About this time last year, I received a troubling call from a close family member. I’m going to share with you what she confided in me, but I must be vague to protect her privacy.
She has a stalker. She doesn’t know what to do. She’s terrified.
After going on a few dates with some guy, she realized they just weren’t compatible. So she told him she wasn’t interested in going out with him again. Hey, it happens — not every date is a winner.
Unfortunately, this guy (like most entitled creeps) didn’t take rejection very well. He refused to believe she no longer wanted to see him.
Even worse, this guy lives in my relative’s apartment complex. She started getting calls and texts at all times of the day and night, along with ominous messages such as…
“Where are you going now?”
“I really like that red shirt you’re wearing today.”
“Why are you getting home so late?”
“Who is that guy I just saw with you?”
And if you can believe it, these are some of the milder and less threatening messages. The thought makes my skin crawl, but basically, this guy was watching her around the apartment complex. He even started following her to work.
One night, he took it so far she became sick to her stomach and couldn’t sleep.
This disturbing behavior escalated quickly over the course of two weeks. My relative mentioned he’d done the same thing to another girl he’d dated who also lived in the same complex.
Here’s what I told her to do:
- Don’t respond. The No. 1 thing you need to do if someone is stalking you is NEVER respond to them. When you acknowledge their calls or texts — even if it’s to cuss them out and tell them to go away — they usually interpret that to mean you like them. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have taken the time to respond. This may take a good deal of restraint, but you have to ignore them. Any attention — positive or negative — only fuels their fire.
- Switch up your routines. Leave for work at various times. Hang out at a different bar. Maybe drive across town to another gym. Turns out my relative’s stalker could see her car from his apartment. I told her to park in another location so he couldn’t just look out the window to see if she was home or not.
- Tell everyone you know. It’s important that the people in your life — your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. — know that you’re being stalked. I understand it might be embarrassing to talk about. Even my relative said she hesitated calling me, but you need people on your side. That way, your neighbors know to alert you if they see anyone snooping around your house. Your co-workers will know not to give away your schedule. And you’ll have plenty of alternative places to stay if it isn’t safe to go home.
- Arm yourself. You must have a way to defend yourself. There is compelling evidence of the link between stalking and other forms of violence, so you shouldn’t take any chances. My relative told me she didn’t want to carry a gun but she was comfortable with carrying a stun gun flashlight, which is great alternative to a firearm.
- Know when to call the police. Trust your gut and call the police if your stalker is persistent or their behavior intensifies. In my relative’s case, I told her to call the police because this guy was way over the line. Unfortunately, calling the police can go one of two ways. It might scare the stalker straight and they’ll leave you alone. Or it might piss them off, making them angry and vindictive. If you do call the police, I recommend staying somewhere else for a few days, just to be on the safe side. After my relative called the police, she packed a bag and went to stay at a friend’s house.
- Forget about restraining orders. They can be costly, time-consuming and difficult to obtain. According to the National Institute of Justice, 69% of women who manage to get a protective order report that their stalker violated the order. Basically, if the police don’t deter your stalker, you may have to move. If moving is not an option, then you better be armed at all times. And never walk around with your head down, staring at your cellphone.
The bottom line is there is no guaranteed solution for dealing with a stalker. The best way to handle the situation varies on a case-by-case basis. But if you do follow my suggestions above, you’ll be in a much better position to protect yourself and, hopefully, get rid of the person stalking you.