Myths of Stalking
MYTH #1: Only celebrities are stalked.
FACT: The vast majority of the 1.4 million people who are stalked each year are ordinary citizens.
MYTH #2: If you ignore stalking, it will go away.
FACT: Stalkers seldom “just stop.” Victims should seek help from law enforcement to stop the stalking.
MYTH #3: Stalking is annoying but not illegal.
FACT: Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
MYTH #4: You can’t be stalked by someone you’re dating.
FACT: If your “friend” tracks your every move in a way that causes you fear, that is stalking.
MYTH #5: Technology is too expensive and confusing for most stalkers to use.
FACT: Stalkers can buy easy-to-use surveillance equipment for as little as $30.
MYTH #6: If you confront the stalker, he or she will go away.
FACT: Confronting or trying to reason with a stalker can be dangerous.
MYTH #7: Only complete strangers become stalkers.
FACT: Most individuals being stalked are stalked by people that they know - 77% of female and 64% of male victims know their stalker. Each year, more than half a million women are actively stalked by their intimate partner.
MYTH #8: Stalking is not a problem on college campuses.
FACT: Research indicates that between 1/4 and 1/3 of college students have been stalked.
MYTH #9: Stalkers are mostly harmless.
FACT: There are cases of stalking that last for years and never turn violent, and others that turn deadly quickly. The cases that seem harmless may be the most deadly.
MYTH #10: Stalking is no big deal and doesn't significantly impact the life of a stalking victim.
FACT: 30% of stalking victims seek psychological counseling as a result of their victimization. Recent estimates indicate that over 1.4 million Americans are stalked each year, and that 1 in 20 women will become targets of stalking behavior at least once during their lifetimes. Most victims are stalked for an average of 1.8 years, and 1/5 of the victims are so fearful that they move locations in an attempt to escape their stalker.
MYTH #11: Just ignore stalking, it will eventually go away. If you stop responding to your stalker, he/she will get bored of it.
FACT: This is not necessarily the case, and early action is important. The sooner action is taken to stop the stalking, whether it is a police warning, solicitor's letter, arrest, etc., the higher the chance it has of stopping. Legislation exists for this reason. Research has shown that the longer stalkers are allowed to carry on, the less likely they are to stop.
MYTH #12: If you meet your stalker "just once" or decide to talk to them "this one time," then the stalker will stop what he/she is doing.
FACT: If possible, you should never agree to meet with your stalker or communicate with him/her in any way. Any attention from you, good or bad, will feed their obsession and may give you false hope that they will stop. It might also put you in a dangerous situation. Do not be manipulated by a stalker's attempts to control you with false promises such as "I'll stop if you just listen to me one time," or "I'll leave you alone if you meet with me one last time." Report incidents to the police and save any evidence such as videophone messages, e-mails, or unwanted gifts. If you have already involved the police, it may weaken a prosecution case against your stalker because you will be viewed as having cooperated with the stalker when you decide to meet with/talk to him/her.
MYTH #13: A stalker should be "let down easy."
FACT: This is one of the worst things you could do. Don't try to sugar-coat your "No." Don't agree to see your stalker "as a friend". You cannot reason with a stalker. Any way you try to be kind and soften the impact of what you are saying just encourages the stalker and invites the stalker to continue. If you say, "I don't want a relationship right now," the stalker may think that he/she just needs to wait until you change your mind. If you say, "I'm in a relationship right now," the stalker may think that he/she just has to win you over, or perhaps that he/she has someone to get someone out of the way. It is important to must make a simple, blunt statement with no explanations, time limits, or loopholes. Then, sever contact - completely.
MYTH #14: A restraining order will stop or deter a stalker.
FACT: Stalking victims are usually told to get a restraining order. These are only of limited usefulness. It can stop a "mild" stalker, or someone who is still fairly rational and who cares about social or legal repercussions. However, about 2/3 of restraining orders are violated by stalkers. Do not make the mistake of thinking the predator will respond to a restraining order the way you would. This legal enforcement will do nothing to stop a stalker with a high degree of investment in the situation. This type can include former intimate partners, a more delusional stalker, or one motivated by revenge. In some cases, the situation can even be worsened by this legal tactic. It's may be perceived as an insult, and can precipitate a violent situation.
If you are considering asking for a restraining order, find out how they are enforced in your area. Is breaking the order a misdemeanor (i.e. equivalent to littering or jaywalking), or is it a felony (a serious criminal conviction)? What will police do if the order is violated? If the stalker just gets a warning or a "slap on the wrist," things have just become worse. The stalker will now feel that he/she is invulnerable, and that he/she can do whatever he likes with no consequences. Talk to local domestic violence organizations and stalking victim support groups. Find out from them also how orders are enforced in practice. Put this information together with an estimate of the level of investment of the stalker and an estimate of the level of danger involved. Make an informed decision about the best way to go in your situation. In any case, far more powerful than a restraining order is making sure a stalker cannot get to you, and making sure you can defend yourself or have a safety plan if he/she does.
MYTH #15: If the stalker has not directly threatened you, then you are not in any danger.
FACT: The fact there has been no danger up until now does not mean it won't happen. It is true that some stalkers may warn their targets with obviously threatening statements such as, "We have to be together - forever," or "If I can't have you, nobody can." However, even if the stalker has not made such an overtly dangerous statement, any words or behaviors that indicate an unwillingness to let go of his/her obsession is a red flag. Changing circumstances in the target's life or in the life of the predator could precipitate violent behavior. One example would be if the target becomes engaged. This could trigger deadly violence in the deluded stalker who sees this as a betrayal of his/her imagined relationship with the target.
Also, just because a stalker doesn't have a criminal record does not mean he/she is not dangerous. Many infamous stalkers/killers did not commit any act of criminal violence before the murders they are known for. A past history of violence does indicate a higher possibility of future violence. The absence of a violent history, on the other hand, does not mean that the stalker is not capable of being violent. Every violent offender has a first time. Being stalked is itself a warning. Any stalking situation should be regarded as dangerous.
MYTH #16: “You should be flattered – I’d keep the presents, etc.” People you know may try to make light of the situation and not take it as seriously as they should.
FACT: You don't have to be flattered, you might be terrified. These comments are usually from people who are ignorant about the subject and what it is like to be on the receiving end of a stalker. Try to ignore comments that upset or anger you and gently educate these people if they are members of your circle. You are not alone in your situation. Preserve any presents/objects, letters you are suspicious of, and inform the police. Report ALL incidents.
MYTH #17: You need three of the same incidents within a week / nothing can be done if you go to the police for help.
FACT: The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is there to protect you. The evidence required for the police to take action is 'on more than one occasion' i.e. 2 incidents. They do NOT need to be the same (i.e.; can be a phone call and being followed) but they do need to be reasonably close together in time. The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 takes a test called the 'reasonable person test', that is, if a reasonable person considers what is happening to you to be harassment then action can be taken. A police warning might be enough to stop it, but if necessary, the power for the police to make an arrest is there.
MYTH #18: I don’t want to involve the police, nothing can be done.
FACT: The power of the ‘Protection from Harassment’ Act reaches into the Civil Law as well as the Criminal Law. If you don't want to take action through the police, you can go to a solicitor and obtain an Injunction under the Protection From Harassment Act of 1997 through the Civil Courts, although this will cost money. If you feel that you are going to be harassed by someone (ex-partner, stalker coming out of prison) then you are able to obtain an Injunction for an Apprehended Breach you are anticipating harassment to occur, and are using the Civil Law to protect you before this happens.
A breach of Restraining Order/Injunction obtained either through the Criminal OR Civil Court is an arrestable offence and is liable for up to 5 years imprisonment.
Sources: The National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center, www.nss.org.uk / /downloads/myths-about-stalking.doc