What is Stalking?
Stalking is one person's obsessive behavior directed toward another person, that causes that victim to fear for his/her safety. The stalker usually starts with annoying, obscene or threatening phone calls or written communication within a short time after harassing communication to following the victim, staking out workplaces and home. There may be acts of violence targeted at the victim's property, pets, and the victim herself/himself. However, keep in mind, human behavior cannot be accurately predicted, so it is impossible to gauge when and if a stalker will become violent. However, remember that stalking is rooted in obsessive behavior which in and of itself is dangerous.
WHAT SHOULD A STALKING VICTIM DO?
- Do your best to safely avoid all contact with the stalker.
- Inform family, friends, co-workers of what is going on regarding the stalking behavior.
- Report the stalking to the police and follow their advice.
- Keep a journal or log of all stalking incidents.
- Keep all letters, packages, and taped telephone messages received from the stalker.
- All adults in the house should be trained in the use of any firearm kept for protection. The firearm should be stored safely and away from children.
- Household staff/employees should have a thorough background check before employment. Institute and strictly enforce a policy that prohibits the staff from discussing family matters.
- Be aware of any unusual packages, boxes, or devices found on the premises. Do not investigate strange objects, call the police immediately.
- Install smoke detector and maintain fire extinguishers on all levels of the residence.
- Tape emergency contact numbers on each telephone in the residence.
- When leaving the residence for a period of time, have lights, television/radio on a timer.
- Have a thorough safety plan that incorporates an emergency evacuation plan.
- Purchase a dog, which is a very inexpensive alarm system. Hint: Dogs purchased or familiar with stalker provide no protection.
- Know the daily schedule/whereabouts of all family members.
- Accompany children to school or bus stops.
- Vary daily routines, such as route to work, grocery store, etc.
- Require identification from all service members and salespersons before permitting them to enter the residence.
- Try to park in a secured area such as a garage when possible. Inform a trusted neighbor of the situation and provide them with a vehicle and suspect description.
- Be alert at all times for suspicious persons.
- Positively identify persons before opening the door – install wide-angle viewer in primary doors.
- Install a porch light at a height that discourages removal.
- Install dead-bolt locks on all outside doors. If keys are missing are missing, replace all locks. May want to replace all locks, assuming stalker may have made a copy of the keys.
- Keep garage door locked at all times. Use electric garage door opener.
- Install floodlights around residence that are on a timer or with motion activation.
- Trim shrubbery, especially away from doors and windows.
- Keep fuse box locked. Have flashlights, candles, lanterns throughout the house.
- Install a loud exterior alarm that can be activated from several places within the residence.
- Maintain an unlisted phone number.
- Any written or telephone threats should be treated as legitimate and the police notified.
- Inform trusted neighbors of any anticipated vacation, business trips and arrange for them to pick up mail, newspapers, etc.
- If residing in an apartment complex, provide the manager and security with a picture of the suspect.
- If you are considering purchasing a gun for your protection, weigh your decision based on these cautions:
The offender may use it against you.
Most people hesitate to shoot an intruder.
There is a potential for accidental injury, especially if children are present in the house.
(You should consider taking handgun lessons to learn proper weapon handling, safety and familiarity as well as the legal aspects of deadly force.)
- If you have a security guard or agency, inform them of the situation and provide them a photograph and description of the suspect.
- Have secretary or security screen all incoming mail or packages.
- Be aware of people following you to and from work.
- Do not accept any packages unless you personally ordered them.
- Central reception should handle all visitors and packages.
- Office staff should be aware of situation so they are alert to suspicious people, parcels or packages.
- Establish lock and key control. Change locks if keys from terminated employees are not accounted for.
- Park in a secured area if possible.
- Have your name removed from reserved parking spot.
- Obtain a mailbox address and a file a change of address with the Post Office.
- Send a note to friends, businesses, etc giving them your new address and request that they remove your old address from their Rolodex.
- All current creditors should be given the new address and have the old one removed from their system.
- Obtain a new driver's license and file a change of address with the motor vehicle department.
- Remove home address from personal checks and business cards.
- Destroy discarded mail.
- Telephone lines can be installed in a location other than the person's residence and calls forwarded to the residence.
- Place residential agreements in another trusted friend or relative's name.
- Your name should not appear on service or delivery orders to the residence.
- Record activities such as vandalism or property damage. Keep a log of the stalkers activities.
- Leaving a violent relationship is often times dangerous and making a safety plan is necessary.
- Discuss with the police whether you qualify for a protective order. Protective orders, properly enforced, enhance your safety and aid police in holding the offender accountable for their behavior.
WHAT IS A PROTECTIVE ORDER?
- It is a paper signed by a judge to protect a victim from certain people who have battered, threatened or stalked them. The protective order can be obtained without having a lawyer.
- Persons abused by family or household members are eligible.
- All courts can issue orders of protection.
- Process of obtaining order:
- Victim files petition with clerk of the court
- Clerk provides forms and assistance
- EPO is issued by judge at ex-party hearing
- Full hearing held within 30 days-if continuance necessary, EPO extended 30 days.
- Full order issued after hearing, in place for 1 year, but can be renewed.
- Possible terms of the order:
- Enjoin from abuse, harassment, direct or indirect contact
- Stay away orders
- Award possession of the residence
- Temporary child custody and visitation arrangement
- Payment of shelter costs
- Award custody of property
- The respondent (suspect) must be served before full hearing can be held. Service done by sheriff or other law enforcement officer.
- Violation of the protective order is contempt of court, a Class B misdemeanor. Subsequent violations may induce felony charges.