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What is Stalking?

A pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others; or suffer substantial emotional distress.


Stalking is a crime.

Stalking is a series of actions that make you feel afraid or in danger. Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time.

Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, the military and tribal lands. Some of the behaviors that make up the crime of stalking are criminal on their own (like property damage). Even if the behavior is not a crime on its own (like texting excessively), it may be part of the pattern of stalking behavior and victims should consider documenting and reporting it.

Some things stalkers do:

  • Repeatedly call you, including hang ups.

  • Follow you and show up wherever you are.

  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, texts, or e-mails.

  • Damage your home, car or other property.

  • Monitor your phone calls or computer use.

  • Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.

  • Drive by or hang out at your home, work, or school.

  • Find out about you by using public records or on-line search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.

  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.

Stalking and harassment are similar and can overlap. Harassment may be part of a stalking pattern of behavior/course of conduct.

Generally, the element of fear is what separates stalking from harassment. Harassment is typically irritating and bothersome, sometimes to the point where a victim feels deeply uncomfortable. However, victims of harassment are not typically afraid of their perpetrators.

For example, a colleague who consistently mocks a new coworker for her appearance may be harassing her by saying cruel things and sending disparaging e-mails. While the victim is distressed and may feel sad, anxious, angry and/or uncomfortable, she is not afraid of the perpetrator – she does not believe that the behaviors will escalate or that further harm will come to her. However, if that same perpetrator began calling the victim’s cell phone, following the victim and/or posting disparaging things about the victim online, it could become stalking.


You are not to blame for a stalker's behavior.

Stalking is unpredictable and dangerous. No two stalking situations are alike. There are no guarantees that what works for one person will work for another, yet you can take steps to increase your safety.

Things you can do:

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

  • Trust your instincts. Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are.

  • Take threats seriously. Danger is generally higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when a victim tries to leave or end the relationship.

  • Contact a crisis hotline, victim services agency, or a domestic violence or rape crisis program. They can help you devise a safety plan, give you information about local laws, refer you to other services, and weigh options such as seeking a protective order.

  • Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you. Also, decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work, school, or somewhere else. Tell people how they can help you.

  • Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.

  • Keep evidence of the stalking. When the stalker follows you or contacts you, write down the time, date, and place. Keep e-mails, phone messages, letters, or notes. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.

  • Contact the police. Every state has stalking laws. The stalker may also have broken other laws by
    doing things like assaulting you or stealing or destroying your property.

  • Consider getting a court order that tells the stalker to stay away from you. Project: SAFE can assist with a protective order related to stalking.

  • Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support. Tell security staff at your job or school. Ask them to help watch out for your safety.


7.5 million people are stalked each year in the United States.

Women are stalked at a rate two times higher than men.


If you are being stalked, you might:

  • Feel fear of what the stalker will do.

  • Feel vulnerable, unsafe, and not know who to trust.

  • Feel anxious, irritable, impatient, or on edge.

  • Feel depressed, hopeless, overwhelmed, tearful, or angry.

  • Feel stressed, including having trouble concentrating, sleeping, or remembering things.

  • Have eating problems, such as appetite loss, forgetting to eat, or overeating.

  • Have flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, feelings or memories.

  • Feel confused, frustrated, or isolated because other people don’t understand why you’re afraid.

These are common reactions to being stalked.

If someone you know is being stalked, you can help.

Listen. Show support. Don’t blame the victim for the crime. Remember that every situation is different, and allow the person being stalked to make choices about how to handle it. Find someone you can talk to about the situation. Take steps to ensure your own safety.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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