January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). In the United States, countless men and women are victimized by stalking, yet it is consistently one of the most misunderstood and minimized crimes in our culture today. From a law enforcement perspective, stalking can prove to be a challenge to investigate, charge and prosecute. This is due in part to the nature of our criminal justice system, which is better at responding to specific events rather than a series of acts which define stalking.

Stalking is a series of behaviors directed at a specific person. It causes fear, anxiety and psychological trauma in its victims. Some of the stalking behaviors experienced by many victims include, but are not limited to, being watched or followed, threatened and even approached in person or through the internet. Some stalkers can and will hack into a victim’s email account or social medial pages to gain insight into the victim’s personal life and activities.

In many cases, people committing these crimes don’t consider themselves stalkers; nonetheless, their behaviors are terrifying and psychologically harmful. Stalking is a crime in and of itself, but it has proven to be an accurate predictor of violence as well. According to research, stalking preceded an attack in 85% of intimate partner homicides and attempted homicides.

Here are some things that you can do to start taking control of your situation:

  • Contact the police department and report the situation. Even if you’re not sure that anything can be done or you have no intention of pursuing charges, you should document the stalking behavior. A good paper trail might come in handy later on, should the behavior continue.
  • Be sure to inform the people around you of the situation.
  • Tell the stalker that you don’t want to be contacted by him or her. Only communicate your desire to be left alone one time. Experts believe that any further contact with the stalker only reinforces their unhealthy attachment.
  • Don’t hesitate to change your phone number or email address if the situation continues. Consider taking a break from posting your activities on social media and make sure you are set to private.
  • Keep a written record of the times that you have seen or been contacted by the stalker. Never delete texts, voice mails, or emails, and save any letters or cards that you receive.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you are able, document the make model and license plate number of your stalker’s vehicle.
  • Whenever possible, travel with a partner. This can be a friend, coworker or family member.
  • Install a home security system including a monitored alarm and video surveillance. Most security companies have affordable financing options available to help with initial startup costs.
  • Taking a self-defense class can equip you with valuable tools that could help you survive an attack should the situation escalate.
  • File for an injunction against harassment or an order of protection. This can be done at Apache Junction Municipal Court or Apache Junction Justice Court. While this may not always deter a stalker, it can help provide law enforcement with probable cause (PC) to make an arrest if your stalker contacts you.
  • Change your daily routine: Take a different route to and from work as often as possible. Make it hard for your stalker to predict where and when you will be at any one location.

Stalking is not just a law enforcement problem. We can all play a role in identifying stalking behavior and providing support to victims of this terrifying crime. Learn more about stalking and what you can do to help put an end to it once and for all.

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