Being harassed or stalked is not your fault. In many cases, the person stalking you 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. Even if you know the person (many cases of stalking are someone you know and/or were in a relationship with) 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.
If You Believe You’re Being Stalked Contact the Police
- Think about your safety and get help. The first thing to do is call the police.
- Dial 911 if you are in immediate danger.
- If you are not in immediate danger, call the non-emergency number for the police in your area.
- Tell the police what is happening.
- Let the police know that you fear for your safety or for the safety of someone you know.
- You may find it helpful to bring a friend or support person with you to the police station.
- Bring a written statement with you and include a detailed description or a photograph of the stalker.
- Tell the officer if you have kept any notes about past incidents, if you have received any threatening letters, e‐mails, or voice mails, or if there is anyone who saw the perpetrator being violent or threatening you. It is important to maintain detailed notes about the stalking and to keep any recorded telephone messages, emails, text messages, gifts, letters or notes that have been sent by the perpetrator.
- Make sure you write down the police case or file number and the officer’s name. Use the file number every time you call the police to report anything that could be part of the harassment. If you have any questions or concerns, it is easiest if you talk to the same officer who will be familiar with you and the case.
- Ask for support and information to help you cope. The police should be putting you in contact with the local Victim Services organization for support and safety planning. If they don’t, you can call on your own and set up an appointment for information. It’s free and confidential.
- Keep emergency numbers and your police file number with you at all times
- Depending on your situation, personal safety alarms may be available. Ask police, a Victim Service worker/volunteer or a transition house worker if this type of alarm is available for you.
- If you move to another area and you have an active police file, inform the police in your new community about the harassment. Tell them from where you moved, your file number, and the name of the officer who was helping you.
- If the stalker has been charged and convicted of this or any other crime, you can get information about the stalker’s whereabouts, any upcoming day passes, or the release date. The Victim Support Line (1-888-579-2888) provides access to information about provincially sentenced offenders and you can register for automated notifications when an offender’s status changes. For information on federally incarcerated offenders (those whose sentence is more than two years), please call the Correctional Service of Canada at 1-866-875-2225, or the Parole Board of Canada at 1-800-518-8817.
- If you know that the stalker has violated a court order, tell the authorities.
How can the police help me?
The police will investigate the complaint. They will ask about the harassment and collect as much evidence as possible. They may take photographs of damaged property and ask for any written records. The officer will write a report about the incident and ask you to prepare a written statement of your complaint.
What kind of information do the police need?
The police need as much evidence as possible, so try to keep the following:
- Any relevant details that you know about the person. For example, does he or she have a gun, a criminal record, or an existing court order not to contact you?
- Written records with details about every contact. These records will help if you go to court. (Try to include dates, times, places and what the person said or did.) Ask your friends to keep records too if the person is contacting them.
- Things the person sent you, such as notes, gifts, or phone messages.
- A list of witnesses, including names and telephone numbers.
Will the police charge the person who is harassing me?
If there is enough evidence of a criminal offence, the police will charge the person. In some provinces, the police must consult with the Crown prosecutor before they lay charges. However, if the police do not charge the person, it does not mean that they do not believe you. There may not be enough evidence to support a charge and the police may suggest other legal options such as a peace bond or a restraining order.
Will I have to go to court?
If charges are laid, the police will turn the file over to the Crown prosecutor’s office. The Crown prosecutor is responsible for taking the case to court. If the accused person pleads guilty, you may not have to go to court. If he or she pleads not guilty, the Crown prosecutor would summon you as a witness at the trial to prove that the person committed the crime. Ask for help from the Victim Witness Assistance Program. A worker may be able to answer questions about what will happen in court, and keep you updated on the status of your case. They can also make sure you have an interpreter in court if you need one. You can contact the Crown prosecutor in your case if you have questions about the evidence you will present in court.
What happens if the person is found guilty?
If the accused person pleads guilty or is found guilty, the judge will decide the sentence. Before sentencing, you can give the court a written victim impact statement describing how the crime affected you. If you wish, you may be able to read the statement at the sentencing hearing. The sentence for a criminal harassment conviction may range from jail in the most serious cases (up to 10 years) to probation in less serious cases. Probation orders can include conditions such as no contact. The court can also impose a fine. The exact sentence depends on many factors – whether violence was used, whether the person already has a criminal record, whether drugs and alcohol were involved, and so on.
For more information, please visit http://owjn.org/owjn_2009/legal-information/aboriginal-law/173