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 Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center (SPARC)
- Surveillance: watching, following, gathering information
- Intimidation: threatening and/or scaring the victim
- Interference: sabotaging, attacking or otherwise changing the victime's life
- Life invasion: showing up in the victim's life
Adapted from SPARC.
- Less than 40% of stalking victims report to law enforcement
- Women are more likely to experience stalking than men
- The majority of victims report that the offender is male — regardless of victim’s sexual orientation
- Nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience stalking in their lifetimes
- Laws against stalking can vary by state
Can stalking be traumatic for someone?
Yes. “Psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event, a series of events or a set of enduring conditions in which: the individual’s ability to integrate his or her emotional experience is overwhelmed or the individual experiences (subjectively) a threat to life, bodily integrity or sanity.” — Karen Saakvitne, 2000
Psychological effects on stalking victims
- Denial, confusion, self-doubt, questioning oneself (“Am I being unreasonable or over-reacting?”)
- Frustration, guilt, embarrassment, self-blame
- Apprehension, fear of being alone or fear of others being harmed
- Feeling isolated and/or helpless to stop the stalking or harassment
- Depression and related symptoms
- Anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia (frightened to leave dorm/apartment),
- difficulty concentrating, focusing in classes or studying
- Sleep disruption — nightmares, ruminating
- Insecurity and inability to trust others; difficulty with intimacy and socializing
- Symptoms of post-traumatic/acute stress disorder, e.g. hypervigilance, flashbacks, easily startled
- Irritability, anger, emotional numbing
- Self-medication with alcohol/drugs or using prescribed medications
- Suicidal thoughts and/or suicide attempts
- Loss of purpose and connection from effects on academics, social life
- Loss of job, victim having to move or change identity
- Loss of social support due to third-party harassment or victimization
- Avoidance of self-care activities, e.g. going to the gym, going out with friends, running errands
- Loss of identity from lack of normal activities
What to do if you or someone you know is being stalked
- Find professional support:
- On campus: VARCC, University Counseling Center (UCC), Dean of Students CARE team, University Police (UPD)
- Off campus: Crime Victims Assistance Center (advocacy, resources and support services) RISE (domestic violence shelter)
- Use social support:
- Talk to a friend or family member about what you are experiencing.
- Document — safely — what is happening to you for your own records.
- You can find a document log on the SPARC website
- Take safety measures/engage in safety planning with an advocate.
- E.g. walking with a friend, carrying pepper spray, taking defense classes, sharing location with a friend
- Treat yourself with self-compassion and understanding.
- Your experience is real and your feelings are valid!
Where to get help
- Old Johnson, third floor
- Has a presence at VARCC