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Are You A Victim of Stalking? How to Protect Yourself Against Stalkers

Country super star Dolly Parton launched into fame with her 1970's hit “Jolene.” But things weren’t always easy for this star. As the story goes, Parton came home one day to find a baby in a box. Along with the baby was a note from Parton's stalker. The baby was a gift to Parton. A wild stalker tale.

Stalking is a very real problem for a reported 7.5 million Americans each year. The news media focuses on celebrity cases. But the truth is, stalking is even more real and prevalent in the everyday world. Its victims are everyday people. And it happens every day.

What is stalking?

Stalking is the repetitive harassment, contact, and unwanted attention of one individual toward another. These acts may include phone calls, emails or texts, and watching or following the victim. Some stalkers will even resort to spying on their victim by using cameras, GPS, and listening devices.

Stalking is common. A recent survey found that 8 percent of women and 2 percent of men were the victim of stalking at some point in their life. Some statistics state that 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be the victim of stalking at some point in their life. While stalking may be manifest in a myriad of methods and patterns, the bottom line is power and control. In the end, the stalker strives to distort their victim's sense of reality.

Common stalker behavior

The majority of stalkers are not psychotic. Many suffer from mental issues, ranging from substance abuse to personality disorders. The driving force behind most stalking is not sexual, contrary to popular belief. Motivation stems from anger and hostility and real or perceived rejection.

Stalking's emotional toll

Stalker victims who are not physically harmed may still experience an array of emotional stresses. These include insomnia, anxiety, social dysfunction, and depression. Issues like these can continue to plague the victim for years after the threat has passed. Studies show that up to a third of stalking victims live in fear that the stalking will never end.

Unfortunately, stalking victims and even law enforcement are at loss as to what to do. The reason being, in many stalker cases, the stalkers will terrorize and bring emotional hurt without ever breaking the law.

What to do if you are being stalked

If a friend or loved one of yours is the victim of stalking, provide validation and support. In order to be convicted of a crime, threatening acts and harassment alone are not enough. To be considered stalking, a credible act of violence must occur.

Go to work to help the victim establish a paper trail of sorts. Gather evidence of stalking, such as phone records, copies of any communication, and photos of the stalker in action.

Research state laws and anti-stalking statutes. Inform the local authorities, and provide them with evidence to support your claim. Stalker victims may be eligible for a protective or restraining order.

Keep in mind that a restraining order may not deter the stalker. Develop a safety plan with close friends and co-workers. You may even choose to inform the victim's neighbors.

Stalking laws

Stalking is a crime under the federal government. Stalking statues vary from state to state. Stalking charges in New York define the crime as repeated harassment creating credible threat of harm. Find out what is applicable in the state in which you or your friend lives. Less than a third of states consider it a felony on first offense. The majority of states will consider it a felony on a second offense or when it involves aggravating factors. These factors include possession of a weapon, violation of a court order, victim under 16 years, or repeated offense.

If you are at all concerned for your personal safely, always play it safe. They say your gut knows. Stay informed, and get help.