Virginia state law states that any person who, on more than one occasion, engages in conduct known, or reasonably should be known, to place another person in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault or bodily injury is in violation of stalking.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that stalking is a prevalent issue, affecting both men and women. While it is true that the majority of stalkers are male, a study by Colorado State University found that in the United States, more than five percent of men have experienced being stalked in their lifetime. They also report that over one million women and nearly 400,000 men are stalked annually in the United States.
January is stalking awareness month. This is a serious crime that police and other law enforcement take very seriously. In addition to the mental and emotional toll many victims suffer, stalking often leads to violence. Stopping a stalker before he or she progresses to violence is a priority.
Cyber-stalking is becoming more and more prevalent as technology continues to evolve. While stalkers often utilize spyware to eavesdrop on their victim’s conversations and interactions, social media has emerged as a powerful weapon for cyber-stalkers in recent years. Stalkers may post threatening messages to the victim or publicly post the victim’s personal information. Cyber-stalkers may even go as far as posing as the victim online and post items that could embarrass or reflect poorly on the victim.
If you believe you, or someone you know, is a victim of stalking, call the police immediately.
The unfortunate reality is that stalking cases are oftentimes difficult to prove. So what should you do?
Keep a log. This will allow law enforcement to bring as strong a case as possible against your stalker:
- Document every instance the stalker follows or makes contact with you.
- Take photos, if possible.
- Be careful not to include your personal information as the log will likely become evidence and the accused will have a right to see it.
Make a safety plan. Your local law enforcement will likely be able to assist you with this but here are a few tips you can utilize right away:
- When at home, always have your phone handy and ready to dial 9-1-1.
- If you have children, have a code word prepared or an action plan for your kids to get to a safe location quickly.
- Inform your neighbors of the issue and make sure they know what your stalker looks like.
- Have a small bag packed, so that if need be, you can get out of the house without delay.
- At work or at school, ensure that security officers, teachers and co-workers are aware of the issue and know what your stalker looks like.
If you have a protective order or similar court order, make and keep copies, and have them readily available to present to law enforcement, if and when needed.
Stalking is a stressful and frightening situation that could happen to any of us. In addition to your local police department, there are many resources available to educate you, friends and loved ones about this issue. If you know anyone who might be dealing with a potential stalker, encourage them to call the police.
If you want to explore your options or obtain help with safety planning, please call the Fairfax County 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 703 360-7273.