- Remember you have done nothing wrong. It is not your fault.
- Take steps to protect yourself. It is important to remember that no matter how good the local law enforcement agency they cannot protect you at all times.
- Trust your intuition - especially as it relates to the potential for violence.
- Always error on the side of your own safety.
- Avoid any direct contact with the stalker.
- Do not initiate any contact with the stalker. Each contact is a positive reinforcement for the stalker. A third party (preferably law enforcement) should be used to discourage further unwanted pursuit by the stalker.
- Do not threaten the stalker or seek retaliation of any kind.
- Become educated about the law so you know about available protection orders and when the stalker is, in fact, in violation of the law.
- Make a police report after each incident. If you find the police resistant - respectfully ask the officer's name and take your request for documentation up the chain of command.
- Document! Document! Document! Keep a diary. Make a copy - just in case.
- Inform your family, trusted neighbors and co-workers so they can help. Provide them with a photograph or description of the stalker. Including the stalker's vehicle.
- If you get a protection order, keep a copy on you, in your car, at home and at work.
- Install a peephole in your door - don't leave doors open.
- Change locks.
- Never walk alone
- Drive using alternative routes - vary your normal pattern.
- Don't park in poorly lit areas.
- Check your car before you get in.
- A cell phone can be a great help.
- Be alert for unusual packages - do not disturb them - call the police.
- Have an emergency plan. Keep important phone numbers with you at all times.
- Keep gas in your car and some cash on hand. You may want to get a locking gas cap.
- Install outside lighting.
- Get caller ID and possibly privacy manager if available.
- Tape phone calls and keep a log of calls.
- Remember - dogs are often an inexpensive and reliable alarm system.
- Change your phone number or call your phone provider and see if they can block unwanted numbers
If You Are Being Stalked
Stalking is a form of terror that 5-20% of women in the US experience. A stalker may target anyone from a complete stranger to a former spouse or partner. Some women find that when they try to end their relationship, their former partner will not leave them alone. Their former partner may try repeatedly to talk to, see, or be with or near them. The stalker may make unwanted or harassing phone calls, show up at places where the victim is, or follow the victim. Some women are threatened with harm or physically abused if they do not agree to reconcile or if they start dating someone other than the ex-partner.
If this happens to you, there are laws that can help, including Ohio's Menacing by Stalking Law (O.R.C. 2903.211). Often a stalker commits other crimes in addition to stalking. These may include: domestic violence, harassment by telephone, assault, menacing, criminal trespass, burglary, or some other crime. It is a good idea to report all facts to the police or prosecutor, and they will decide what criminal charges may be filed. Contact your local prosecutor's office, police or sheriff's office, and a victim advocate for assistance.
Menacing by stalking is the act of a person who, on more than one occasion, follows, pursues, or harasses you, and by engaging in a pattern of conduct, knowingly causes you to believe that the offender will cause physical harm or mental distress to you. "Pattern of conduct" means two or more actions or incidents closely related in time, whether or not there has been a prior conviction based on any of those actions or incidents. "Mental distress" means any mental illness or condition that would normally require psychiatric treatment. Therefore, a person who, on more than one occasion, follows, pursues, or harasses you in a threatening manner may be guilty of menacing by stalking under Ohio law.
When your partner is charged criminally with Menacing by Stalking, you can sign a motion requesting a protection order. This will help you and your children stay safe while the criminal charges are pending. It can order the stalker to not contact you in any way and to stay away from you, your home, workplace, and your children's school or day care. When the stalker is a family or household member, the order will be called a Temporary Protection Order (TPO). When the stalker is not a family or household member, it will be called an "Anti-Stalking Order." To obtain a TPO, the victim must be present at the arraignment hearing. The TPO ends when the court case against the defendant is over. Special conditions of probation could order the defendant to stay away from the victim.
Once an order is issued, it is important to enforce it completely and to notify the police and prosecutor if it is violated. Violation of a TPO or Anti-Stalking Order can result in contempt of court or a criminal charge under Ohio Law. The offender can be arrested, charged, and receive jail time.
Safety While You Are Being Stalked
Stalking is irrational, sick, and abnormal behavior. Never contact your stalker or try to reason with this person. Stalkers are not rational thinkers, and any contact you have with your stalker may be interpreted as encouragement. For your own safety, you should never threaten to "come over there and kill you if you don't stop stalking me," the stalkers mind may interpret this as "she wants to see me—she's coming over to see me!" For this reason, it is important to get outside intervention from the police or courts to send the message to the stalker that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Stalking is violent, abusive, anti-social behavior not acceptable or justifiable under any circumstance. What is happening to you is not okay, and is not your fault. If you are a stalking victim, both protecting your safety and documenting the incidents or actions are important. Here are possible ways you can protect your safety:
Safety at home:
- Install solid core doors with deadbolts.
- Change locks if there is any chance the stalker could have keys.
- Keep area around your house or apartment well lit—especially around doors and windows.
Notify your friends, neighbors, and employer, and ask them to call you or the police if they see anything suspicious. Tell them the type(s) of vehicle(s) your stalker drives and give them a photo or description of the stalker.
Develop a Contingency Plan
- Know and have quick access to phone numbers and locations of law enforcement, safe places (friends, domestic violence shelters, etc.), and other contact numbers for help after safety is reached (neighbors, family, attorney, prosecutor, medical care, child care, pet care, etc.).
- Keep a small packed bag containing toys, books, or other special items belonging to your child, reserve money, other necessities such as creditors' numbers and personal welfare items such as medication, birth certificates, social security information, passports, etc. in the trunk of your car or at another readily available and safe location.
- If possible, always have at least ½ tank of gas in your car, and have back-up keys made for neighbors and friends.
Safety On The Telephone:
- Consider getting an unlisted phone number or speak to your phone provider to see if they can block specific phone numbers.
- Have an answering machine or voicemail pick up all your calls.
- Consider having another person record your outgoing messages and include only the phone number contacted—not your name—on the message.
- Ask someone to call you periodically to be sure you are safe.
- At work, have someone else answer the phone or screen your calls, if possible.
- If you receive a text message or voicemail from the offender, do not delete it. Keep these as a record to be given to the prosecutor or court as evidence.
Safety When You're Out:
- Use a different schedule and route of travel each day. Know the location of the police departments where you will be.
- If followed, drive to a police department, fire station, or busy shopping center and sound your horn, or drive to a bank or fast food drive through and ask them to call the police.
- Have a car/cellular phone with you, if possible
- Notify co-workers, supervisors, and/or security at work.
- Regularly alter your work and other schedules, if possible.
- Have someone walk you to the car or bus stop, or ride with someone else.
- Seek therapy if symptoms such as rage, depression, fear, sleeplessness, use of drugs or alcohol, or irritability become a concern for you. Take care of yourself.
Document the Stalking:
- Keep phone call recordings and save answering machine tapes.
- Save letters, notes, or anything else left for or sent to you. Do not "return to sender."
- Take photos of destroyed property or injuries caused by the stalker.
- Collect statements from any witnesses and find out how they can be reached if needed.
- Notify police of what is happening and have them file reports of each incident. Ask police to drive by your residence and workplace more often.
- Arrange for a "phone trap" to be placed on your phone line through your phone company.