Stalking is persistent attention that may involve unwanted communication, showing up uninvited, or intrusive use of technology to monitor or harass you.

If another person is following or harassing you persistently, you could be dealing with a stalker.

Stalking involves persistent and unwanted attention that creates fear or discomfort in another person. It may include behaviors like surveillance, showing up to places uninvited, or intrusive use of technology.

Stalking behaviors can be driven by various reasons, like jealousy, revenge, power, or even wanting to establish a relationship. Sometimes, mental health problems play a role in this behavior.

Here are five signs you may be dealing with a stalker.

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Stalking behaviors can range from persistent unwanted contact to more threatening or aggressive actions. While not always obviously aggressive or harmful, the behavior is typically distressing and intimidating for the person being stalked.

1. Persistent unwanted contact

A stalker may engage in unwanted communication. This includes repeated attempts to establish contact despite clear indications that the contact is unwanted through:

  • calls
  • texts
  • emails
  • social media

It might escalate to incessant messages that could include declarations of love or anger, even after being asked to stop.

2. Inappropriate fixation or obsession

Inappropriate fixation or obsession involves an abnormal and unwarranted interest in your life, routines, or personal details. Stalkers might seem excessively invested in your well-being or constantly seek to interact with you despite your discomfort or avoidance.

3. Surveillance and monitoring

Stalkers might track your movements, show up unexpectedly, or repeatedly drive by your home, workplace, or places you frequent.

An intimate partner may exhibit stalking behaviors such as:

  • persistently monitoring your activities
  • using a GPS tracker on your car
  • logging into your social media accounts without permission

This behavior often extends beyond what’s considered typical in a relationship, creating fear or discomfort for the victim.

4. Aggressive or intrusive behavior

Stalkers may exhibit aggressive or intrusive behaviors such as:

  • following you
  • loitering near your home or workplace
  • appearing uninvited at social gatherings

Stalkers may try to control your movements or use threatening language or gestures.

5. Unwanted gifts or messages

Sending gifts, letters, or messages repeatedly, even after being asked to cease, can indicate stalking. This behavior might initially seem innocent but can escalate to becoming invasive or threatening.

The effects of stalking can be severe, reaching into various aspects of life. This may lead to:

Some reports have even referred to it as “soul-destroying.” Victims often face disruptions in:

  • daily routines
  • personal relationships
  • work
  • their sense of security

Stalking can affect all groups of people irrespective of gender, age, race, or background. But compared to men, women are more commonly the victims (8%-32% among females vs. 2%-13% among males).

Stalking is also more common among young people between the ages of 18 and 29 years old.

Around 80% of stalking behaviors are committed by men.

About 54% of stalking cases are within an intimate relationship, and of these, 45% occur after the relationship is over.

These post-relationship cases present higher risks, often characterized by persistent and severe behaviors, including threats and violence.

Intimate partner stalkers often possess intimate knowledge of their former partners’ routines, vulnerabilities, and personal details acquired during the relationship.

This familiarity may allow them to sidestep legal measures like restraining orders, persistently pursuing and harassing their ex-partners while potentially avoiding legal consequences.

If you or someone you know are experiencing controlling behavior or domestic violence, you can:

  • Create a safety plan: If you feel threatened, develop a safety plan that includes where to go, who to contact, and how to access help in an emergency.
  • Inform trusted individuals: Share your situation with trusted friends, family, or neighbors. Having a support system can provide emotional and physical assistance.
  • Change routine: Alter your daily routine if possible. Use different routes or times to go to work, school, or other regular activities.
  • Adjust privacy settings: Review and modify your social media and online profiles to restrict access to personal information.
  • Keep detailed records: Document everything meticulously, including dates, times, and any received communication. These records can serve as important evidence if the situation escalates.
  • Contact support services: Reach out to local law enforcement or advocacy organizations specializing in stalking or domestic violence. They can provide guidance and resources.
  • Hotlines and helplines: Consider contacting helplines such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) or the National Stalking Helpline for immediate support and guidance.
  • Therapy and counseling: Seeking professional help through therapy or counseling can assist in processing emotions and developing coping strategies.

When to seek police support

Seek legal assistance if the stalking situation feels unsafe or unmanageable or if the stalker disregards any established boundaries or legal measures.

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Stalking involves persistent and unwanted behaviors that instill fear, distress, and emotional harm in the victim. Stalkers use various tactics to exert control and dominance over their targets, often causing severe emotional distress, anxiety, and trauma.

If you believe you’re being stalked, your safety comes first. Documenting everything, reach out to specialists in stalking, consider a restraining order, and involve law enforcement.

Make a safety plan, guard your personal information online, and prioritize your well-being by seeking counseling or therapy for emotional support.