January is National Stalking Awareness month, and as a victim of stalking I wanted to shed light on this issue and help people to understand just how serious it is.
What is stalking? Is it really a serious issue?
I define stalking as a continuous and purposeful invasion of another person's space and privacy with disregard and apathy to the said person's request to discontinue contact. This invasion of space can include but is not limited to contact via phone, social media, messaging, sending unwanted gifts, and/or subtle intimidation.
To understand how serious stalking is, simply check out these statistics:
Weapons are used to harmed victims in 1 out of 5 cases.
If you've checked out my website you already know that dating violence is the leading cause of female homicide in the United States and that 3 women are murdered every day in the United States by a current or former male partner. The issue is of partner-related violence is so prevalent globally that it has been renamed as intimate femicide.
How can you prevent stalking?
We know when something just does not feel right. Even if it seems like small forms of manipulation initially, they will more than likely become bigger and more violent forms of manipulation. With statistics like those, you're probably wondering what you can do to make sure you do not become a victim of stalking. Look into something similar to my See It Coming course, since many forms of dating violence have many similarities. Have a firm grip on who you are and have a strong circle of friends around you to raise the red flag when they see areas of concern.
I once heard a Ted Talk where a psychologist simply described it as "Too Much. Too Soon. Too Fast." Sometimes the person is just eager to get to know you, but other times they may be attempting to slowly erode your boundaries and control you. Speak up and see how they react. If they are understanding and their actions reflect someone who respects your boundaries, they may have just been excited. If they become angry, withdrawn, or agree but then act adversely - you know what to do.
What if it is already happening?
When I first realized I had become a victim of stalking, I did as much research as I could to figure out how I could stop it. Knowledge is power here. Every stalker is different, so you should know what you're dealing with in order to take the best course of action. There are many different types of stalkers and what stops one may encourage another.
Stalking for me began in 2015, and I was easily able to find an article on it. Today, it took me more than 10 minutes to find an article with the appropriate information to provide to you. As a result, I plan on archiving this article as a resource under the See It Coming section of my website to ensure it remains available for anyone who may need it in the future. It describes the different types of stalkers and the best course of action against them.
I will share something with you that a female police officer told me when I considered a restraining order:
"A restraining order is only a piece of paper and it cannot protect you. Remember that."
Understand that a restraining order may incite a stalker to higher levels of violence, so be sure that you are protected before you decide to take that route.
What to do if someone you know is being stalked?
When I was stalked, a friend accidentally told my stalker where I worked. I was terrified. I never felt safe unless I was with someone, and even then I knew it was a possibility that my stalker could pop up at any time and hurt me because he was physically stronger than me.
Look out for your friend and have an idea of their schedule. If they go missing for an extended period of time, be ready to call the police or someone nearby to physically check on them. When the stalking first began, my family and I had a check in plan for the mornings and evenings when I would be by myself. Thankfully, I had a roommate at the time which gave me some sense of safety.
Do not under any circumstance share information about your friend to anyone to that person if your friend has expressly told you they do not want contact with that person. It may seem like a romantic gesture, but check in with your friend first to see if the negative feelings have subsided before you release information like their address, place of work, or where they will be at a certain time.
So remember - stalking is not a joke or a game. Take it very seriously, and if you think you are being stalked make educating and protecting yourself a priority.
Gabriella Payne builds teams and communities through inspiration and strategic confidence development. She works with universities, athletic groups, and corporations to help students and recent graduates transform their mental thought patterns by teaching new, healthier habits. She is also an advocate for the prevention of domestic abuse and teaches a series called "See It Coming".