Chris McGoey (President, McGoey Security Consulting) gives expert video advice on: Should I call the police if I feel I'm being stalked? and more...
What is "stalking"?
Stalking is when one person has a fixation on another, that fixation could be real or imagined. The "stalker" is persistent in coming after the person and invading their private space. Stalking pertains to harassment or threatening behavior toward the victim and is characterized by a persistent presence; coming after someone after they've been warned not to or being told, “Your attention is unwelcome.” Stalking is a crime.
When does obsessive behavior officially become stalking?
It becomes a crime when the stalker is officially notified by the police. If you're being stalked and you haven't done anything about it, it's not necessarily a crime. If the person is unaware that he's not supposed to be engaging in that conduct any longer, again, it's not necessarily a crime.
What kinds of stalkers are there?
There are many different kinds of stalkers. Romantic stalkers are probably the most common. Someone who had a one date with someone and they were rejected, and they don't take no for an answer, they want to be persistent. That's probably the most common stalker. On the other end of the spectrum, there's stalkers that are living more in a fantasy world where they stalk a celebrity, for example. They admire this person from afar. They're fixated on their image, whoever they think they are, and they'll watch this person from afar. But some of them actually want to make contact at some point. But by then, they are so fixated and so absorbed in this fantasy perception that they take it too far and they can be aggressive and very dangerous at some point.
When does stalking become a serious threat and what can I do about it?
I think stalking becomes dangerous when they start following you; when they start popping up at your place of work. You might see them at the gym. You're seeing them at the grocery store. You see them driving behind you in traffic in the car. They're parked outside your house. They're calling you on the telephone. They're writing you letters. That's an extreme example of someone actively, actively trying to get with you. At that stage, it starts to become dangerous and very serious. You have several options at that point. You need to clearly and emphatically let them know that you don't wish to see them. You don't wish to speak with them. You don't wish to have any type of relationship with them. That has to be clear; that has to be said. Other options are to have another person say that. Sometimes hearing you say it isn't enough. They don't believe you because their perception that as there's a relationship, you don't really mean it. Sometimes having a third party say it makes a difference. Sometimes getting the police involved and having the police say it officially, and warning them officially, that if you persist in this, this is a crime; you could be arrested for it. Sometimes that does it. Sometimes going to the court and getting a restraining order works. Although, I've got to tell you that quite often that's a trigger. That sends the message to them that you have gone out of your way, now, to harm them. All of a sudden, it flips into something else, rather than just a casual stalking. Now it becomes a more serious matter, and many times restraining orders trigger more severe violence, or incidence of coming back with a gun, or kidnapping you, or something else.
Should I call the police if I feel I'm being stalked?
You know, if you feel that you're being stalked by someone, there's really no threshold before you can get the police involved. You can call the police at any time. It's not a crime to call the police, for them to investigate if it's a real or a perceived stalking incident. Sometimes it's good to nip the situation in the bud. But the police are limited. The police can really only get involved if there is a crime, if there is an actual crime that can be defined as stalking. Other than that they're limited to, maybe, going and speaking to that person who's stalking you. And sometimes that sends a clear message that this person doesn't want you to do anything. The police will typically warn that person: "don't contact her again. If you are you could be charged with a crime of stalking and we'll come and arrest you." Many times that's effective and that stops it in its tracks.