January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects over three million people in the United States annually. Hubbard House, the domestic violence center serving Duval and Baker counties, would like people to understand that stalking is a crime and if you or someone you know is being stalked there is help available.
Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific individual that causes a person to fear death or serious bodily injury. Victims fear not knowing what will happen next or if the stalking will ever stop. The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction and severe depression is some of the effects of stalking on victims. Also, nowadays with the use of the internet and smart phones people can become easily cyberstalked. It is a technologically-based attack on one person who has been targeted specifically for that attack for reasons of anger, revenge or control.
It is important to understand that there are steps you can take to increase safety from a stalker and cyberstalking. Take a look at the tips below to help keep you safe from a stalker.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, you probably are. Be sure not to downplay the danger.
- Take threats seriously. Danger is usually higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when a victim tries to leave or end the relationship. If you are in immediate danger call 911.
- Contact a crisis hotline, such as Hubbard House’s 24-hour hotline, to devise a safety plan, get information about local laws, seek services, and information on a protection order.
- Develop a safety plan such as changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and have friend or relative go places with you.
- Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
- Keep evidence of the stalking. Write down the time, date and place when the stalker contacts you or follows you. Keep emails, phone messages, letters or notes. Photograph any damages or injuries the stalker causes.
- Never reveal your home address on any social network page.
- If you think you’re a target of cyberstalking, have your PC checked by a professional.
- Conduct an internet search using your name and phone number, be sure that there is nothing out there that you are not aware of.