Ask a counsellor

Stalking/Harassment

What is Stalking or Harassment?
Stalking occurs when a person who has no legal reason to contact another, continues to bother him/her after they have been asked to be left alone. This repeated, unwanted contact can make you afraid for your personal safety. This behaviour is stalking and is against the law.

Often these behaviours are directed not only toward the individual, but also towards his/her family and friends.

In Canada, when criminal charges are laid by the police for stalking, the crime is known as criminal harassment.

Are You or Someone you Know Being Stalked?
Are you afraid for your safety or the safety of someone you know, because of the words or actions of another person?

Is someone following you or someone you know, from place to place?
Is someone repeatedly communicating with you, either directly or indirectly?
a. Directly can be telephone, in person, leaving voicemail messages, or sending unwanted gifts, notes, letters, texts, or e-mails.
b. Indirectly can be contacting people you know and having messages sent through them or simply by making repeated unwanted inquiries about you.
Is someone persistently close by, watching your home, or any place where you or anyone you know, live, work, carry on business, or happen to be?
Have you or any member of your family been threatened by this person?
If you answered YES to any of these questions you or someone you know, may be a victim of Criminal Harassment/Stalking.

Stalking Behaviour Includes:
Calling you over and over again, and perhaps hanging up whenever you answer the phone.
Contacting you on the internet, through constant texts, or e-mail messages.
Following you, your family or friends.
Leaving threatening voice messages.
Sending you gifts you do not want.
Watching you or tracking where you go.
Contacting your friends, family members or co-workers in order to learn more about you.
Threatening you, your children, family, pets, or friends.
Such unwanted behaviour can be frightening and cause emotional stress.

Who Stalks and Why?
Stalkers have a variety of personalities and characteristics, but they mostly fit into two basic categories.

Stalkers obsessed with a stranger:
Some stalkers fixate on a stranger. They may believe their conduct will eventually win the love of their victim. About 12% of harassment victims are harassed by a stranger.

Stalkers obsessed with someone they know:
Many stalkers know their victims and are trying to control them, whether they are ex-partners, spouses, acquaintances, co-workers or close friends. About 88% of harassment victims fall into this category. In many cases, the stalking is an extension of family violence.

Statistics
In 2002, 76% of criminal harassment victims were women.
Female victims are twice as likely as males to be stalked by a previous spouse.
8 out of 10 victims of criminal harassment had some form of relationship with the stalker. 6% was by their partner, 45% was their ex-partner.
61% of women stalked by their intimate partner also had experienced violence by a current or previous spouse. 29% of all women that have been stalked have contacted the police.
Relationship stalkers use behaviours which are more life threatening to their victims.
Over 60% of stalking victims pursued by an ex-spouse were harassed for over one year.
A statistically small number of stalking victims are celebrities.
Effects of Stalking on Victims
The high degree of unpredictability of this crime often has an overwhelming impact on victims. As each individual stalking case is different, so is the degree to which each person is affected.

Many victims experience similar feelings: shame, guilt, and/or self-blame, anger, fear.

This experience can also take its toll physically: sleeplessness and/or nightmares, depression, anxiety attacks and other stress-related disorders, headaches and stomach problems.

Many victims find themselves isolated.

All stalking victims find their lives disrupted.

Ways to Increase Your Personal Safety
You are NOT alone! You can break the silence; by calling the police, contacting a community help service, and by talking to a friend, co-worker or family member.

Maintain detailed notes about the stalking conduct. Dates, times, places, actions and threats are easier to explain and remember when written down.

Keep all recorded voicemail messages, texts, e-mails, gifts, letters, or notes that have been sent by the individual. Keep a list of emergency numbers (police, immediate family, friends, co-workers, and victim’s advocacy groups) posted in several locations.

Some protective measures to follow include:

Tell others:
Inform all your friends, family, neighbours, teachers, school counsellors, co-workers, and security where you live and work. Your school/workplace may have programs to help deal with harassment.

Keep personal information private:
Do not use your social insurance number, except for banking and income tax forms. Remove personal details from things you throw out or recycle. Remove your nameplate and any other personal information at your workplace.

Be safe on the telephone:
Consider an unlisted number. Carry a cell phone for emergency calls. Use your telephone service provider’s calling features: Call Trace, Call Reject, Block Caller Display, etc.

Keep your distance:
Do NOT agree to have contact with a person who you think may be stalking you – contact the police. Each stalking situation is different. Consider that sometimes, when a stalker is confronted or meets with resistance, he/she may react with violence or the conduct may escalate.

“The loss is more than just time out of your day to fight it. It’s your soul, it’s your privacy, it’s your being, it’s your emotions – everything is taken away from you. You are robbed of everything.”
~Jodi