What Can I Do If My Ex Is Stalking Me?
Your ex is three-years deep into your Instagram, and has accidentally double-tapped on a photo. Now you know they have been snooping. Does this make them a stalker? No, the situation might make them want to delete all of their social media or change their Instagram handle to randomperson2841, but if that is as far as it goes— they are not a stalker. One incident does not constitute stalking, repeated action does.
Stalking is about inducing fear. Any repeated, unwanted contact that scares you or makes you feel threatened most likely constitutes stalking. And it often comes from people you know — more often than not, former romantic partners.
What Counts As Stalking and How to Recognize It?
Stalking by a former partner is not as innocent as going over their social media profiles, and stalking in itself is a serious matter.
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), reported that one in six women had been stalked during their lifetime. The stalkers were often known to victims, and in two-thirds of the cases (66.2%), a current or former intimate partner did the stalking.
Stalking is defined as unwanted and repeated behavior that is related to harassment and intimidation. The behavior may include following the victim, waiting for them in public, spying on them, or monitoring them online.
Stalking by an ex-partner is a repeated action and can happen continuously for months, as one Reddit user experienced when her ex-boyfriend had been calling, texting, and emailing her for over a year. He even admitted to using a fake Instagram account to talk to her.
Stalking may get worse or become violent over time and can also be a sign of an abusive relationship, which another poster explained on Reddit. Her ex-fiance had been stalking her for over ten years using phone calls and texts to frighten her.
Stalking can be carried out in person or online.
Stalking in Person
Stalking in person is any repeated and unwanted contact in real life that makes you feel unsafe. Stalkers can frighten you by clearly saying they want to harm you or by using subtle but terrifying methods — such as leaving gifts or letters.
Stalking in person can include:
- Following you
- Waiting for you and showing up uninvited
- Spying on you
- Initiating non-consensual communication
- Calling you repeatedly
- Sending you unwanted gifts
- Damaging your property
- Threatening you with violence
Cyberstalking is a type of online harassment that constitutes the use of technology to stalk you. This type of harassment involves using email, social media, or other digital means of communication to stalk you. Stalkers, who are often former partners, are bolder behind the cover of the internet than they would be in real-life situations, and their behavior often escalates to a dangerous one.
This new empowerment can lead them to send you unpleasant messages systematically — perhaps even several times a day — with the content that is far more disturbing than anything they would ever say to you in real life. The anonymity that comes with the digital environment is especially alarming because stalkers can harass you from different accounts without revealing who they are.
Examples of cyberstalking include:
- Sending you unwanted emails
- Sending you inappropriate texts or DMs
- Harassing or threatening you on social media
- Tracking your computer and internet activity
- Tracking your location
- Logging into your social media accounts
- Sending you offensive, inappropriate, or explicit photos or videos
- Stalking or harassing your family members, friends, or colleagues
- Using online media to provoke others to attack you
The Impact Stalking Can Have on You
Stalking can have significant effects on your life. If the stalker is an ex-partner, you might feel the need to change your job or place of residence. As a victim, you might not feel safe in your known surroundings anymore — this impression sometimes stays with the victims even after the harassment stops.
You can experience numerous psychological and physical symptoms if you find yourself a victim of stalking.
Effects on Mental Health
Effects on Physical Health
Why Do People Stalk Their Ex
We all want to think we can easily spot a stalker—a socially awkward outcast who probably lives with their computer in their parents’ basement, can’t talk to members of the opposite sex, and likely has no friends.
It can be comforting to hide behind the stereotypes, but people who engage in stalking don’t have to check any of the “stalker boxes” you’d expect them to. There is no scientifically approved method to tell who is a stalker or which of the partners will become one after the end of a relationship. The person who is well-spoken, charming, and outgoing and who presents all those traits even during the relationship can turn into a stalker.
According to a research published in 2012, a stalker’s motivation ranges from a desire to reclaim a prior relationship to a psychotic identification with the victim. Depending on what drives a person into such harassing behavior, stalking can escalate and turn into harassment, with sexual harassment being the most common one.
The Motivation For Stalking an Ex Partner
In many cases, stalking begins after a breakup, but the factors that drive people to stalk are different.
Motivation For Stalking an Ex
|Stalkers are often controlling in multiple areas of their life, including their romantic relationships.|
Feelings of entitlement
|Stalkers often feel that their former partners belong to them.|
|Stalkers see themselves as the victims, the one being left or led on.|
Common Traits of a Stalker Ex-Girlfriend or a Stalker Ex-Boyfriend
There is no clear pattern here. Following a breakup, stalkers might call, email, or text you repeatedly. But this is not a definitive sign of harassing behavior, and it doesn’t always end there.
If a stalker doesn’t find your response to their advances adequate, their behavior may escalate to more direct methods, which is when some traits that many stalkers share come to light. Stalkers can be:
- Obsessive, compulsive, and controlling
- Irresponsible when it comes to taking responsibility for their actions
- Unable to take “no” for an answer
- Prone to mood changes
What Do the Federal and State Laws Say About Stalking Former Partners?
The crime of stalking is mostly regulated on a state level, as all fifty of them have established certain stalking laws.
Regarding federal legislation, there is:
- The Interstate Stalking law, which makes it a crime to travel between states with the intent to commit stalking
- The Violence Against Women Act, which makes it illegal to behave in a way that would cause a person to fear for their safety or to suffer substantial emotional discomfort
Some forms of behavior a stalker exhibits might not be illegal on its own, like repeatedly calling or texting you, showing up unannounced, or leaving gifts or letters. However, if these acts are done frequently and frighten you, it means that you are experiencing harassment, and their actions may be considered stalking according to some laws in your state.
My Ex Is Stalking Me Online! Does the Law Cover Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is a criminal offense and is governed by slander, harassment, and anti-stalking laws, to some degree.
Still, there remains a lack of federal legislation to address cyberstalking, leaving the regulation at the state level. Less than one-third of the states have anti-stalking laws that explicitly cover cyberstalking. Those states have some of the following:
- Both stalking and harassment laws
- Regulations other than harassment or anti-stalking statutes that ban the abuse of digital means of communication
- Laws that can be interpreted to include cyberstalking behaviors
Despite the lack of specific cyberstalking legislation, in most states, it is illegal to harass a person on the internet repeatedly.
How Can DoNotPay Help Me Protect Myself From Stalker Ex-Girlfriends or a Stalking Ex-Boyfriend?
DoNotPay is a virtual lawyer that helps people get out of all kinds of tricky situations. Relationship Protection is one of our app’s features that can help with your specific case — dealing with your stalker ex. Access the app from a web browser or download it to your iOS device and follow these steps:
- Open DoNotPay and scroll down to the Relationship Protection option
- Choose Safety and Stalking
- Provide your ex’s name and describe the situation
- Send the cease and desist letter generated by the app to your ex
The letter demands them to stop with the stalking immediately, but it also serves as written evidence that you attempted to resolve the matter. From a legal standpoint, trying to address an issue before going to court is a significant step that can influence the case positively.
You can also block and report your stalker on social networks using the same Relationship Protection option.
If My Ex Is Stalking Me, What Else Can I Do to Protect Myself?
Stalking is scary, and when the stalker is a former partner, you can be all the more confused about what to do. An ex is someone who knows you and where you live, work, or go to school. This is someone familiar with all of your social profiles and knows how to find you — online or in real life.
There are steps you can take that could potentially make you feel safer:
- Tell a friend, relative, or coworker
- Tell the stalker to stop
- Block and report the stalker
- Keep your address confidential, if possible, and get an unlisted phone number
- Make your social profiles private and change your passwords
- Keep detailed notes
- Contact local law enforcement
Tell a Friend, Relative or Coworker
Talk to your family members and friends. You might feel that you want to keep the situation to yourself, but that will only enable the stalker to continue. Having a support system is a significant first step.
Tell the Stalker to Stop
Confronting the stalker could be a useful step if you feel it is safe to take it. In case you don’t, it’s better to stop all communication immediately. One of the ways to instruct a stalker to stop with the unwanted behavior is to do it in written form — in the cease and desist letter, which DoNotPay can draft for you.
Block and Report the Stalker on Social Media
The point of this is to cut off the channels of communication. You can block the stalker’s number or email address using your built-in phone options or any of the call blockers available. You can also block and report them on social media. DoNotPay can help with that as well.
Keep Your Address Confidential and Get an Unlisted Phone Number
If you have recently moved and your ex does not know your current address, you can apply for the address confidentiality program.
If you are considering changing your number due to unwanted phone calls, make sure to get a new, unlisted number.
Make Your Social Profiles Private and Change Your Passwords
With cyberstalking, your best option is to set your social media profiles to private. Your ex could try to get in touch with you through fake accounts, and you will undermine them by changing the settings to private.
Changing your passwords is also essential if the stalker is your ex since they might know your passwords already. Change them on all your active profiles and make sure to log out of all sessions other than the one you are currently using.
Keep Detailed Notes
Make sure to document everything. Write down every conversation and log unwanted calls, texts, emails, or social media comments.
- Write down the date and time of every incident related to the stalking. Make sure to include what the stalker did and what you did or said in return
- Save any letters or presents left by the stalker
- Save copies and screenshots of every online interaction with the stalker. Get hard copies of everything as well
It is crucial to note everything you do to address the situation. If you tried to confront the stalker, describe the situation in detail in written form. If you sent them a cease and desist letter, save a copy. If you blocked or reported the stalker on social media — get screenshots as proof. You will need detailed evidence if you decide to contact the police or file a civil lawsuit.
Contact Local Law Enforcement
If the stalking doesn’t stop, call the police or go to your local police station. It is important to gather evidence about stalking and to have them ready before going to the police. Evidence will make your arguments credible.
What Are My Legal Options? Can I Sue an Ex for Stalking?
Stalking is a crime, and with enough evidence, there could be a criminal case against the stalker, which could lead to imprisonment if the stalker is found guilty.
Another option is to file a civil lawsuit against the stalker. You might get financial compensation and hold the stalker liable for their actions.
If you decide not to go to court, there are some protection options.
A Restraining Order
A restraining order is meant to keep dangerous people away from you. While it is generally used to protect against physical violence, a restraining order can also order the stalker to stay away from you altogether. In most states, you can file for a restraining order against your stalker, and even if that doesn’t seem enough to keep them away, violating a restraining order is a crime. The stalker can be arrested for restraining order violation even if the police don’t have enough information to arrest them for stalking.
A Protective Order
Think about getting a protective order against an ex stalking you. You can apply for a protective order based on stalking in most states, especially if the stalker is an intimate partner or a former partner.
DoNotPay Can Assist You With Issues Other Than the Stalking Ex
Aside from helping you stop your stalker, DoNotPay is a clever tool that offers a bunch of additional interesting features you can use in your day-to-day life.
The app — that you can open in a web browser or on an iOS device — can be of use with unemployment insurance issues, reporting or blocking spam calls, dealing with free trials via virtual credit card, or any other bureaucratic nuisance that comes to mind.
Check out some of the things DoNotPay can help you with:
- Solving credit card issues
- Avoiding phone queues when getting in touch with customer service
- Fighting speeding tickets
- Contesting parking tickets
- Getting help with bills you are unable to pay
- Keeping yourself safe from stalking and harassment
- Getting revenge on robocalls
- Suing anyone in small claims court
- Scheduling a DMV appointment in any state
- Getting compensation for delayed or canceled flights
- Canceling memberships and subscriptions
- Disputing traffic tickets