I remember when I was in college. I had moved to a school that was 5 to 6 hours away from the family home so not exactly something that would make visiting home easy necessarily. At the time, I lived in a residence that was a large house (4 floors) and was all girls. At some point along the way, the teachers went on strike and it didn’t take long before literally all the girls went home. There weren’t many of us in the house necessarily, it was a larger home versus the massive residences you see now and most of the folks lived much closer to the school than I did, making going home relatively easy. No big deal, I didn’t mind. Being home alone has never bothered me. Before long though, I started getting these strange phone calls. Considering everyone knew a bunch of girls lived in the house, it wasn’t unusual to get the occasional prank phone call so whatever, I just ignored it. But they didn’t stop and they were starting to get a little creepy. I told my mom about them and poof, suddenly I had a train ticket home, where I stayed until the strike was over.
Stalking and harassment is something that happens a lot more than most people realize and it can take on many different forms.
Examples may include;
- contacting you via social media, text messages, email or other internet based communication
- following you, your family and / or your friends
- leaving threatening voice messages
- sending you gifts or things you do not want
- watching you or tracking where you go
- threatening you, your children, your family, pets and / or friends
- threatening or damaging your property or hurting your pets
- calling you over and over, hanging up or not speaking when you answer
- calling your children, family, friends and / or co-workers and asking questions about you
Stalking / criminal harassment can be perpetrated by anyone. Examples include a spouse or partner, a person you lived with, someone you dated, a client, a former employee, a co-worker, a fellow student, a peer or even a stranger.
Many stalkers begin by gathering information about their victims. Former intimate partners have a huge start on this and can use personal information as a form of blackmail against their victims.
Unwanted contacts are the most common elements of stalking. Leaving or sending unwanted items, phone calls, text messages, emails, hang-up calls, voice messages and persistent attempts to engage the victim in conversation are very common. Another form of harassment is to “coincidentally” show up where the victim goes – parties, the gym, the movies, the grocery store, school, work and so on. Stalkers may simply stand within an observable distance of the victims. This type of tracking and following makes it extremely difficult for victims to elude stalkers.
Stalkers have learned how to take vandalism to a new level of terror. It is common for stalkers to break into vehicles (leaving no external traces) and either remove parts of the interior, re-arrange mirrors and seat positions or damage the interior. Stalkers want their victims to know it was not some random act of vandalism, but intentional terrorism instead. These forms of vandalism are extremely tricky because a lot of victims aren’t taken seriously and after a while, many victims begin to doubt their own sanity.
Stalkers have a variety of personalities and characteristics. Some may have a mental disorder. Experts have described many types of stalkers but they mostly fit into two basic categories:
Stalkers obsessed with a stranger: some stalkers fixate on a stranger, sometimes a celebrity. They may believe their conduct will eventually win the love of their victim. Or they may have delusions that the victim already loves them but cannot return their affection because of some external influence.
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. In many cases, the stalking is an extension of family violence.
Being harassed or stalked is not your fault. The person may claim to love you, but he or she really wants to control you. You have the right to reject a friendship, separate from a spouse, or break up with a partner. Just because you know the person does not mean that you must put up with the harassing behaviour. You are not to blame if someone repeatedly bothers you or follows you around. Remember, what they are doing is NOT love. It is against the law and you can take action.