Is Someone Stalking You?

What does the law consider to be stalking?

Behavior that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear meets the legal qualifications of stalking. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines stalking behaviors as follows:

making unwanted phone calls

sending unwanted emails, instant messages, text messages, voice messages, or social media messages

approaching a victim or showing up unwanted, such as at the victim’s home, workplace, or school

leaving strange or potentially threatening items for the victim to find

watching, following, or tracking a victim

sneaking into the victim’s home or car and doing things to scare the victim or let them know the perpetrator had been there

Stalking is very similar to Domestic Violence in the impact on the victim. Studies show that 52% of female victims and 51% of male victims, experience damage to personal property or belongings. Victims of stalking also experience physical and emotional impacts similar to those who experience Domestic Violence. There is also a wide range of levels of stalking from physically following someone to using technology to track their victim.

Most people are not aware of the ways technology can be used as a weapon against them. Computers and phones can be monitored in many ways. All your visits on the computer and phone can be tracked from the memory of your phone. There are also ways to secretly record everything you do on a computer and phone.

Collecting Evidence… super important in case things get out of control.

Collecting evidence in domestic violence cases depends on many factors. It is important to capture evidence as quickly as possible. If there is serious physical or sexual abuse, the police may also be involved in collecting evidence. However, it is important to collect your own evidence outside of the police for use in Order of Protection hearings and family law cases. Even if charges won’t be filed against an abuser, you need to collect evidence.

The best evidence is photographs and, if you can, should be taken using both a Polaroid camera with film that can’t be altered as well as regular color film to document any physical changes that were done to pets, property or physical harm. If you don’t have access to this type of camera, make sure to have some way to date the pictures. A good example is a newspaper with the date or maybe something on the computer in the background that shows a date. If your camera allows you to date the phots, do this as well. Text them to a trusted friend or family member so you can also preserve the date. For the best documentation possible these photos should be taken by either a medical professional or the police department. You may also use a Third-Party that is not a family member who would be available to testify if needed.

You will want to take pictures of the following:

1. Red marks;

2. Bruising (sometimes this takes time to follow up as the bruising becomes more pronounced);

3. Damage to clothing;

4. Damage to property;

5. Scene of the incident to provide a picture of how things might have happened;

6. Pictures of the person in a car if they are outside of your home, workplace, or otherwise seem to have followed you;

7. Anything that would be helpful… example: footprints to a window or other possible indication that someone had been stalking you.

Of course, if there is an emergency situation call 911. The law will allow conversations that are relayed over the phone to the dispatcher, and taped, to be admitted into court. In cases when verbal yelling threats can be captured on tape, even if you don’t fear for your life, it helps to make the case for a restraining order or bolster a case in divorce or child custody.

Keep a journal of every abusive incident which includes the date and time as well as a description of the abuser’s behavior, a list of your injuries and your feelings during the incident. If there are witnesses to the event be sure to include their names and contact information. If you are living in an apartment building and your neighbors can hear the yelling and threats through the walls be sure to record their contact information as well.

Even if the police aren’t called, visit a doctor to have your injuries treated and recorded in your medical record. These recorded injuries can be vital during a court case or when filing for divorce or child custody. Collecting evidence in domestic violence is an important aspect to protecting yourself.

Take photos of the injuries 2 to 3 days after the event as well since that’s how long it takes soft tissue injury to appear as black and blue marks on the skin. Immediate photos will record broken skin and bones but soft tissue injury will take several days to appear. Use a flash camera. Use a ruler in close up shots to indicate the size of the bruises. Take shots that are distance with your face in the photo to prove that it’s you and then close up with the ruler to show size and dimension.

If any property was destroyed take photos of that as well. If the furniture was overturned or broken, if clothing was ripped or there are scratches on doors or windows get pictures.

Sign and date the back of any and all photos and if possible use film that will automatically date the photographs.

Store these pictures and other evidence on multiple devices… not just your phone!

Place your pictures and journal in a safe place. Make copies of the journal and pictures to be kept in a separate place. For instance, keep the originals in a safe deposit box at a bank or mail individual records in the journal to a trusted friend out of town to be kept sealed until your need it. Keep a copy at a friends house in the area or a safe deposit box — but easily accessible.

I suggest that you create Google Drive (comes with signing up for a Gmail Email). You can easily upload documents. It also allows you to set up an Excel Spreadsheet which can help you keep dates, notes, and links to pictures so you an find any specifics about an event easily. All these files can be shared with others… attorneys, prosecutors, mental health providers, etc.

You don’t need to feel that you are overreacting.

Many people fail to document weird events early on. They chalk it up to something strange… maybe it won’t happen again… or they are just being unreasonable or overreacting. Even if you think it is not a big deal you should at least document it just in case things continue. It is hard to know if something will continue or just stop suddenly. If things do continue, you will want to show the Court the progression of the obsession. Even small events can show a pattern and help explain why you feel uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, this is about you feeling uncomfortable. It is about it happened just a few too many times without a good reason. Things may stay innocent and just annoying. If it gets to be more of an obsession, you should consider filing for a restraining order. Most courts have victim advocates who can help walk you through the process and help you determine if you do need legal protection. At attorney can help you as well and it is not as expensive as you might think.

Final Thoughts…

What is important is you being safe and feeling safe. Remember that you should try to vocalize to this person that they are making you uncomfortable and you would like them to leave you alone. Some people will get the hint. If this is more a disgruntled fellow employee or someone who works at a business you frequent, it is time to talk to the manager and let them know what is going on. Be prepared that this can also end it or make it worse. Be sure to document everything… who you talked to, when (date and time) and the contents of the conversation.

Last thing… always tell someone else about what is going on! Even if you think it is weird, silly, or just annoying. Another point of view is often helpful in determining if you should be concerned or not. Plus, if things continue, you will want someone who knows the situation to be able to call for help if you need it. Be vigilant. Look around you. Be aware of your surroundings. Have your phone handy if you are walking to your car or out in public. Take precaution and you will show anyone that you are paying attention. The best defense is a good offense!

If you do have more questions, check out my publication on Domestic Violence. https://lawinkc.com/intimate-partner-violence-opt-in

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