kind.
Perhaps no particular incident stands out in your mind as being dangerous, however, when you look at the entire picture, what you see alarms you. Do you experience repeated unwanted contact from the same person? If it is someone you know, tell him he is making you uncomfortable. If the situation continues, report him to the police. If it is someone you do not know, go directly to the police.
Stalking is often subtle, yet pervasive. In fact, the stalker is counting on you feeling as if his actions are ordinary demonstrations of affection. If you find yourself experiencing any of these situations on a consistent basis, you may be the victim of stalking, and your quick reporting to the police is the most effective tool in putting an end to the stalker’s terror.