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How to Identify Stalking and What You Can Do About It

Nobody deserves to feel unsafe – unsafe in their own communities, their own homes, or their own bodies. It’s an unfortunate reality that an estimated 13.5 MILLION people are stalked over an one-year period in the United States. Stalking not only makes people experience fear, but can force them to uproot their lives to move, miss work, and increase the risk of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social isolation.

Some victims don’t know how to identify that they’re actually being stalked and some perpetrators try to claim they didn’t know what they’re doing is stalking. When you know the signs, it’s easier to take steps through the proper legal channels to mitigate your risk.

What is stalking?

Virginia law defines the parameters of stalking as anyone who, on more than one occasion, “engages in conduct directed at another person with the intent to place … in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury to that other person.” If the stalker attempts to follow or contact another person who does not wish to be contacted or followed, then this qualifies as stalking and could lead to criminal charges.

This is a very general definition, so it leaves some interpretation in each case. Somes examples of stalking could include, but are not limited to:

  • Being followed to social events, a workplace, home, or other physical locations;
  • Repeatedly being called and/or sent text messages (even if the caller continuously hangs up);
  • Being contacted by other means to include email, physical mail, or even sending unwanted gifts;
  • Using any tracking or camera technology to track your movement and choices;
  • Frequenting places you are known to be and leaving traces of their presence (such as messages or damage to your personal property); and
  • Contacting people you know in an attempt to reach or threaten you.

These and similar actions may qualify as stalking and open legal channels for you to protect your overall well being. If you feel any of these scenarios are playing out in your life, you should contact the police and attorney right away.

What you can do

As we just mentioned, your first action should be to contact authorities immediately when you feel you’re being stalked. It is NOT recommended that you attempt to negotiate with your stalker to convince them to stop. Any response at all to their advances could motivate them to take further action against you and could escalate the situation.

When talking to the police in an attempt to bring criminal action, Virginia law requires that you prove the stalker has a purpose for actually stalking you. This can be difficult in situations where a complete stranger has latched themselves to you. You may not know their motivation, so it’s important to document all interactions and encounters you have with the perpetrator. You should keep any communication they attempt with you and any physical evidence of their unwanted advances.

Once you’ve talked to the police, your next step should be to work with an attorney who has your safety in mind. We recently wrote about different types of protective orders in Virginia. In some cases, criminalizing the intent of the stalker will be enough to scare them off. Unfortunately, criminalizing intent doesn’t always remove the action itself, so you should continue to document any evidence of continued advances and immediately report them to the police.

At Rinehart Bryant, the safety and peace of mind of our clients is priority number one. We will always stand by our clients who feel someone is threatening them or putting them at risk. Contact our team today and let us guide you to the peace of mind you deserve.

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