Friday, July 21, 2006

Surviving Stalking

Stalking is defined as "the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person"

- J. R. Meloy

Stalking can affect anyone no matter gender, race, socio-economic status or geographic location.

According to data in the United States, 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime.

A stalker can be anyone. There is no single psychological profile that indicates a person may have a tendency to be a stalker. This is one of the reasons why every stalking case must be handled on an individual basis.

Another reason is that in many cases the stalker is someone the victim knows, ex-spouse, ex-boy/girlfriend, coworker, casual acquaintances, but a stalker can also be a stranger.

Things To Do

* No one ever deserves to be a victim of a stalker. Every situation that involves stalking is different, but there are a few guidelines to follow if you feel you are a victim of a stalker.

* Convey to the stalker that you wish to have no contact with him/her.

* Inform friends, family and your employer of the situation.

* Inform your local police department that you are a victim of a stalker; this is necessary even if you do not intend to file charges.

* Document the situation in which you have seen or had any type of contact with the stalker. This can be done in a personal diary or journal. Save all letters or emails.

* Change your email address, website or blog, if necessary.

* Also document any other pertinent information such as license plate number, personal appearance. These steps can help you if the situation escalates into something more dangerous.

Additional Steps

* File for a restraining or protective order. Information on filing can be obtained from your local court.

* Create a contingency plan. You may not think that you are in imminent danger, but the possibility still exists. Your local police or domestic violence center may be able to assist you with a more specific plan, but some ideas are:

* Have a list of critical telephone numbers; e.g. local police, friends, domestic violence centers, an attorney.

* Have a necessities bag. Possibly a small suitcase you can keep in the trunk of your car, just in case you can’t go home. It also may be a good idea to keep some cash in your necessities bag just in case.

* Always make sure you are never low on gas in your car.

* Take preventative measures to protect yourself from the stalker. Vary your routine. Do not do the same activities at the same time every day. For example go to work a little earlier than usual and use a different route.

* Have co-workers, roommates or family members screen phone calls and visitors.

* Do not travel alone if at all possible - "There is safety in numbers".

Other Research

Although significant attention has been devoted to adult perpetrators and victims of stalking, there is persuasive evidence that stalking begins at a much younger age.

Research suggests that stalking begins early and has developmental issues related to attachment, identity formation, and emotional states involving jealousy, envy, and anger.


McCann, J.T. (2000). Stalking in children and adolescents: The primitive bond. Washington: APA Books.

Meloy, J. R. (1998). The psychology of stalking: Clinical and forensic perspectives. New York: Academic Press.

Pathe, M. (2002). Surviving stalking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stalking Resources

Stalking Resource Center

Surviving Stalking


Fallen Angels said...

Good advice on dealing with a stalker...but what about cyber-stalkers? Cyber-stalkers have the added eliment of never being seen...ever. A dear friend of mine had a cyber-stalker for about two years. This person did things like post her address and phone number in chat rooms, post her daughter's address and phone number in chat rooms, hack into her instant messenger programs (by way of figuring out passwords) and talked to all the people on the list. The stalker then did (said) things to the people on the friends lists to try to alienate my friend from other people. Some of her friends figured this out quickly and some did not. When the stalker sent me an instant message and pretended to be my friend, I saw through it because how could my friend be online talking to me when I knew full well that she was in her car on the highway on her way to visit her daughter several hours away? I called my friend on her cell phone while not letting on to the stalker that I knew. Eventually many of us confronted the stalker and her response was to then start doing the same things to us. This is only a little bit of what happened to my friend, she actually moved because of the stalker and her life was made a living nightmare. No one knows for sure who the stalker was in this case...and my friend no longer uses messenger programs at all because of this stalker. Cyber-stalking laws, both state and federal are harsh, especially in our state, but the problem is that the authorities either can't or don't want to enforce them. A victim is told that either nothing can be done unless the stalker shows up in person and a threat has been made, or that the victim can not prove that there is any physical threat. What good are the laws then?


Ian Lidster said...

Men too can be victims of stalkers. I know that from experience. In about 1990 I decided that, on her invitation, I would go for lunch with a former student. I had taught her way back in the late 1960s. She was a nice girl, a bright girl, a pretty girl. By 1990 she was a divorced mother of adult children, and I thought it was nice to reconnect with her. She was always a favorite student. Harmless, I thought. Not so. After our lunch 'date', she invited me to lunch again and again. I declined the invitations, feeling instinctively uneasy. She then began sending me notes at work. At first innocuous, and then more pointed, with declarations of love for me, and graphic sexual suggestions. It was disconcerting, and grew increasingly so. I felt like I was under seige. I finally decided the best thing to do was to confront her and tell her to cease. Fortunately, it worked for me. I also told her if she didn't cease, I would take more official avenues. I wasn't aggressive, but I was to the point.
Thanks for writing this, Deb, because being stalked is a pretty horrible place to be.

Id it is said...

Never having experienced it, I am not so sure how I'd react to it. But a post such as this one and the comments are extremely informative.

Heidi said...

I had an "online stalker" a few years ago..Scary indeed. When this person started to make threats.." You don't want to make me angry" is when I started to get panicky. I contacted the right people to stop this person from harrassing me. It worked thankgod! until last year when this person posted on my blog! My stomach dropped. I just deleted and ignored and thankfully have not heard a peep.

Dawn said...

I think i had a salker once when i was working in a drug store during college. he would only come in when i was there and would always ask for me and was always touching me. it was so creepy. then i left that job and got my current job in the city where i live now. 2 years ago, he started coming into my job here. he tried to talk to me once and i told him to stop following me and i really had no interest in him. i still see him once in a while, but at least he's not talking to me or trying to touch me anymore.

this is excellent advice, dr.deb :)
so glad you did a post on this :)

have a great weekend

jumpinginpuddles said...

sometiems 3d stalkers just dont care what you do or say. I ve often wondered if stalkers think of the person they are stalking as a posession and this is one way of making sure you are that to them.
Fear iss what stalkers instigate in their victims, so even the strongest man/woman can become so paranoid of anything that their whole life can be destroyed.
Stalkers need Therapy simple as that.

healthpsych said...

A very useful post. Luckily, I have never found myself in this position but it's good to have some strategies in mind just in case. Thanks, Deborah.

Tai said...

"There is no single psychological profile that indicates a person may have a tendency to be a stalker."

That's interesting; I didn't know that.

For some reason I thought there WAS a profile.


Well, I've had a few weird incidences that haven't progressed that far, but I am vigilant.

Thanks for posting all the info!

The Mass Defective said...

"There is no single psychological profile that indicates a person may have a tendency to be a stalker."

I'm glad you had this line in your post, because far too often there is a 'profile' used, that of someone with borderline personality disorder. Hopefully this will educate others.

As always, excellent post.
Take care,

A Flowered Purse said...

Such good advice i hope I never have to use!
Have a great weekend Dr Deborah!

United We Lay said...

I was stalked when I was in college. I wish i had anyone to give me the onformation you just did, and I will make sure I pass it on to my students. Stalking is a scary thing because you never know what's coming next, when it will stop, and how to protect yourself.

Nancy said...

Stalking is one of the things that scares me the most, even more now that I know "There is no single psychological profile that indicates a person may have a tendency to be a stalker.. Can I print your post and give it to my two kids going off to college this August? I'm happy and scared at the same time for them but it brings up a ton of concerns.
thanks again for an informative post.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Fallen,
Cyberstalking is a very serious issue too. Scary stuff when it happens. There's a link at the bottom of this post that highlights cyberstalking resources. Hopefully it can help people.

Dear Ian,
Yes, men are victims as well. Sounds like a scary and emotionally draining experience you had. Sometimes we just don't know until we are in the thick of it.

Dear Id It Is,
So good to know that you've not experienced it. :)

Dear Heidi,
That is so terrible. Wow, you really went through a lot with this stalker. Hopefully it won't escalalte to that degree again.

Dear Dawn,
I'd say that you DEFINITELY were stalked. Wow, so scary.

Dear JIP,
Very true what you say. Stalkers often have violent attachemtns to their victims and do see them as possessions.

Dear Healthpsych,
Again, it is always good to know when a person has never experienced this. I've worked with people who have been stalked, and have done the stalking. Sadly, this issue seems like it is quite prevalent here in the US. And celebrities are a whole other side to this issue.

Dear Tai,
There are definite traits and similarities, but overall there is not a static predictable profile. It is important to know this, I agree.

Dear Sid,
I couldn't agree with you more!

Dear Dianna,
You and me both! Happy weekend to you and yours too.

Dear United,
I think it is IMPERATIVE that people know what to look for, how to deal with this issue and how to protect oneself. It is a very scary experience, sadly, one that you know personally as well.

Dear Nancy,
Feel free to copy or use whatever info you'd like. Anything that can help others learn is WAY COOL by me.

~ Deb

Dreaming again said...

It's one of those things that just never quite leaves you once it's happened either.

Donna said...

Deb, Fallen Angels was talking about me. One thing that I found out was that Hotmail uses your zip code in order to allow you to change your password. My stalker had my zip code, so she hijacked my Hotmail and Instant Messenger. It was a mess. Now I use a certain zip code that the stalker will never find out about.

I don't feel as if I am free of her yet. I've had some anonymous posts on my blog that concern me, but it could be that that person posting is just fine. I made a mistake again by posting my email at my school alumni site (which she had found). The email address is the same name as my blog, so I may be changing my blog at some point in the future. We'll see.

BarBarA said...

Excellent advice! I have had both in person and an online stalker. I had to have male co-workers escort me to and from my car each day so I would not be accosted in the parking lot. I never knew who the stalker was, he left notes and called me describing exactly what I was doing or whereing that day so I know he followed me. I wasn't afraid at home I lived with my boyfriend but I hated being alone. He finally stopped and I never knew who it was so could not take action against him.

Online, I don't even want to talk about that one.

Great blog!

mysti said...

All you need to do is read my recent posts to know I have had this experience. Predator/stalker is what I dealt with. LOL guess the two are the same. Anyway this hits very close to home for me. Thank you for the advice.

Raine said...

I have been stalked more than once in real life. Number one rule- CALL THE POLICE CALL THE POLICE CALL THE POLICE. Get a restraining order and every single time it is broken call the police. Keep a record of every phone call, every sighting, every incident. Collect statements from witnesses. Keep any evidence. Threatening letters etc. Record phone calls and CALL THE POLICE. Go in personally and ask to talk to a dectective. The worst case was where I was finding letters on my car at work saying things such as " I know where you live, I know where you work, I know where you daughter goes to school, I am watching you etc etc. These were in cut out newsprint. I would find them at home on the door, describing what I had done the night before etc. The story goes on. A very nice detective figured out it was my ex and went and had a talk with him. Told him the letters had been sent to the FBI forensics team and literally scared him silly. The stalking stopped. I had not suspected the ex this time. Much time had passed since we had split and I had been stalked by prior exes and it always began immediately. So my advice is CALL THE POLICE get them involved and keep them involved.

Angel Chasse said...

My goodness!

I hadn't really thought too much about this topic, but I think that the advice mentioned here is good to have in the back of your mind, should you ever need it.

Unfortunately, to me, the "I hate you, don't leave me" line that is often seen in articles relating to Borderline Personality Disorder seems to be a "profile" of sorts that really, I think, keeps people from seeking treatment for that particular illness... Just my thought... anyway. I hope that no one ever has to use this advice, but I am very thankful to have it :):)

Have a great weekend Dr Deb :)

Angel (again)

Rose said...

This is some great information. Very helpful. I hope that I am never faced with a stalker. That's very scary to me...

Oº°‘¨t®ãg‘°ºO said...

Bless you. I currently have a stalker both in my physical life as well as online. He has been reported to the authorities but the really alarming part is that he has convinced his current girlfriend to help him with his mission or harassment.

To fallen angels - take a look at

they have some wonderful resources. They're dedicated to the fight against cyber crime as well as child safety online. They were originally known as CyberAngels - you may have seen or heard of their episode on Oprah a few years back.

Tiesha said...

Thanks for a very important post. This is good advice. Isn't it sad that we even have to consider things like this? Reading through the list of suggestions, the stalker gets a lot of control either way, they either stalk or take satisfaction in causing so many changes in the victim's life. Sad isn't it?

Godwhacker said...

I haven't seen it yet, but this post reminded me of the coming attractions to My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

Traci said...

have had one or two of these...of the female persuasion...scary. again, you are right on my dear. thanks.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Dreaming,
I imagine it is a very unnerving and life long lasting experience.

Dear Donna,
Wow, I am stunned. This is so terrible. I hope you are free.

Dear Barbara,
I have heard of similar stories!

Dear Mysti,
I did realize this when I last read your posts.

Dear Raine,
Great advice!!!!!

Dear Angel,
There are definitely boundary issues a stalker had difficulty dealing with, but there are many different personalities that go to this extreme behavior.

Dear Rose,
So glad you found it educational.

Dear O,
I'm going to check out that link too. thanks for the resource. And thanks for sharing your very scary story.

Dear Tiesha,
Your insight is so profound. It is true that a stalker has a lot of control, but I think that if one has to choose what kind of control, a victim would choose "proactive" control.

Dear Godwhacker,
I bet you are right!! Looks like it could be a bit scary to see what lengths Uma Thurman goes to keep Luke Wilson.

Dear Traci,
Wow. I didn't know that about you. Scary, indeed.


Alison said...

What an excellent post Deborah. No wonder you have so many people visit your site.

Kim said...

Okay. It's dark. It't hot. It's after midnight and I feel like I'm being watched.....

just kidding....

very scary post

But I really am blogging on the porch, my house is a sweltering oven.

Moof said...

Excellent post, Dr. Serani!

I had a stalker when I was younger ... and I knew who it was. The conditions that caused me to be stalked also caused me to be without support with a toddler, and while expecting my second child. The state actually worked with my family to "hide" me until it was deemed safe to do otherwise.

In this day and age, things would be quite different.

It really is frightening to be stalked ... particularly if you know the stalker has evil intentions toward you. It's like living in a waking nightmare.

Wanda's Wings said...

Great info. Thanks for the advise.

Meow said...

Great advice, hopefully I will never need to use it.
Hope you are well.
Take care, Meow

Belizegial said...

Dr. Deb, I just saw the topic of stalkers being touched on yesterday on an episode of CBS's Criminal Minds. Everything correlates. The stalker, a female, was someone who had been stalking the victim since she was in high school and who had built up her fantasy around a long-ago forgotten weekend spent with the victim when both were mere teenagers.

Then as an up and coming starlet, things took a turn for the worse for the victim as the stalker was also heavily involved in the business and creative side of her acting career and started killing off the starlet's manager, a rival actress and anyone else the stalker perceived as a threat to the victim's career or were rivals for her affection. It ends when the stalker turns on the victim after outing herself and being rejected by the victim. Art imitating life.

Belizegial said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Alison,
You offer wonderful advice too.

Dear Kim,
I should get a wireless modem to blog outside too. What a great idea, and cooler as well.

Dear Moof,
Wow, what a scary story.

Dear Wanda,

Dear Meow,
I hope so too. BTW, your postcard arrived this morning! So pretty. THANKS :)

Dear Belizegial,
You are so right. I'm sorry I missed that episode. Maybe I can catch the rerun of the rerun.


Todd and in Charge said...

Excellent advice. The passage of stalker laws in many jurisdictions have helped bring attention to unique harm caused by this type of crime.

Oº°‘¨t®ãg‘°ºO said...

Thank you for the visit. :) I'm really hoping my newest blog helps. Yours is wonderful by the way. Thank you for sharing.

Marj aka Thriver said...

Wonderful, helpful information as usual! The whole area of cyber stalking has changed things. I would also like to know more about this area.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Todd,
I think we first started learning about this with high profile cases like John Lennon, Ronald Reagan and actress Rebecca Schaeffer and Theresa Saldana. Sadly, we realize how prevalent this is among us little people and how dangerous it can be.

Dear Tragic,
Many thanks to you as well.

Dear Marj,
Check out the resources at the bottom of this post. There are many cyberstalking resources therein.


Cyn said...

Cyberstalking can move offline, unfortunately. I've documented our family's story and just recently started a blog to talk about related issues.

A very good resource is Working to Halt Online Abuse. They'll help victims of online harassment trace messages, complain to the right people, and preserve evidence in case things go further.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Cyn,
Wow, your family's story is very unnerving. Thank you for sharing that and the other links.