Stalking is a dangerous, unpredictable pattern of behavior that often escalates to physical violence. In the majority of cases, stalking is perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner or acquaintance.
In 62% of reported cases, victims feared the behavior would lead to physical harm to themselves or their families. Victims also report feelings that the behavior will never stop, that they have lost the ability to move about freely in their lives, and they even fear that the perpetrator will cause their death or death of a loved one.
Potential danger to the victim increases when the offender has a history of substance abuse, violence (especially towards the stalking victim), or mental illness or narcissistic personality disorders. There is an even greater risk of violence if the perpetrator has ever threatened murder or murder-suicide, possesses a firearm, has a tendency towards emotional outbursts or rage, or has a history of violating protective orders.
By its legal definition, stalking is “a pattern (one or more incidents) of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear”. It is a crime in all 50 states, District of Columbia, U.S. Territories, the military and tribal lands, and is a Felony of the third degree in the state of Texas.
Definition of Fear
The context and measure of “fear” can be very different from victim to victim. The perpetrator may use perfectly legal or even seemingly romantic gestures to terrorize their victim.
As stalking behaviors become more blatant and overt, victims often begin experiencing fear, anger, frustration, hopelessness, or dispair. Some victims try to minimize their fear of the stalker’s behaviors, but some actions on the victims part indicate a more severe situation.
When victims begin changing their travel routes, screening their calls, avoiding certain locations or making changes to their normal routine in effort to avoid the offender, this can be an early warning sign of a growing danger. When stalking reaches this level of severity, a victim must begin to take safety precautions immediately.
Behaviors to Watch
Stalking behaviors often have personal meaning that is only understood between the perpetrator and their victim. They can include
- Unwanted text/phone/voice/email messages
- Contact on social media
- Unwanted gifts such as flowers or notes sent to your job or home address
- Showing up in places the victims frequents such as the grocery store, post office, bank or school
- Following/spying on them while they drive or go about their day
- Use of technology to search for personal details about you online
- Contacting children, friends or family to get information, or to send messages to victim
- Threats to post your private information publicly
- Electronic monitoring of your home, computer, social media accounts, or use of GPS or cameras
- Breaking into victims car or home
- Damage of personal property
- Threats to harm victim, their children or other friends and family
For example, a victim who has relocated to get away from her stalker might find a note left on her car at work addressed to the pet name her stalker always called her. An action of this kind can indicate a real threat that the stalker has found her and has access to her once again.
It is important to understand that no matter what the previous relationship to the perpetrator might have been, everyone has a right to personal privacy, boundaries, and safety.
Ways to Protect Yourself & Your Children
- Trust your instincts. Share your fears with a trusted friend or family member.
- Cease any further communication with the stalker. Do not try to reason with them.
- If you are being followed in your car, DO NOT GO HOME. Drive to the nearest police station and go inside for help.
- Notify the police, especially if you feel you are in immediate danger. Be specific and explain why the person’s behavior is causing you to be fearful.
- Reach out to a National or Local victims services program (Such as Katy Christian Ministries Crisis Center) for resources and to connect to an Advocate who can help walk you through the process of safety planning and protective orders.
- File for a Protective Order. Cooperate with officials for prosecution of stalker.
- Collect evidence and document any incidents involving the person you believe to be stalking you, including any contact they may have with your friends or family members. Photographs, screenshots, emails, text messages, call logs, voicemails, letters or notes can all be used as evidence to aid your case against your stalker.
- Develop a Safety Plan and notify your family, friends and neighbors how to respond should they be contacted by the stalker.
- Vary your routine. Periodically change your routes to/from work, school, grocery store, or other places you regularly go.
- Install a home security system with panic buttons or key fobs for you and your children
- Limit social media use and set you profiles to the highest level of privacy
- Alert your child’s school and any caretakers, and show a photo of the stalker, give an updated list of who and who is NOT allowed to contact or transport your child.
- Discuss your safety plan with your children in an age appropriate way. If you feel it is appropriate for them, show a photo of the person you want for them to avoid contact with, and what to do if they see them hanging around.
- Establish a simple code word you can use with them as a warning, a call for help, or to tell them not to come home should the perpetrator be there.
- Teach your children to dial 911 in an emergency situation.
Ways a Victims Advocate can help:
- Help the victim create a Safety plan and gain personal autonomy.
- Help victims understand their legal rights in the state.
- Help victims obtain protective orders.
- Help mediate communication between victim and officers handling the case when needed.
- Help prepare victim for meetings with officers or accompany victim to court.
- Connect victims with resources such as support groups, emergency shelter and relocation assistance, counseling services, and other community
If you believe you are being stalked, please take action today by reaching out to an Advocate who can help. Katy Christian Ministries Crisis Center serves clients dealing with Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence, and issues associated with these experiences. We have both English and Spanish speaking advocates available. Call their offices at 281-391-4504 or their 24-Hr Emergency Hotline at 281-391-HELP(4357). You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
- Roberts, Elaina. “Stalking: The Hidden Crime.” Www.tdcj.texas.gov, Stalking Resource Center, 1 Oct. 2015, www.tcsheriff.org/images/victim-services/docs/stalking.pdf.
- Texas Penal Code § 42.072. Stalking (2014)
- “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” VictimsofCrime.org, Stalking Resource Center, 2015, victimsofcrime.org/docs/default-source/src/tips-for-victims-2015.pdf?sfvrsn=0
- “Definition & FAQ | Stalking Awareness & Prevention | SPARC.” Stalking Awareness, StalkingAwareness.org, 2019, www.stalkingawareness.org/definition-faqs/#1537978502980-9ea8b8ab-84dd.
- “Stalking Incident and Behavior Log.” StalkingAwareness.org, SPARC Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center, 2018, www.stalkingawareness.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/SPARC_StalkingLogInstructions_2018_FINAL.pdf.
- “Tech Safety.” Tech Safety, 2018, techsafetyapp.org/ An educational and resource app for anyone who thinks they might be experiencing harassment or stalking through technology, or wants to learn more about how to increase their privacy and security while using technology.
- “Stalking Safety Strategies.” StalkingAwareness.org, SPARC Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center, 2019, www.stalkingawareness.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Safety-Strategies.pdf.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/contact/ 1-800-799 SAFE (7233) Mailing address: PO Box 161810, Austin, TX 78716
- Stalking Facts Sheet. National Center for Victims of Crime, 2018, ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw2018/info_flyers/fact_sheets/2018NCVRW_Stalking_508_QC_v2.pdf
- “Emergency Protective Orders.” Texas Advocacy Project, 16 Aug. 2017, www.texasadvocacyproject.org/free-legal-services/emergency-protective-orders.
- “Stalking Safety Planning.” Bright Horizons, 15 Jan. 2018, www.brighthorizonsne.org/2018/01/stalking-safety-planning-2/.
Written by Kathrine Patterson, KCM Director of Communications on behalf of Katy Christian Ministries ⓒ2019. Edited by Claire Goodman.