MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT STALKING
When it comes to relationships, persistence can often be a well meaning sign of interest or desire to reconcile. And rational person will know to end the pursuit when the interest is not mutual or welcomed. Stalkers do not respect these boundaries.
The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 defined stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to—
- (A) fear for his or her safety or the safety of others;
- (B) suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Most stalkers are known to the victim; current and former spouses, partners, friends or acquaintances. Many people are inclined to dismiss it as harmless, misguided persistence. Like relationship violence, it is a form of tailor made terrorism that is a clear threat to the victim, but is not always visible to others. As such, victims are often accused of being paranoid, dramatic or the cause of the stalker’s behavior.
Stalking is neither well meaning nor harmless. It is a gross violation of boundaries fueled by anger and/or vengeance and a need to control. It can become dangerous.
The following are some of the common myths and misconceptions surrounding stalking:
Stalkers only target celebrities and strangers.
There are several classifications of stalkers. The most common stalker is known to the victim. Many cases of stalking begin with relationship violence.
Stalkers are not violent.
Some stalkers become violent, some never resort to violence. It is always best to take precautions for your personal safety, regardless of how far you think a stalker will go.
It is not considered stalking if you are in a relationship with the offender.
If your spouse or partner monitors your activities or follows you around in a way that makes you uncomfortable or afraid, it is considered stalking.
If you ignore a stalker, he/she will eventually get the hint and leave you alone.
Stalkers have an overblown sense of entitlement that is also common in abusive relationships. When a victim does not give in, the stalking can escalate and/or become violent.
Once a stalker sees you are in another relationship, he/she will leave you alone.
This is true for some stalkers. Others may become enraged about your new relationship and target both you and your partner.
He is just hurt/angry. He’s just not handling the breakup well.
Hurt and anger do not justify forcing your presence or will upon another person. It does not excuse unwelcome contact, harassment or stalking.
She loves you.
There is nothing loving about creating fear for one’s own safety, anxiety, harm or inconvenience due to stalking or harassment.
A restraining order will stop a stalker.
A restraining order will discourage some stalkers and it will enrage others. Many stalkers have violated restraining orders.
He/she doesn’t have a criminal record, so there is no real danger.
A history of violence may increase the chances of you being physically harmed. No history of violence is not a guarantee that a stalker won’t become violent. The absence of a criminal record can also mean that charges were never filed against them. Many victims are afraid to press charges.
You should let a stalker down easy.
This is one of the most common mistakes made by stalking victims. There should a clear message that you do not want any more contact with the stalker. Do not try to soften the blow by offering to remain friends or by telling him/her that you will call. Do not negotiate or bargain with a stalker. Cut all ties and cease all contact.
If you reason or meet with the stalker, he/she will leave you alone.
Stalking is neither reasonable nor rational. Reasoning with a stalker is not likely to work. You should never agree to meet with or contact a stalker. It can be dangerous. Cut all ties and cease all contact.
It is important to be informed on the signs of stalking and personal safety for stalking victims.
If you feel you are being stalked, speak to a victim advocate who can help assess your situation and advise you on the best course of action. Contact a coalition in your state or any of these organizations that may apply to your situation:
The National Domestic Violence Helpline 800-799-SAFE (7233)
The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474
The National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)
ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
You can also find more information about stalking at: