How To Stop a Stalker In Their Tracks

The creepy, lonely stalker hiding behind a tree and driving by his victim’s apartment is a favorite trope in countless novels, movies, and TV shows. But what if you suddenly find yourself in the middle of this scenario in your real life? 

What Is Stalking?

Stalking is a serious criminal offense that’s often perpetrated by the ex or current partner of the victim, or someone else that the victim was previously familiar with. Legal definitions vary by state. In general, stalking refers to a series of harassing or threatening acts that an individual repeatedly engages in to instill fear or torment in the other person. 

Stalking behavior typically includes following the victim, appearing at their home or place of work, damaging their property, bombarding them with phone calls or written messages, etc. Stalking can occur offline and online, and sometimes the victim can go through both at the same time.

The vast majority of stalkers are men—by some estimates, 87% of all reported stalking is perpetrated by male offenders. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 16% of women and 5% of men have experienced stalking in their lifetime. 

Stalking is an issue that affects people from all walks of life, but young women are particularly vulnerable. People aged 18-24, the vast majority of them female, are at the highest risk of ending up as stalking victims, as reported by the NISVS.

U.S. Laws That Help Stop Stalkers

The first time stalking became the topic of a serious nationwide conversation was in 1989 when a young Hollywood actress named Rebecca Shaeffer was shot to death by a manic, mentally-ill fan who had stalked her for three years. The tragedy garnered a lot of publicity and drew national attention to the problem of stalking. 

In response, the first State laws addressing stalking were passed in 1990. Prior to that, there were no applicable laws to protect someone from stalking until the offender actually “did something” to harm the victim. Today, all U.S. states, including the District of Columbia, have adequate legislation that deals with the problem of stalking. In addition, the Violence Against Women Act is a federal law that, in the year 2000, identified the related crimes of dating violence and stalking.

State legislation on what qualifies as stalking varies significantly. Here is an overview by the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide of the main differences amongst state statutes on this matter.

Legal Factor

Explanation

Pattern of Behavior

  • 51% of states require two or more different instances where the perpetrator followed, watched, or otherwise harassed the victim
  • 47% require an “established pattern” of harassment
Level of Fear
  • Almost half of the states require proof that the victim felt terrorized by the stalking 
  • 24% require proof that the victim feared for their safety
  • 8% require proof that the victim feared for their life

Standard of Fear

  • 53% of states require that the behavior was sufficient to make a reasonable person feel afraid
  • 20% require that the prosecution proves the victim actually felt afraid
  • 27% require that the prosecution proves both that a reasonable person would feel fear and that the victim actually did feel fear

Please note that while stalking is a crime in all fifty states, a large number of them do not deem stalking to be a felony after the first offense.

What Legally Constitutes as Stalking

Sometimes the distinction between legal activity and stalking can be blurred. Read more about what it means when someone is harassing you.

To charge and convict a stalker in the U.S., three legal elements have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements are:

  1. Course of conduct
  2. Threat requirements
  3. Intent of the stalker

Course of Conduct

Nearly all states require that the suspect engages in a “course of conduct.” This term implies a series of acts that collectively make up a pattern of stalking behavior. Some states stipulate the exact number of such acts (most often, it’s two or more) required to prove that stalking occurred. 

Threat Requirements

To be able to charge the defendant with stalking, most states have established a requirement that the stalker poses a threat or acts in a way that causes a reasonable person to feel afraid. Under these statutes, the threats don’t have to be verbal or written to cause fear in the victim—gestures can be equally if not more terrifying, such as the perpetrator mimicking the pointing of a gun to your head, or delivering a dead animal at your doorstep. 

Intent of the Stalker

In most states, to be convicted of stalking, one must show a criminal intent to cause the victim to be afraid. Such stalking conduct must be “willful,” “intentional,” or “knowing.” Some states don’t necessitate the evidence that the defendant intended to cause fear—provided that they intended to commit the act that resulted in the victim’s fear. In this case, if the victim is reasonably frightened by the stalker’s behavior, the intent element of the crime has been fulfilled.

Types of Stalkers 

The reasons behind the stalker’s behavior are always complicated, and each case is unique. Generally speaking, stalking stems from the stalker’s desire to control the victim and instill fear in them. As this Reddit user can attest, some stalkers resort to threats and emotional blackmail to get an even firmer grip on their victim. They can say things like “I’m going to hurt myself if you don’t agree to go out with me”, and “If it wasn’t for you, I’d already killed myself.”

Intimate stalkers, who are, in most cases, ex-partners of the victim, are deemed to be far more dangerous compared to other stalkers. In domestic situations, stalking can begin after the victim has tried to end the relationship. Unable to accept the breakup, the offender then begins to follow, threaten, and harass the victim. 

This type of behavior is generally referred to as “separation assault”. If you’re a victim that’s targeted by someone you used to be romantically or sexually involved with, you will have to take this threat even more seriously than if you weren’t familiar with the stalker. 

We recognize four main types of stalkers:

Type of Stalker

Description

Intimate Stalker

  • The offender is a person who has previously been romantically involved with the victim
  • The most common and dangerous type of stalker, with the highest risk of violence to the victim

Acquaintance Stalker 

  • The perpetrator is a person who is an acquaintance of the victim, such as a work colleague or someone who frequents the same gym
  • This type of stalker presents a moderately high risk of violence 

Stranger Stalker

  • The stalker is someone who crossed paths with their victim on one occasion and then became obsessed with him or her

Celebrity Stalker 

  • The offender has no prior relationship to the victim
  • They have developed a manic obsession with a public figure

Psychological Profiles of Stalkers

In 1993, Australian psychiatrist and stalking expert Paul Mullen analyzed the conduct of 145 diagnosed stalkers. Based on the collected inputs, Mullen and his colleagues came up with five psychological profiles of stalkers to provide better diagnosis and treatment to the perpetrators: 

  1. The rejected stalker
  2. The resentful stalker
  3. The intimacy seeker
  4. The incompetent stalker
  5. The predator

The Rejected Stalker

The rejected stalker is an individual who has been hurt by a relationship breakup. Most frequently, it’s the loss of a romantic partner that they’re upset about, but it could also be due to severed ties with a parent, work associate, or friend. 

When the rejected stalker fails in their attempt to get the lost person back, they turn to vindictive behavior. During therapy, this psychological type is guided on how to move on from their angry obsession and make peace with their loss.

The Resentful Stalker

Rather than seeking a relationship with the victim, the resentful stalker is overwhelmed by feelings of injustice and a desire to retaliate against the other person. They often feel like they have been treated unfairly and see themselves as the victim. 

Experts have noted that resentful stalkers’ issues often stem from early childhood and their relationship with a highly controlling father. Therapy aimed at correcting the resentful stalker’s behavior focuses on unresolved childhood issues and trauma, combined with antipsychotic medication in some cases. 

The Intimacy Seeker

The intimacy seeker is often an absolute stranger to their victim. They start believing and behaving as if they are in an actual relationship with the object of stalking. They also foster a delusion that the love is mutual. 

This type of behavior is attributed to an underlying mental disorder. Their disorder needs professional attention, combined with efforts to bridge the social isolation and the improvement of their social skills.

The Incompetent Stalker

This type of stalker hopes that their acts will result in a loving relationship with their victim, one that would satisfy their need for connection and intimacy. The difference between the intimacy seeker and the incompetent stalker is that the latter is aware that their victim is not reciprocating their feelings. Nevertheless, they tend to continue the stalking behavior believing the other person might have a change of heart. 

These stalkers are commonly described as intellectually challenged and socially awkward. Because of their inability to comprehend and abide by social norms, the “courting” methods used by the incompetent stalker can provoke a frightened reaction in the other person.

The Predator

It’s not the relationship they’re after—the predator stalker is seeking a sense of power and control over their victim. Paraphilia is the main drive behind their stalking conduct—they get pleasure in collecting information about the other person and fantasizing about physically or sexually assaulting them. In a majority of cases, this type of stalker should be managed within a program designed to treat sex offenders. 

What to Do if You Have a Stalker

Being a victim of stalking is a terrifying experience, but you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to go through it alone. There are plenty of resources and places you can turn to for help. You can also take a lot of practical steps on your own that will increase your safety and minimize the risks until the stalker is officially stopped.

Practical Tips 

While you should most definitely speak to the authorities if you are being stalked, you must also take charge of your own safety by implementing some key activities and precautions. These points can significantly help you protect yourself against your stalker:

  • Don’t ignore the issue
  • Change your daily routine and habits until the problem goes away
  • Ask the offender to stop all contact—you can get DoNotPay to help you generate a cease and desist letter for that
  • If their behavior persists, don’t interact with the stalker again and avoid all contact
  • Tell other people in your life about the stalker
  • Increase the security level of your everyday life—invest in locks, security cameras, alarms, and set up strong passwords for all of your online accounts
  • Get a home security check (your local police station may offer this service)
  • Always carry a charged mobile phone with you
  • Check your car before you get in
  • Consider attending a self-defense course

Legal Recourse 

Stalking is a criminal offense and should be reported to the police. Talk to them about the stalker even if the stalking has just begun, or you haven’t yet collected all the necessary evidence. 

What else is essential to know when taking legal action against your stalker?

  • Collect evidence (only when it’s safe to do so):
    • Keep a log of every time the stalker contacted or followed you
    • Save phone calls, messages, deliveries, voicemails, cards, photographs of any damages to your property, testimonies of families and friends
  • Report the stalking to the police. Enclose all collected evidence
  • If you feel like you’re in immediate danger, call 911 immediately
  • File your application for a restraining order in the justice court of the town where you experienced the abuse

Stopping a Stalker With the Aid of DoNotPay

Being stalked is, at the very least, a nerve-wracking experience. If you’re not in the best headspace at the moment, or you don’t know how to take legal action against your stalker, rely on DoNotPay for help.

All you need to do is:

  1. Open the DoNotPay app in your web browser or your iOS device
  2. Click or tap on the Relationship Protection icon to start the conversation with our chatbot
  3. Go to Explore Relationship Services
  4. Select Safety and Stalking, then click on Let’s Do It
  5. Confirm that you need help with Stalking
  6. Specify if this is a matter of online or in-person stalking
  7. Answer the chatbot’s questions the best you can

DoNotPay’s next step will vary based on whether your stalker is stalking you online or in-person. If you are being stalked in the digital, as well as the real world, our app will help with both issues.

In-Person Stalking 

Once we collect the required information about the case from you, in the case of in-person stalking we will create a cease and desist letter. This letter can be sent to the stalker, asking them to stop stalking you immediately. 

The letter serves as relevant evidence that you attempted to resolve the issue by yourself. You can also use it to warn your perpetrator about taking future legal action against them if they continue with their actions. 

Online stalking 

If you’re being stalked by somebody online, DoNotPay will get in touch with the digital or social media website where the stalking occurred. Firstly, we will report the person for online harassment and stalking, so their account and activity gets investigated. Then, we will request the customer service of the online platform to block the stalker, so they have no ability to follow you or reach out to you on the Internet again.

Simplify Your Life With DoNotPay 

Putting an end to stalkers is not the only thing DoNotPay can help you with. If you’re struggling with credit card issues, want to dispute that pesky parking ticket, or you simply need to set up a DMV appointment, we may just fit the bill for it. DoNotPay can take a lot of burden off your shoulders, including:

You can get the DoNotPay app in any web browser or download it on your iPhone or other iOS devices.