Protecting Yourself From a Stalker - Free Self-Help

By Diana Holbourn

Article Summary

Welcome

This article starts off by talking about things like the kinds of things stalkers do, motives and personality types of stalkers, and danger signs that someone might do something abusive like stalking. It goes on to give a lot of practical advice about what people can do to protect themselves if they're being stalked, from measures to protect physical safety to protection of personal information. It includes safety around the home, safety at work, safety while driving and travelling in other ways, computer safety, and similar things. Then it advises on what not to do, based on mistakes others have made.

Then it gives advice on things to do if the stalker is taken to court.

Lastly, it gives a few suggestions on things people can do to relieve stress, other than taking safety measures.

The Main Contents

Background Information About This Article

The Self-Help Information in the Article

  1. Some Characteristics of Stalkers, and Legal Definitions of Stalking
  2. Cutting Off All Contact With a Stalker
  3. Staying Safer From the Stalker Around the Home
  4. Doing Your Best to Stay Safe From the Stalker at Work
  5. Safety in the Car
  6. Safety When Travelling in Other Ways
  7. Computer Safety
  8. Safety on the Telephone
  9. Self-Defence
  10. Other Things You Can Do To Protect Yourself
  11. Extra Protective Measures you can Take if you Have Children
  12. Making Safety More Affordable
  13. Avoiding Common Mistakes Stalking Victims Make
  14. Dealing With the Stress Caused by Being Stalked
  15. If You Take the Stalker to Court
  16. Seek Advice From Others

Part One
Some Characteristics of Stalkers, and Legal Definitions of Stalking

How the Law Defines Stalking

Thinking

There isn't an agreed legal definition of stalking; laws define it in different ways in different areas; but there are a few things that are common to most definitions:

  1. The stalker must deliberately carry out a series of actions that would leave a reasonable person in fear of bodily injury or death. And the victim must genuinely be afraid they'll be physically injured or killed by the stalker.
  2. The stalker must know, or they should have been aware, that their actions were causing fear; they must intend to cause fear or harm.

That still leaves a lot of room for disagreement, since something might be making a victim frightened that people in the legal system don't realise the significance of, so people like police and a jury don't understand why a 'reasonable person' would be frightened by it. For instance, you might feel sure the presents a stalker leaves you are really there to tell you he's lurking around in a sinister way; but an outsider might think they're cute.

The law says the stalker's actions have to make a 'reasonable' person afraid, to protect people against accusations made by people who are abnormally afraid of things or who want to make false accusations.

Anyone who doesn't think they're getting adequate protection from the law because they don't think their case is being taken seriously enough can at least do everything they can to make themselves safe.

Someone who accidentally made someone afraid and crossed their path a lot couldn't be defined as a stalker; nor could a single incident be defined as stalking.

Stalking is basically a pattern of wilful malicious unwelcome attention or behaviour that makes its target concerned or afraid, either for their own safety or that of their family. If someone won't take no for an answer and seems obsessed and intent on what they're doing despite knowing their behaviour's unwelcome, they might well qualify as a stalker.

The Kinds of Things Stalkers Do

The methods a stalker uses will vary, just as their personalities do. Some make dozens of phone calls a day, even hundreds. Some don't phone much, but might watch outside for hours every day, write lots of threatening or pleading letters or leave gifts, some nice, some not. They might order pizzas, taxis and other things to be sent round to their victim's home, giving the impression the victim's done it. Some have cancelled essential services in the victim's name, such as their electricity and phone service. Some follow their victims wherever they go, sometimes allowing themselves to be seen, sometimes not. Some harass their victims using emails or chat rooms, or hack into their computers and put spyware on them. Some try to get their victim's bank records or other financial statements. Some try to get the support of the victim's family or co-workers in the hope they'll try to persuade the victim to see them on their behalf. Some rummage through the victim's rubbish to see what information they can find out about them. Some threaten physical violence. Some threaten suicide.

Some break into their victims' homes and vandalise their property. In the worst cases, some have been known to kill pets, and attack and even rape or murder their victims.

In less serious cases, it still tends to be abusive or intimidating or anti-social.

The Advisability of Taking Safety Measures

Some people are a lot more frightened than they need to be of what their stalker might do, whereas some aren't concerned enough. Anyone who thinks there might be a reason to be concerned, whether they think what's happening to them can be defined as stalking or they're not sure, can have their stress relieved to some extent by taking some security measures. They don't all cost a lot. For instance, going to and from work by different routes every day can be a good idea.

Some people don't want to do anything like that because they think they might be being paranoid or they feel it would be giving in to fear or giving the stalker the satisfaction of knowing they're scared. But it's better to be safe than sorry, as they say. Security measures could relieve fear, not make you think it has control over you. And if the stalker really is intent on doing damage, they could keep a person safe.

A lot of fear can come from not knowing what you'd do if the situation suddenly got worse. Planning and taking security measures to make it more difficult for the stalker to do anything bad can help relieve fear. Any satisfaction the stalker does get by realising he's having an impact on your life will be greatly outweighed by his dismay at realising he can't get access to so much information about you as he used to, and discovering you've made it more difficult for him to do what he wants to do.

But with a lot of the things you can do, he won't even necessarily know you did them because of him, or that you've done them at all. For instance, if you travel to and from work by different routes as much as possible, all he'll know is that it isn't so easy to find your car to follow any more. He'll only be able to guess at the reason why.

Motives and Personality Types of Stalkers

Sinister

The motives of stalkers vary. Some are motivated by anger and want revenge for a real or imagined wrong; some would say they're infatuated with their victim and they think any contact with them is better than nothing, even if it's negative. They're engaging in a very socially inept way of trying to get into or stay in a relationship with someone. Some stalkers can't take the loss of a relationship; they might feel as if their whole identity was bound up with the relationship, so when the other person wants to get out of it, it's very stressful for them and they can't cope with the loss. Some are very possessive and think the other person belongs to them no matter what they do.

Some can be classified as having a mental disorder, though not all. Those who can are most likely to have disorders like anti-social personality disorder or dependent personality disorder. Knowing something about their mental health history might help explain some of their behaviour.

Though their motives might sometimes be puzzling, it's often best not to spend too much time trying to work them out, since you might never know. It can be best to spend more time planning for your safety.

Though their personalities vary, many stalkers have several things in common, such as the following:

If a person's been very jealous and possessive, even if they've been abusive, they might have become very dependent on their partner, and can react with rage when they leave.

Stalkers who haven't been intimate with the one they're obsessed with but would like to be can become angry when the person makes it clear they're not interested, and jealous if they get together with anyone else.

Other stalkers hold a grudge because they imagine they've been mistreated by an organisation, and decide to get revenge by harassing someone from that organisation, not caring if it's someone who had anything to do with the mistreatment or not. They see them as representing the organisation and think of themselves as inflicting retribution on the organisation itself.

Some stalkers are strangers. They might mean no harm but simply want to admire from afar. You might not know who they are. But sometimes it's better to take a few security measures rather than confronting them to find out, just in case they're a risk.

Whatever kind of relationship the stalker has to you, trying to work out why they're behaving the way they are might be impossible, because their behaviour simply might not be rational. It's best if victims don't spend time agonising about why it's happening, because stalking isn't a rational way of dealing with a wrong even if one's really been committed.

Not all stalkers are equally dangerous. The ones most likely to become violent are those who are angry because they feel rejected by former partners, especially if they became dependent on them and are especially jealous. The risk can increase if they use alcohol or drugs, or have a history of violence or have an interest in weapons, or a personality disorder.

A Few Ways of Putting Off Some Abusive Men Before a Relationship Gets Serious

Flowers with affection

Obviously it'll be too late if you're already being stalked. But for anyone who hasn't been stalked it might be worthwhile advice, and also for anyone who has been, but is ready to seek a new relationship.

Most stalkers stalk women who've been their sexual partners. The more intimate a relationship is, the more difficult it can be to accept its ending. Also, women often feel more emotionally attached to someone after they've had sex with them, so a stalker can feel they'll have more influence over them. One way of protecting yourself from a certain kind of stalker in the future is to tell them on the first date that you have a policy of not having sex with a man till you feel sure you'd want to make a long-term commitment to them and that they'd make a good father to any children that came along. Then stick to it. A lot of abusive men might lose interest and leave you alone before the relationship gets intense enough for them to be obsessed enough to start stalking, since they'll think there are easier targets around who they could have more fun with and who'd be easier to have a hold over.

Likewise, it's best to never move in with a man until you're virtually certain you'd want to marry him and he's someone you could spend years with, since it'll be harder to get out of a relationship once you've started sharing bank accounts, possessions, any pets and so on, and especially if children have come along.

An abusive man can also lose interest if you disagree with him quite a bit when you're first getting to know him, and if you tell him that in the very first stages of a relationship with a man, you like to keep your options open and date other men as well to see which you prefer. Any controlling and jealous man might well prefer someone who's committed to him from the very start, and who's easier to dominate because they don't express their opinions so much when they disagree with his; and they might well move on to someone else. You'll also be able to tell by the man's reactions to that kind of thing something about what kind of person he is.

It's best to get to know people as friends before you get into a relationship with them and become emotionally attached to them so it's more difficult to decide you don't want to see them any more. Before getting into a relationship with someone, it's best to find out how they behave in various circumstances, such as in arguments, around your family, and so on.

Danger Signs That Can Warn you That Getting Involved With a Person's a Risk

Arguing

If your disagreements with a man in the early stages of a relationship lead to arguments he has to win no matter what, think of that as a danger sign. He likely won't behave any differently in more serious arguments. And it might mean he won't accept defeat in the form of you breaking up with him.

If he gets dramatic mood swings, you get a suspicion he might be prone to violence, he gets very jealous, he has a substance abuse problem or seems to be becoming dependent on another, those are all possible warning signs that he could become a stalker.

Some stalkers haven't had a relationship with their victim; they stalk in the hope of getting some intimate attention from them. They might not have the skills to court people normally.

But some do appear skilled. Many men who have personalities that make them want to control women can sometimes be unusually charming, especially at first, seeming respectful and flattering, and giving gifts and compliments right from the start, seeming affectionate and caring. They can be a lot of fun to be with. But the charm and caring can be all an act to get the attention they want. Some might even admit to using charm as a deliberate policy to attract people if pressed on the matter. They can hook people in by being nice to be with, but they can turn surprisingly abusive when they think they have. Afterwards, people can think back and make themselves more miserable than they are already by blaming themselves for not picking up on signs their boyfriend would get abusive and not getting involved with them. But in the first phases of the relationship, when the stalker seemed fun and entertaining, they might have seemed so good to be with it was easy to ignore what in hind-sight could have been seen as warning signs; and also, they might not reveal just how abusive they can be till later.

The reason they're stalking could be in a misguided attempt to get the person who's left them back, or to try to intimidate them because they want to carry on controlling them. Or they might be trying to get them back by intimidating them into giving in and agreeing to go back to them.

Stalkers can be people who don't recognise their part in any relationship break-up and entirely blame their victim, stalking them to try to get revenge. Many have a personality disorder.

Many stalkers have difficulty taking responsibility for their actions. If things that go wrong are all somehow your fault, or your boyfriend often tries to make you feel guilty for objecting to something he's done, or he always has some excuse when he's done something irresponsible, it can be a danger sign.

If you feel uncomfortable about the behaviour of someone you're developing a relationship with, don't ignore it and stay in the relationship for the sake of not wanting to cause trouble by raising doubts or by not going along with what the man wants, or because of the benefits you're getting. Chances are you're uncomfortable for a good reason.

And if on any one particular occasion you feel uncomfortable, such as if the man's taking you somewhere you'd rather not go and he won't listen when you raise concerns, recognise that as a danger sign and a signal of things to come. Things will likely get worse the more he thinks he can get away with it because you're allowing him some control over you. So always raise objections when you feel uncomfortable, and if he doesn't react well, seriously consider whether you should be in that relationship, even if it can be fun.

Avoiding a Stalker by Doing Background Checks on Anyone You're Thinking of Getting Into a Relationship With

If a man you're developing a relationship with tells you about a past relationship he had where things went wrong, before you're tempted to be too sympathetic and conclude his previous wife/girlfriend must have been uncaring and nasty or something else just as unflattering, remember you only have his side of the story. If you spoke to her, you might get a very different perspective on things indeed.

If you ask him whether he'd be willing for you to talk to a previous girlfriend and he reacts in a worse way than could be expected, that could be a danger sign.

Speaking to people's work colleagues about what they think of them can sometimes be a good idea.

People can sometimes find out quite a bit about another person's background online. And there are online companies that will collate all information they can find out about a person from public records about them, including criminal records, and pass it on to you for a fee. Not all companies are reputable though; you need to be careful when choosing one because some may well not take the trouble to ensure the information they give you is accurate. And there will be a lot they just won't be able to find out, such as cruel things the man might have done in past relationships that they weren't taken to court for. It's probably only worth paying a company to find information for you if you've already got reason to suspect there's something wrong.

And before paying for information, doing an online search yourself could help you find out worthwhile things. Put the man's name into a Google search along with keywords like stalker, violent and that kind of thing. You can also put in the name of the area you live in with his name, along with keywords such as 'court', 'public records', and 'arrested'. There may be official websites where you can surf free and find out a lot of information that's publicly accessible such as criminal records, and some financial information such as if they've ever been bankrupt.


Part Two
Cutting Off All Contact With a Stalker

If someone seems to be acting strangely, as if he has some kind of romantic interest in you and won't go away, but you don't know if it's serious enough to be classified as stalking, it's recommended that you give them a very clear message that you're not interested. Trying to have consideration for their feelings can backfire because it can be misinterpreted as willingness to comply with what they want. For instance, saying, "I like you, but just not in that way" would give the type of person who might stalk the message that there's some possibility of the relationship turning romantic if they're persistent, rather than the message that you're not interested. Then again, saying something too callous could make them angry and vindictive. But it's best to be clear that you're never going to have a romantic interest in them and that they'll be much better off looking elsewhere.

Anxious

There might not be anything to worry about; but if you think there's a possibility there is, keep eyes and ears open for what's around you. If there are any strange gifts or letters or other communications, it can be best to keep them as evidence should it ever be needed. If you think you're being followed, don't dismiss the idea as unlikely; look and see. Tell friends and family about your concerns so they can look out for anything suspicious as well.

Once you're sure there definitely is a problem, it'll be worth planning more safety precautions. But they'll only work properly if you cut off all contact with the man. At first, perhaps you'll want to negotiate with him to try to make him see reason, or you might want to argue with him because you want to put him in his place. But there are some people it's just dangerous to do that with. You have to use your own judgment; but if and when you decide your safety comes first, the safest thing to do will often be to cut off all contact with him, because any contact from you will be seen as a sign of encouragement, even if it's bad-tempered. As long as the communication's kept going, the man will still think he has a chance to influence you.

Fearful

At first, cutting off all contact with him might make him more persistent, in the hope of making you change your mind, and because he's angry at having been excluded. So added security measures would be good to take at the same time as you cut off communication with him. But it's best to stick to your resolve not to talk to him, in the hope that eventually he'll lose interest; he's more likely to do so if he isn't being given what he might think of as crumbs of encouragement like communication from you every so often. Even if all you do is beg or frantically order him to leave you alone, if he's trying to intimidate you, the sound of your voice saying that will be encouragement enough for him because he'll think he must be getting to you and be pleased. Every time he picks up a note of worry in your voice or knows he's causing you difficulty, he has the satisfaction of knowing his campaign to intimidate you or upset you is working; and since stalking isn't a reasonable act, you can't expect him to think in a reasonable way; so he may well interpret even a bad-tempered communication from you as a sign that he has a chance of wearing you down and getting you to agree to what he wants. Or it gives him the chance to make you feel sorry for him by behaving as if he's very upset. If you feel sorry for him and try and be kind, or even say something that sounds as if you're offering him a faint hope, such as saying you're willing to talk with him some more, he can interpret that as meaning you're interested in him so there's a chance you and him could get together if he carries on doing what he's doing.

You might think you can reason with him, imagining he's capable of rational thought. But it's likely he'll misinterpret everything you say, especially if the conversation gets heated, since then people don't think so clearly anyway. But there's no reason to think someone irrational enough to stalk will have the thought processes of a sensible person. If you tried persuasion once and it didn't work, chances are it won't work no matter how many times you try to use it. A stalker will hear what he wants to hear, not what you say. The book Stalking the Stalker gives examples of what you might say and what a stalker might hear, which could be quite different:

"I don't like it that you're thinking about suicide. Don't hurt yourself; let's talk."
She wants to see me.

"I want some time alone."
She wants to see me in a few days.

"Leave me alone."
She must want to see me; otherwise, she wouldn't be talking to me.

"No."
Maybe.

The stalker might try to wear you down till you do communicate with him more. So, for instance, if he phones you up 100 times and on the last of those times you pick up the phone and shout at him, he's learned that he has to phone you up that many times if he wants to speak to you, and that's what he'll do.

If you start feeling sorry for him and do anything out of kindness, he'll interpret it as you having a weak spot he can exploit to get more of what he wants from you. Some men threaten suicide or things like that, and it can be hard to stick to a resolve not to contact them under pressure like that; but it can be a deliberate attempt to manipulate you. It might not be sometimes, and there is the possibility they really will kill themselves; but if there's a possibility your safety will be in jeopardy if you give them what they want, your safety ought to come first no matter what. If they do harm themselves, you can't blame yourself; what they've done will be an act as irrational as the stalking. But chances are they won't.

You might think you'd feel safer and reassured if you could only work out the stalker's motives and what he's likely to do next, and you might think keeping the communication open will at least warn you of his intentions. But keeping the communication open will encourage him to do more things when he might have started to lose interest if his efforts to communicate with you were constantly coming to nothing. And if he isn't thinking rationally, there will be no logic to his moves, so he could constantly surprise and scare you no matter what.

It'll be very difficult not to speak to him, but if you've noticed a pattern where when you do, he manages to manipulate you into agreeing to things you wish you hadn't, or it makes him try harder to contact you after that, or he's threatening you or showing other signs of being menacing, or seems to get pleasure from your discomfort, then the best way of protecting yourself, and to decrease the incentive he gets from stalking by not allowing him the pleasure of being able to hear your voice and trying to frighten you or influence you in some other way, is to not communicate with him at all. No emails; no letters; no messages passed on by friends or family; no phone calls, nothing.

A stalker can come across as rational sometimes, seeming kind and considerate and dedicated to working things out between you. But a tell-tale sign that he isn't what he seems is if he refuses to take no for an answer and carries on trying to get with you no matter what you say.

So it's recommended that you first announce your intention to no longer have any communication with him to him in a firm way it's difficult to misinterpret, not being willing to negotiate but making the conversation as quick as possible, and then refuse to have anything to do with him. At the same time, instruct family and friends and anyone else he speaks to about you not to have any contact with him either, so he can't get at you through them.

If you don't want to give the message to the stalker in person, you could perhaps ask a police officer to do it.

Don't go back on your word after that and offer him anything like a period of time where you're willing to negotiate with him with a deadline at the end when you'll no longer be willing to talk to him if he hasn't changed. Stalkers can think kindness is weakness, and they see weakness as a signal that they can push for what they want some more and that there's a good chance they'll get it. So they'll probably pressure you to extend the deadline or abolish it altogether, and might do other things, thinking they can cajole you into tolerating them.


Part Three
Staying Safer From the Stalker Around the Home

If you Suspect the Stalker's Particularly Angry and Wants to Harm you, Try and Stay Away for a While

Aggressive

If the stalker seems particularly upset or angry at your refusal to communicate with him any more, if he's a violent, controlling man, he might want to harm you to get the control back or in revenge. It can sometimes be safer for women if they stay away from home for a while if they can, with friends, or in a battered women's shelter if they can, or in a hotel, or somewhere else.

The first few weeks after a break-up with an aggressive partner are said to be the most dangerous. So try to get away during that time, or at least for several days.

Keeping Detailed Records of the Stalker's Stalking

Written records

It's important to write down accounts of what the stalker does and when he does it, to help convince police and a court that this is a pattern of behaviour, since they might not think one incident of it on its own is that significant, especially if it's something like looking through the window or following you home. It's possible that the police won't take seriously even the most detailed records; but you'll still have a better case if you keep records. If you get to take the stalker to court, you'll be able to make a case against him which might get him a longer sentence if you have a log with details of lots of things he's done, rather than relying on your memory of what happened; it might be very difficult to remember everything by the time it gets to trial, which might be some time after the events.

When you begin to make the records of the stalker's activities, start by writing as much as you can remember about what's happened in the past regarding his stalking behaviour. Then write down every time you think the stalker calls you, what happens when he tries to contact you, and any gifts he leaves or sends you. Write down what day and date it is, what time it was, where the incident happened, and what happened. If there were witnesses around, write down their names. Try to write as accurately as you can what the stalker said and did, and what you said and did.

Keep a copy in a safe place in case he manages to steal the original.

If you get a police report done on what's happened, ask if you can have a copy so you can make sure it's accurate and so you can keep it to refresh your memory if you go to court, which might even be years later, where events are discussed you might rather have forgotten. If you find the report contains an inaccuracy and they refuse to change it, you could ask a lawyer to ring them and ask for you.

If the Stalker Leaves Gifts or Tries to Communicate With you

Take photos of any vandalism to your property that seems to have been committed by the stalker, and any perishable gifts he sends you like flowers. Keep the photos with the written records, writing the time and date they were taken on the back, and put an explanation of what each one is with it.

If the stalker sends non-perishable things, keep them in a safe place along with what they were wrapped in, to use as possible evidence. Handle them as little as you can. Put them in clear plastic bags marked with the date. Keep them in as safe a place as you can think of.

Don't delete any emails or throw away any letters he sends you; they could be good evidence. But don't respond to them. Don't cash any cheques he sends you unless they're for child support.

He'll probably try to tug on your heartstrings by sending you gifts, and maybe letters full of apology and emotion. But the emotion might well not be genuine and the gifts may well be a cynical attempt to move you and make you change your mind about not seeing him. If he's ever expressed remorse or seemed to understand what you were saying about things you were unhappy with but then gone straight back to his same old ways, you can be fairly sure it'll happen again, no matter what he says or how nice the gifts are that he leaves you.

Also, leaving gifts on your doorstep and taping letters to your door and so on sends a signal that he's hanging around your place, so he can use them as a subtle attempt to intimidate, no matter how nice they are; they tell you he's lurking around. He'll get the least satisfaction if you simply don't respond in any way, so he'll have no idea how you felt when you got them. Don't return them or communicate with him about them in any way, because no matter what you say, he'll interpret it as progress, a sign that you are willing to talk with him if he just uses the right strategy.

Change Your Bank Account Information and Any Other Accounts the Stalker Might Have Access to

If the stalker is a former partner who knows your bank account details, or details of any credit card accounts you might have and so on, or if there's a chance he'll find out, go to the bank and contact any other financial services you use, including online banking and other services you might not use often, and ask if you can change your details. Have bank accounts closed and start new ones.

No longer share any accounts with him. Change any joint accounts. Apart from anything else, if you still have a joint account with him when you go to court, he'll be able to claim you're not serious about wanting to separate from him.

Change your usernames and passwords for online accounts. When choosing new ones, try to make sure they're not things that could be easily guessed, such as pet names, important dates and so on.

Try to opt out of receiving junk mail including credit card offers. Look online for phone numbers you can call or email addresses you can use to opt out of receiving junk mail and credit card offers. That way, you could stop the stalker stealing and filling out a credit card application you've been sent in your name and with your personal details.

Learning What the Stalking Laws Are in Your Area

Laws can change quickly. It's recommended you ask at a local battered wives shelter or two what the latest laws are, so you know what you might be able to make use of if you report him, and just how much of a threat he has to have proved himself to have been before your case is likely to be taken seriously. If the stalking laws where you live don't currently cover what he's doing, there might be other charges that could be brought against him, such as harassment ones. So it's worth finding out what laws could be used. There might be some good reputable sites on the Internet that could tell you.

If you're given advice you don't like the sound of, such as if you're told your stalker can't be charged under current laws, search around for second and third opinions, because it's possible that even someone working in an official capacity for a court and so on might be wrong.

You'll have to decide between trying to get the police involved at the early stages to try to put the stalker off, or trying to isolate yourself from him as much as possible, hoping total silence will eventually put him off and make him go away, as it does after some time with a lot of stalkers. It'll depend partly on what level of danger you think you might be in, and partly on whether the police in your area have a reputation for taking stalking seriously or not.

Tell Other People About the Stalking and Ask Them Not to Give the Stalker Information About You

Disappointed

Some people feel dismayed by the way they're treated by the police, but telling them about the problem still might be a good idea; they have a better understanding of stalking in some places than others.

Also, friends and family and neighbours should know, and also people at work. Besides giving emotional support, they can look out for the stalker and tell you about his movements. Also, if they know he's stalking you, they'll know not to give him any personal information about your whereabouts or anything if he asks. Show them a photo of him so they know what he looks like, or at least describe him.

Ask them if they'll keep records of what they see and hear him doing to add to your own, in case you need them as evidence.

Some stalkers have gained personal information about the people they're stalking by pretending to be calling a workplace, bank and so on on their behalf, saying they're a close relative, sometimes telling a made-up story about why they need the information. Ask as many people as you can think of not to disclose personal information about you such as your address or bank details to anyone but you. Such people could include co-workers, people you're on speaking terms with and who seem reasonably trustworthy at children's schools, people you know from activities you do in your spare time, the doctor's surgery, and so on. It can be useful if you can have contacts you can tell that you're being stalked who you can ask not to reveal personal information about you to a stranger even if they tell a worrying story to explain why they need it.

Protecting Your Address if the Stalker Doesn't Know it and Your Post if he Does

If you're worried about a stalker finding and reading your post before you get to it, you could rent a PO box from the post office and give people and organisations your PO box number instead of your address so they send correspondence to that and you go to the post office to pick it up. You can get a PO box if you go to the post office and ask, taking with you a few official letters that were sent to you such as bills that you can use to verify that you're you, because they've got your address on as the billing address. A small post office box doesn't cost that much. If you get one, all your post will go there and you can pick it up.

Don't leave the PO box number on a piece of paper or on the computer where a stalker could find it if he invaded your home though, or he might be able to go to the post office and get your post. Keep any post you get somewhere safe, to limit the chances of him finding the PO Box number on letters, and also reading your post if he got in.

Contact all the organisations, companies and people you can think of who you have dealings with and ask them to change the address they have for you in their records to your PO box. In future when anyone asks for your address, such as a new phone company or whatever, give them your PO box address.

It might be as well to fasten or tape your letter box shut so the stalker can't post things through it.

Look around your house for anything a stalker could get personal information about you from that you'd rather he didn't know, such as a calendar with events written on it that you plan to attend, or bank statements, or addresses of friends, or anything else a stalker might get information from that they could use against you. Try thinking of a much safer place to put it.

Don't carry private information such as your address around with you, as far as you can help it.

When you're thinking about going to a post office to set up a PO box address, if that's what you decide to do, look around the post office you're thinking of going to to see how conspicuous you'd be going in and out if someone's watching. Try and choose one that's open for long hours so you can go when you choose. See if there's more than one place to park and more than one door you could use.

Having more than one PO box address could possibly be a good idea, so if the stalker finds out about one, he won't find everything.

Ask your family to be careful where they leave your real address written down in case the stalker tries to steal it from them.

Keeping Your Phone Number Private

It can be good to phone the phone company and ask if you can change your phone number, and ask if your new one can be ex-directory/unlisted in the phone book and with Directory Enquiries, and also that it not be listed on the Internet or anywhere else.

Ask the phone company what services they have in place to help people receiving harassing phone calls, such as a call tracing facility that would enable them to find out where the calls are coming from, and any equipment that would record calls so they could be used as evidence in court if it came to that. Ask to speak to someone who deals with harassing calls so they can advise you; make sure you're not just talking to a salesperson who wants to sell you expensive features. And make sure they give you clear instructions on how to use any facility they advise you to get.

There's a variety of things you might be able to get. For instance, some phones can be programmed to ring in different ways according to who's calling, so if you don't want to answer the phone to someone, you can ignore the ringing when it makes the sound it makes when the call comes from the number they usually call from. Other measures would be better if they call dozens of times a day. Some phone companies actually have a service where they can block calls from certain numbers so they don't even ring your end.

Don't give your phone number out to anyone or any company unless it's likely to be necessary. You could give your work phone number if one's required, but give the main one, not your extension. If the stalker's managed to put spyware on your computer that logs every keystroke you make, it could pick up things like that.

Remember to put phone bills in a very safe place or shred them when you've read them, since they'll have your phone number on them.

Limiting Access to Other Information About You

Be careful about giving out your name. On Internet forums and so on, use a fake one. Try asking the bank and so on if credit/debit cards can be issued with just the initials of your first names rather than them in full, and try and get bills sent to a PO box address.

Ask friends, family, landlords, co-workers, neighbours and so on to destroy or protect any personal information they have about you that a stalker could make use of. Stalkers often break in to the homes of the friends and family of the person they're stalking to get information about them. Tell them not to keep information like your address and phone number in places where they could be easily found like their wallets or address books. Tell them not to give your personal information to anyone they don't know they can trust, even if they tell them a convincing story about why they need it.

Don't ever use any piece of personal information as a password on any Internet site. If you have, change your password to something meaningless. Otherwise, if the stalker's trying to guess your passwords, he might guess them quite easily and then pretend to be you and do some damage, perhaps even taking money from your bank account if your online banking password's an easy one to guess.

If someone comes to your door or phones you up or emails you or writes to you asking for information about yourself, don't give it to them. If they say they're something to do with a company or the council or government or some other official organisation, insist on calling their office to find out if they're legitimate. And look up the phone number of the organisation they say they're from yourself; don't just phone the number they give you.

Don't write down your personal information for anything that isn't essential.

Buy a Paper Shredder

Throwing away a letter

Stalkers will likely enjoy going through the things you throw away to try to find out personal information about you. Shredding, or tearing into small pieces by hand, any letters that might contain personal information about you, as well as receipts and anything else a stalker can find things out from if they sort through your rubbish, can protect you, especially if some contains credit card details, information about family trips you intend to make, lists you make to yourself about what you're going to do when, and where you're going to go, which a stalker can use to find out your routines; or anything else a stalker could use against you. Sometimes, just having information about you makes a stalker happy. Even if he doesn't currently intend to use anything to harm you, just getting information will be a reward for stalking and encourage him to stalk some more to see what else he can find. So shredding paper with information about you on it before you throw it away can be a good thing. A paper shredder can be bought from shops that sell things like office supplies.

Making Your Home Safe From Break-Ins

A house

Some safety precautions could ease your mind and be of real practical value.

If you rent, ask the landlord if he can do anything to make the house more difficult to break into. See if he'll install better locks or more security devices.

If the landlord doesn't seem interested in helping, check with the police, a lawyer or a tenant's organisation to find out what property owners must do legally to ensure the safety of their properties.

But even if the landlord doesn't help, you could install better window and door locks yourself and put a security system in place if you can, since a lot of them don't need to be installed permanently, so the property could be restored to its previous condition if you left.

You might be able to find lots of safety equipment in a local hardware store.

You could increase the lighting outside your house, so the stalker will be more easily spotted. Some security lights get brighter as a person approaches them, so it's possible it could put some intruders off. It's possible to get lights that come on automatically at dusk. Shopping around on the Internet might help you find the best places to buy such things and the best type before you buy any. You could keep the lights on all night, or it's possible to install a motion detector that turns the lights on when someone approaches them. If they're adjusted properly, apparently animals like cats and dogs won't set them off. To make sure it isn't easy for someone to remove them, install them high up.

Indoors, it's recommended you put lamps on near windows at night when the curtains are shut, so you'll make fewer shadows on the curtains or blinds as you walk around, so if the stalker's outside looking at the house, he won't be able to detect your movements so easily.

It's possible to get lights that come on automatically in the evening, and then turn themselves off later, and you can have several around the house you can program to come on at different times by themselves, so it looks as if the house is occupied, possibly by more than one person, different people in different rooms. It's best to change the times they come on and the order in which they come on often, so a stalker doesn't start thinking there's a definite pattern to where you are and when he can find you in, or work out you've got lights on timer switches.

It can be good to leave a light on in the bathroom all night sometimes, so if someone turns up outside in the middle of the night, they'll probably think someone's still awake so it might not be a good time to break in.

If your fuse box is easy to find, it might be a good idea to buy a padlock and lock it.

Fast-growing garden

Cut any bushes back so it's more difficult for someone to hide in them to spy on you. And think about whether there are any other features that could be used as hiding places, and modify them if possible. Make the entrance to the front of your house visible to neighbours by removing anything that could obscure it, so the neighbours might spot and inform you of any suspicious activity they see. Cut any hedges down so they're under four feet high. Make sure there's only a low fence if there is one.

If you'd prefer bushes around your home, consider getting thick thorny plants that would be unpleasant for anyone to hide in or push through.

Make sure the garage isn't an easy place to enter the house from.

Make Your House Number Visible so the Police can See it Easily

Find a way to make your house number visible, day and night if you can. That'll mean that if a neighbour phones the police reporting that someone's causing trouble outside your house, they're more likely to be able to give the correct address. And if the police come, they'll find your house more quickly. You're not making yourself more conspicuous to a stalker by making your house number visible, since if he shows up in front of your house, he already knows your address, so a visible house number won't make a difference.

Try and Get Extra Secure Door Locks

If the stalker, or anyone close to him, has ever had a key to your home, change the locks.

Make sure all the door locks are good ones. Some locks are more difficult to pick than others. And a couple of bolts in different places on the front and back door besides the lock can be good, so it's still secure if one lock gets picked. A bolt at the top and bottom can mean it offers more resistance if anyone tries to kick it open, wrenching locks away from the part of the door frame they're attached to. Look on the Internet for advice about the highest quality locks or look at different designs in your local hardware store. Don't just go for a lock sold by the first website or person who gives you a convincing sales pitch. Some things might be better and cheaper than what they're selling.

It can be easy to kick doors in though, so if you can afford it, look for a sturdy door if you haven't got one already. It's best if doors can be made out of solid wood or metal or fibre glass. Quite a lot of doors are hollow inside and made of thin wood, so they're easy to break.

Also, if possible, make sure the door frame is attached to the wall extra securely so it can't easily be wrenched away from it.

Ideally, doors to the outside should be windowless and there shouldn't be a window nearby that a stalker could break and put their hand in to reach the lock and door handle from the inside.

It's possible to get metal bars that can be fitted into a mounting on the floor, going down at an angle from where they attach to the door near the door knob. They make it more difficult for the door to be kicked in. And some can be put in place and removed very quickly so they wouldn't be a hazard if you needed to get out of the house quickly because there was a fire.

Locks will naturally be worthless if you open the door to someone ringing the bell if you don't know who it is. It's possible to buy an intercom system so they press a button from outside and you hear it buzz, then you press a button from inside that enables you to talk to them and find out who they are. Or there are such things as peep holes that can be fitted into the door that you can see out of, but some stop people looking in through them. There is a piece of technology that allows people to look in from the outside, so it's best to put masking tape or something over them when they're not in use.

Lock Your Door When Going Out, Even for a Short Time

Make sure you always lock your doors, even if you're only going out for a few minutes, and when you're indoors, especially at night. A lot of burglaries are committed in homes where the door wasn't locked. It might be best to lock your door even when you're going into the garden to mow the lawn, or something that'll take even less time, in case the stalker manages to sneak into your house when you're not looking. Approach the door on the way back in with your keys already in your hand, so you don't have to fumble for them, wasting precious time where you're standing there vulnerable to unwanted attentions.

But then, it might be that you'll want to get back into the house in a hurry to escape the stalker in your garden before you were planning on going in. An unlocked door would be more convenient then. If your key's somewhere on you where you could get to it very easily, though not conspicuous to someone looking at you, perhaps that could often be a good idea.

Don't leave an emergency key outside where a stalker could find it if searching.

Put locks on bedroom doors and maybe other inner doors too if you haven't got them already. Bolts can be better than locks with keys, in case you need to get out quickly because there's a fire and you need to search for the key, or you want to get in and lock it in a hurry and you don't have the key on you. Locks will be convenient if someone breaks in, since you can go into a room and lock the door so they can't follow you in.

You could put chairs under door handles to stop anyone pushing the handles down from the other side if they pick the lock, if you've got that type of door handle.

Apparently you can buy things called door stop alarms which are inexpensive little battery-operated things you can put under doors and they'll sound an alarm if someone opens them. It could be useful to put one under doors to the main rooms in the house, including the bedroom, when there isn't much activity in the house. You can find out the places they're sold on the Internet.

Window Safety

Make sure the windows are secure. It's possible to get locks that allow the windows to open a few inches but no more, so you can get ventilation but no one can open them wide enough to climb in. You can take them off the catch and open them wide from inside, but when you put them on the catch it means no one can pull them open from outside.

Designating One Room in the House as a "Safe Room"

That could be your bedroom or maybe a child's room, or whichever room you think would be best. It's a room you and your family can go in and shut yourselves in immediately if there's danger in the house. It should have a good lock on the door, perhaps a couple of bolts. Have a mobile/cell phone always in that room so you can call the police even if the stalker's cut the phone wires. Have a set of house keys there, so you can throw them down to the police when they arrive so they can get in easily.

Also keep things in there that you could use for self-defence if you had to.

If you hear a suspicious noise that scares you at any time of the night or day, don't go and investigate; go into your safe room and lock the door. Phone the police if you become more sure it's an intruder. Get ready with what you've prepared to defend yourself if you have to.

Preparing an Emergency Kit

It's worth putting together some emergency supplies you can quickly take with you if you have to leave the house in a hurry. They can be things like:

That might sound like too much to have in one place where a stalker could get to it. You could maybe keep it at a trusted relative or friend's house; or you could keep some of it in a safe deposit box in a bank.

Do something similar with any confidential documents or valuables in your home.

Considering Whether It's Worth Getting a Dog as a Security Aid

Dog walking

Think about whether getting a dog's worth it. They can provide very good early warning signs of an intruder, but they won't necessarily; after all, a little bit of bacon from the stalker and they might be thoroughly diverted. They'd need to be trained to be reliable, and that could be expensive. Also, their food and vet bills will be expensive, and they'll need walking a few times a day, which might make your whereabouts more obvious.

Getting a Home Security System

There are lots of different kinds of security systems, that go from hugely expensive and complex to more simple and affordable. Shop around finding out what's available; don't fall for a good sales pitch and get more than you need or can really afford.

Perhaps the most important thing is that it has some kind of alarm so when you switch it on at night, you can be fairly sure you'll be woken up by it if an intruder tries to get in, so they can't get in undetected. It could also put them off breaking in when you're not there. Some security systems have keypads you can put in every main room and by your front door with panic buttons on them that allow you to quickly call for help. Some have "hostage codes", that mean that if you walk into your home and an intruder comes in behind you and orders you to turn your alarm off, you can put the code in, which will turn the alarm off, but it will also signal the alarm call centre and the police.

It's possible to get security systems with mobile/cell phone back-up; if the wires are cut to your land line phone, it'll still call the police. Some security systems are totally wireless.

Check the security system's working every week just to make sure it is. Call the alarm centre before you do a test so they don't mistake it for an intruder.

Try to sign up with a company where you don't have to commit to signing up for ages unless you pay a cancellation fee. There are companies where you don't have to sign up for that long at any one time.

Make sure the bill's in your name. Security companies consider the person whose name's on the account the owner of the system and will comply with requests only from the one who signed the contract.

Security Cameras and Other Hi-Tech Security Gadgets

Radioing for help

Getting some kind of security camera can be good, to record any suspicious activity outside your house, such as the stalker vandalising something, trying to break in or leaving gifts or letters and so on. Having something he can be recorded with indoors could be useful as well. Security cameras are very small, so they can be difficult to spot, and they can be put up easily. It's possible to buy them with motion detectors, so they're not recording all the time which would mean trawling through hours of recording to find anything worthwhile, but they start recording when they sense movement. Have a look online to see what you can find and instructions on how to install and work them.

They're a lot cheaper than a full security system, but naturally they won't automatically call the police for you, which could be convenient if an intruder gets to you before you can reach a phone.

There are cameras with night vision, but they're more expensive; you could get cheaper ones but make sure the areas you put them in are well lit by powerful lamps. You could probably find advice about the best ways of doing that online. Apparently some are called contractor's lamps.

It's best to put a camera wherever you think the stalker might intrude or vandalise or do something else unwanted. So you might have a few of them, outside different parts of the house, with perhaps one in the garage and so on.

It's also possible to get fake video cameras, which obviously don't record anything, but they look real and can deter a non-expert who doesn't look at them in detail.

There are things called driveway alarms you can buy that you put outside, (or you could put one in an isolated part of the house), and you have a receiver in the house that sounds an alarm signal if movement's detected nearby, if someone or a car goes past. Some can detect movement further away than others, depending on what you want. Have a look around online to see what's available if you think one could be useful.

You could get a mobile/cell phone with a camera, so if you see the stalker doing something he shouldn't, you can record him if you've got your phone on you. It could be valuable evidence against him and prove to the police that something really did happen which will make it more likely they can charge him with something.

When you've taken a picture, try to email it to yourself immediately using your phone, so you'll still have it if the stalker grabs your phone and runs away with it.

If you don't have a phone that takes pictures, one can at least be useful to have so you can call for help. Keep a charger with you.

There's a thing called an automatic emergency dialler you can buy, if you don't have a security system. If an intruder bursts in and you don't have time to call the police, you can just press one button and it phones the police, ambulance or fire department and plays a pre-recorded message giving your location.

It's possible to get counter-surveillance equipment you can use to check whether the stalker's hidden bugs and video cameras and things like that inside your home to spy on you. If you shop around, you might find some a lot cheaper than what you first come across.

There are lots of other hi-tech gadgets like that you could look at on the Internet before deciding what to buy.

Things Well Worth Keeping and Doing Around the Home to Defend Against the Stalker

Keeping several torches/flashlights around the home in different places can be useful in case the stalker manages to cut off the power at night.

It could be good to keep a couple of fire extinguishers in the house and one in the car or garage.

Keep things handy that you can use to defend yourself in emergencies.

Plan for how you'd get out of the house quickly if you had to. Plan several ways out if possible. Think about what could make the exits easier to use. You could buy some emergency escape ladders, one for your room and one for others, such as children's rooms. You might be able to find those in hardware stores as well, near the fire extinguishers.

In each room, try to work out two different routes of escape if you can.

Practice escaping from all the rooms from time to time so you can be more confident you really could do it if you had to, and you get better at it than you would be if you'd never done it before. Also, planning ahead will help you pay more attention to the safety of the escape route than you might if you tried it without having had a good think about the practicalities first.

When Coming and Going From Home

Prepare your home before you leave it, switching any alarms on you have and so on.

When you come back, search around the property to make sure everything's as you left it. Approach it cautiously.

Get the Help of Neighbours

If your neighbourhood has a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, you could ask them to watch out for any suspicious activity around your home. If you can trust them, tell close friends, your neighbours and landlord about the stalker. Show them a picture of him if you have one and describe what car he drives if he has one. Tell them never to give out personal information about you to anyone, no matter how reasonable or urgent their request sounds.

Things to Tell the Children

Child playing

If you have children, teach them how to call the police and the fire service. Agree on a code word or phrase with them and close friends and relatives, that means, "I'm in trouble; call for help".

If the children are old enough to understand, explain to them a bit about why you're so careful with your personal information and why they must be as well. Naturally you don't want to say enough to frighten them about their safety or yours, but they ought to have some kind of explanation for precautions you're taking that might otherwise seem worrying to them and which they might invent scary theories about.

Going Out

Apparently you can get mechanisms that make the radio and television come on automatically on a timer system. It might be useful to set those up if you can, especially if you're going out in the evening. Or you could leave a radio or the television on so people can hear it faintly from outside, so it gives the impression someone's home. You could also leave a light on. Or you could have some on timer switches that turn on by themselves.

If you think it's possible someone might be able to get in and hide in your home waiting for you, try to think of where they might hide and do your best to make those hiding places less easy to hide in, or make it so you'll be warned someone might be hiding there. For instance, you could leave all wardrobe doors open, and if one's closed when you come back, you'll know you either forgot to leave it open or someone's got in and is hiding in it. You could try to arrange things so anyone hiding will have to have moved something to get there, so if it's been moved, you can tell something's wrong. For instance, you could put something in a hiding place that they'll have to remove if they want to fit in it. Or it could be something fairly small that you leave sticking out of it when you go out, and if you can't see it or it's somewhere else when you return, you'll know it's been moved, possibly by an intruder.

Don't use bed spreads that go all the way down to the floor so a stalker could crawl underneath and hide under the bed undetected. Or if you do, put heavy things under the bed so a stalker wouldn't be able to hide there without removing them.

When Returning Home

When you come home, have your key in your hand as you approach the door, so you don't have to stand around trying to find it.

You could try establishing a kind of code with your family, and your neighbours if they're willing to look out for your safety. For instance, when you come home, one short beep on your car horn could mean, "Everything seems allright; please could you just watch to make sure I get to the door allright?" and two short beeps could mean, "I can see the stalker; please call the police".

Don't touch any suspicious-looking package, especially a hand-delivered one. It's rare, but it has been known for a stalker to deliver a bomb to his victim.

If there are obvious signs that someone's been in the house uninvited when you were out, he might still be there! Don't go in, but go somewhere else and call the police.

If there aren't any obvious signs of an intruder, you would still be advised to search your home every time you return to it. You can increase the safety of doing that by having a switched-on mobile/cell phone in one hand the whole time so you can call the police quickly with it if you see or hear anything that suggests the stalker's around. Or you could carry that in a pocket or something while carrying something you could use to defend yourself if you had to in one hand, while using the other hand to open doors and things.

Try and be on full alert while searching. Go slowly, looking around and listening for the slightest suspicious noise. If you see or hear anything suspicious, don't get close to it. Leave the area and phone the police.

While In the House

It can be best to keep all the doors locked, and windows too, a lot of the time. Put net curtains up to make it harder to see in during the day, and shut curtains when it begins to get dark. Getting long heavy curtains that make it even more difficult to work out what's happening inside or see through cracks can be best. It's possible to get cheap blinds to put over doors with glass in them and so on.

If a repair person or someone like that comes to your house, always ask for identification, even if you were expecting them. The stalker might have coincidentally decided to put some scheme into operation against you at the same time and rung the doorbell or sent a friend to see you.


Part Four
Doing Your Best to Stay Safe From the Stalker at Work

In the Workplace

Work

You probably won't be lucky enough to be able to change your workplace to get away from the stalker. But if you can, be careful who you tell about it, and watch out and try to take evasive action if you see you're being followed on the way there, to try and prevent the stalker finding out where your new one is after all the trouble you went to to change it.

Change your environment at work so you're less conspicuous.

Try to get the help of other workers you can trust. Tell your boss, your personnel department, and your company's security department about the stalker, and your co-workers if you think they can be trusted. Show them a picture of him if you have one. Describe his car if you know what it's like. Warn them not to give out personal information about you to anyone, no matter how reasonable or urgent their request for it seems to be.

Try and get the help of your employer. One thing they might be able to do in some places is to get a company restraining order against the stalker, which will mean the company will take action against him instead of you having to, and appear in court instead of you if it comes to that.

Also ask if the employer will allow you to arrive at and leave work at different times each day, so you're not coming and going at times a stalker can easily predict.

If you talk to people on the phone as part of your work and you have an answering machine, get someone else to record a new message, or use the one the company provides, so the stalker won't be gratified by hearing your voice if he calls and hears the answering machine message.

If the stalker knows whereabouts your office is or whereabouts you work in the office, try to get transferred to a different place in the building, so if the stalker turned up he couldn't find you so easily.

Remove personal information from view. If you've got your name on a parking place, a locker, a door, on your desk or anywhere else, remove it. You could maybe use a fake name.

Keep any business cards you have in a drawer rather than on display on your desk.

Don't take any photos of your family to work.

Don't have any personal information about you or your family visible or somewhere where it could be found easily. That includes on a computer where someone might look at files you've created.

Plan ahead for emergencies:

Think about how you'd get out of your work area in an emergency. Try to think of two possible easy ways out of all the places you tend to go during the work day.

If you can, set up your phone to speed-dial an emergency number - the police or your company security, - with the minimum number of button presses possible. Test your memory occasionally to make sure dialling it comes easily by going through the motions of doing so without actually pressing the buttons. Remember to practise dialling the number you need for an outside line first if that's necessary.

If you work from home, don't use your residential address on business cards, stationery, envelopes and so on. Use your post office box address instead.

Make yourself less conspicuous:

If possible, have your letters, packages, phone calls and visitors screened by someone else before they get to you.

Don't let your name be used on noticeboards, wall displays, maps or anywhere else where the stalker might look for information about you and your whereabouts.

Vary your schedule as much as you can; don't eat lunch at the same time or in the same place every day, and try to have your breaks at different times and in different places every day.

If possible, don't be alone in the loos.

Be extra alert coming and going from work.

When Coming and Going From Work

Ask company security personnel or co-workers if they'll walk with you to your car if you drive there.

Park in a different place every day if possible.

Especially if you use public transport, arrive and leave work at slightly different times each day if possible, so the stalker can't follow you so easily.

Occasionally come to work in one set of clothes and change into another one before leaving.

Have something you could use to defend yourself with, or a mobile phone you could use to call for help, in your hand in your coat pocket while coming and going from work.

Try not to be too anxious, but be alert, constantly looking at what's around on your journey.


Part Five
Safety in the Car

Road rage

Stalkers can sometimes try to follow their victims home when they're driving or force them off the road. There are things people can do to increase their safety, and the car could be used as a powerful defensive weapon if it came to a choice between you being put at risk of serious harm and the stalker being harmed.

Never let your petrol tank run low. And keep your car in good working condition to reduce the chances of it breaking down and stranding you somewhere.

Keep a pen or pencil and a small notebook in your car, so you can write down any suspicious car registration numbers or descriptions of vehicles.

Keep a torch/flashlight within easy reach of you when you're in the car. Regularly make sure it's working well and the batteries aren't flat. It should be powerful enough to illuminate things and people outside the car in the dark.

Always have a mobile/cell phone with you in the car, maybe in your pocket, so you can call for help in an emergency.

Stalkers often vandalise cars. Try and get a cap for the fuel tank that's lockable and can only be unlocked from the inside of the car. Then the stalker will find it more difficult to add sugar or something else to the fuel that'll make the car drive inefficiently or stop altogether.

Learn how to change a tyre if you don't know already, and then make sure you have a spare tyre and the tools to change it in the car, although if you have a flat tyre and think it isn't safe to get out of the car, drive on that for a while; don't take the risk of changing it.

Don't have bumper stickers or individualised registration numbers or anything that would make it easier for a stalker to identify the car as yours and follow it.

Put any papers that identify the car as yours in a place that isn't the first place someone would look for them like the glove compartment.

Don't leave things in the car that you wouldn't want the stalker to see, for instance any post you pick up from the post office. If you leave anything visible that might contain personal information about you, a stalker might be enticed to break in to look at it.

See if you can borrow other people's cars sometimes to make it more difficult to detect you.

If you're going somewhere new, plan the journey in detail in advance. You could look on the Internet for a map of the area. Decide on what route you want to take, and have maps and printed directions in the car with you, so you don't have to stop to get out and ask for directions.

When Approaching Your Car

Look around at the vehicles around your car to see if anything seems suspicious. You could always get in from the passenger side if something next to you on the driver's side makes you uneasy. Always glance under the car, around it and inside it before getting in, especially in the back seat, to make sure something nasty hasn't been left there or someone isn't hiding there waiting for you.

While walking towards your car, have your keys in your hand. Your hand could still be in your pocket. But hold them so you don't have to stand around fumbling for them where you're vulnerable when you get to your car.

Apparently, most assaults at cars come from the direction of the back of them. So to avoid that or at least give yourself more warning so you've got more time to react, learn to unlock the car in a way that means you can see the back of the car and beyond it when you unlock it, so you can tell what's going on around there better.

Get into the habit of locking the car doors immediately you get in it, before putting the seatbelt on or starting the engine.

As soon as you've locked the door, drive away; don't risk sitting still reading or searching for something and so on.

If you have children, don't leave them alone in the car, not even for a minute while you just return a shopping trolley across the car park to the supermarket or something. You don't want to risk the stalker trying to hurt you by getting at your children.

If someone's coming after you as you're going towards your car, get in and lock the door as quickly as you can, then drive off as fast as you can safely, leaning on the horn!

If you're attacked at your car and you don't have enough time to get in it, drop to the ground and crawl under the car. Yell, kick and bite viciously, and use anything you have on you that can be used as a weapon.

When You're Driving

Driving a car

Keep the doors locked all the time you're in the car, and also keep the windows up. If it's too hot or airless like that, open the windows just a few inches, but not enough for someone to reach in.

Vary the times you leave and go to work and also the times when you go shopping and do other things. And vary the routes you take to get there. Vary the places you go shopping and do recreational activities like swimming or meeting friends and so on, so the stalker can't easily predict where you'll be and hang around there till you turn up.

When you have to stop in traffic, make sure you can see the road between the front of your car and the back of the car in front of you. Then you might well have enough space to manoeuvre around that car if someone comes up to your car to attack or harass you while you're not moving.

While you're waiting for the traffic to start again, remember to stay alert to what's around you, while trying not to be unnecessarily anxious. Keep your radio at a low enough volume for you to be able to hear what's going on around the car.

If You're Followed in Your Car

If you think the stalker's following you, don't try to speed away from him. That would be dangerous for you and any nearby drivers and bystanders, and it will encourage him to carry on following you, since he'll be more sure it's you and he'll think he's making you fearful so he'll be pleased he's having an impact.

And don't slam on the brakes. If you cause a crash, you might well have cause to regret it.

A better thing to do is to find somewhere where you can go around the block or take roads where you can go round in circles. Watch what the car behind you does; if it makes all the same turns as you, you'll know you really are being followed.

If you are, you could call the police on your mobile/cell phone.

Don't continue to drive to your original destination. Go instead to somewhere where there will be lots of people, or authority figures; go to a police station, a fire station, a crowded shopping mall, petrol station, hospital, or somewhere else where there are bound to be quite a lot of people around. When you get there, don't get out of the car, but stay there and flash the headlights and beep the horn to attract attention.

If you manage to escape the person following you and make it home unharmed, still phone the police and report what happened, giving them as much detail as you can about the car and the person or people in it.

When You Park

When you park, always think about whether the car's in a good place for you to be able to check it over and get away quickly when you come back to it. Park with that in mind. Try parking near a light source, near a parking attendant or near an exit.

If you can, back into the parking space so you won't have to back out of it when you leave.

If you have children with you and you're returning from somewhere like shopping, get the children into the car before the groceries, so a stalker can't get to them easily while you're occupied with putting the shopping in the car.

If you park in a residents' car park at home, or when you park at work, try not to park in the same place every time. If you've got an assigned parking place, try to arrange to swap places with others sometimes or park where visitors park. Apart from anything else, stalkers sometimes like to vandalise their victims' cars, so moving yours so they might get the impression it isn't there every day might make it less likely they'll get the idea to do that, unless they know your car's definitely there somewhere. And before you park, drive around a bit to check to see if anything that looks suspicious is going on.

If you park in your own garage, it's worth getting an electric garage door opener that means you can open the door from inside your car, maybe with a remote control device, and then you close it again before getting out. The rest of the time the door will stay shut. Again, looking at several different varieties on the Internet will give you some idea of what they're like and the kinds of prices and what it might be best to buy.

And it's good to keep your car locked all the time you're in the car. It means that if you stop for something, such as at a traffic light, a stalker can't open the door and start talking to you or trying to manipulate you by threatening you.

If You're in an Emergency

If you can, stay in the car, use the horn, and keep moving. A moving target's harder to hit.

Call the police if you can and tell them your exact location.

If you're in a minor traffic accident, remember that the stalker or a friend of his might have caused it to try to force you out of your car. Stay in the car if possible. It's likely to be the safest place for you to be. Open the window only an inch or so to exchange insurance paperwork and so on. Use your phone to call the police or a tow truck.

Don't stop to help a motorist who seems to be in trouble; they might be a decoy for the stalker to get the opportunity to get to you. If you want to help, use your mobile/cell phone to call the police and report the location of the stranded vehicle.

If you're in danger from someone outside the car, don't get out. Use your car to escape. Drive over him if he would kill or seriously hurt you if you didn't do something drastic. Drive to a place where there are other people and beep the horn a lot to attract attention.

If someone menacing has managed to get into the car with you, don't let him drive you anywhere or make you drive anywhere. Being kidnapped could put you in far more danger than you already are in. Refuse to drive and refuse to give him the keys. Fling the keys out the window as hard as you can if you feel it's the only way to stop yourself being taken away.

If the stalker's in the car with you and you feel trapped, it's suggested you could turn so your back's against the door, lift your legs up chest-high and kick him over and over again with your heels as hard and as fast as you can. If he's driving, it's suggested you try to stop him by gouging his eyes or yanking the steering wheel out of his hand, even if it means you crash into something that stops the car.


Part Six
Safety When Travelling in Other Ways

Being in Public Places

Out in the rain

Don't assume public places will always be safe. Remember to stay alert while in public, looking around you for signs of danger. Most stalkers aren't deranged enough to attack their victims in public, but it's been known. And some will still surreptitiously frighten or harass them in public. And some public places can become quiet very quickly, so they become more dangerous.

There are things you can do to stay safer in public:

Most people don't usually expect anything to go wrong, so they don't pay much attention to what's going on around them. But it's possible to stay calm and yet make a point of taking in the surroundings frequently, observing who's around, what vehicles are near you and what escape routes you could use if you had to, and things like that. Naturally, people can't be expected to stay calm if they detect what might be a threat.

Make planning to take evasive action a priority; as soon as you go into a restaurant or shop or anywhere else, always make a mental note of where the exits are.

Work out where you could have a reasonable hope of being safe. Find out which shops are open late or all night, and where the police station and the fire station is.

Vary your routine. Use more than one ATM, supermarket and so on. Use ones in different places and at different times of day. Go to new places for entertainment and recreation and so on.

Have something handy that you could use to defend yourself against the stalker if need be.

When walking around on foot, keep your head up and your eyes and ears open so you're alert to what's going on around you. Don't wear headphones, since listening to music or something will obscure the sound of anyone approaching so you might not be so alert to danger.

Wear shoes you can run in, to make it easier to get away if you have to.

Try to arrange to go shopping with a friend if you can.

If possible, don't walk too near the kerb where it would be easy to push you off, or too near the other side of the pavement if there are alleyways or doorways you could be pushed into.

Try to keep moving all the time, especially if you're nervous, since a moving target's harder to hit. If someone asks you the time, or for directions, or any other question, firmly say "I don't know" and move on without hesitation.

Whenever it's practical, walk with your hands empty, so you could more easily reach for something to fight with if you had to.

If you see someone approaching you who might be threatening, briefly look at him so he knows you've seen him and then immediately go somewhere where you feel safer. Perhaps cross the road if you can, and perhaps make for somewhere where there are more people around.

Try to Spend More Time With Friends

Talking

Always assume that your stalker might be watching you so taking precautions would be wise; try to spend more time with friends and less time alone.

Always keep enough cash on you to get by for a day or so in case you think it might be too risky to go to where the cash machines are.

When you go out, try to go with a friend who understands the situation you're in if you can. That's especially at night. Try not to go out alone at night.

Make sure someone knows where you are at all times and when you expect to be home. If you can't think of a specific person you could leave the information with, write it down and always put it in the same place, somewhere it could easily be found if you go missing.

When on Public Transport

Familiarise yourself with the timetables of the trains and buses you need. You could write down the times of the buses and trains that are at the times of day when you're likely to need them and carry the information with you.

If possible, vary the times and places where you take buses and trains from so they're different every day, so a stalker can't get familiar with your routines.

Try to arrive at the station or stop you're starting from near the time the train or bus will get there, so you don't have to wait around before it arrives.

If you do have to wait, try to hang around near the ticket booth or where there are public officials if there are any. If there aren't, try to get fairly close to other people if there are some around, at least where they can see you.

Try and find out or think about where you could go for assistance if you had to get off a few stops/stations earlier or later than you'd intended.

If you want to take a taxi, don't get in if you feel at all uncomfortable about the driver; and don't share a taxi with strangers.

On buses and trains, sit as close to the driver as you can.

If you use public transport a lot, you could explain about the stalker to someone in charge and ask if there are any special services they could offer, such as letting the bus driver let you off at a non-standard stop, or letting you sit nearer the driver/guard/other staff than people normally would.

If you feel uncomfortable or threatened by anyone, tell the person in charge what's going on; or if you can't tell them, tell your fellow passengers.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Travelling by Bicycle

On a bike

In some senses it's good to travel by bike, because you could out-pace someone following you on foot and you could nip into places cars couldn't follow you into. The down sides are that larger vehicles can be a menace to someone on a bike, and you aren't protected by being enclosed. And unlocking a bike and getting started takes longer than getting in a car, so you need to be even more alert to who's around you at the time.

Look around the places you normally cycle in and make plans for where you could go in an emergency or if you think one might be looming.

If you're carrying something you could defend yourself with, make sure you could get to it easily without getting off your bike. You might not be able to use it in time if it's in your back pack. So keep it where you could get it easily.

As with driving and walking, don't stop or allow yourself to be distracted. Always have an emergency plan, and always be aware of who's around you.


Part Seven
Computer Safety

Don't Make Personal Information About You Easy to Find

Discouraged

Make it more difficult for people to find out your computer's yours. Don't name it after you, and don't have family photos as backgrounds or screensavers. Don't give files names that could identify them as yours or to do with your family and so on. And don't call files to do with being stalked, such as the records you write of what's happening, things that identify you as someone concerned about being stalked, so a stalker could be encouraged to check to see if they're about him.

Making Your Passwords Harder to Guess

Make sure you have passwords that aren't easy to guess. One way to create a password that's easy to remember but hard to guess is to take the first letter or number in each word of a favourite saying, song, verse or poem, put them together to make a word and use them. For instance, anyone who well remembers the old children's song, 'Ten green bottles hanging on the Wall' could have the password 10gbhotw.

Perhaps the best way of making passwords hard to guess is having a mix of upper case and lower case letters and numbers. But you'll have to use some system that allows you personally to remember them.

If you think the stalker might be monitoring your computer, try and do important transactions online from another computer he has no reason to want to monitor.

Change your passwords every few months in case some get guessed.

Don't use a single password for everything.

Other Ways of Increasing Your Computer Safety

Try to find out how to use encryption software for private documents. Have a look online to see if you can find out what programs are recommended and how they work.

Make sure you're with an Internet service provider (ISP) that won't give out your private information unless ordered to by a court.

There are websites that'll give out personal information about people. Sometimes it's freely online, and sometimes they offer the service for a fee, finding out your address, phone number and date of birth for people. Whenever you discover a website with your personal information on it, ask them to remove it from their databases.

Be careful what you say in emails; it's possible they could be intercepted. And don't give out any personal information to people you aren't certain you can trust, such as unknown people who email you.

If you get harassing email from the stalker, save it along with a printed copy in case it comes in useful as evidence. Don't reply to it in any way. Tell your ISP about it and ask if they can stop it happening. Tell the stalker's ISP, since they might be able to discipline him in some way.

If you buy things online or register with a website, use your initial instead of your full first name, and remember to use your PO box number instead of your full address.

Be careful about what you say in chat rooms or on forums. Don't use your real name. Stalkers have found a lot of victims in places like that. Make a name up that you can be known by, and don't tell anyone anything like your phone number. Since people can have several usernames, if you think you're telling one person the name of your town and another the name of the road you live on, you might have given both bits of information to the stalker. Talk as you would talk if you thought there was a possibility the stalker was listening in.

Trying to Avoid Cyber-Stalking

Scared

If you think there may be trouble, change your email address and any screen names you use on forums and in chat rooms and so on.

Don't supply any personal information when signing up for new accounts if possible.

Don't let anyone you don't know well have your main email address. Only communicate with trusted family members and friends with that, plus reputable official organisations. Sign up for free email accounts you can use to communicate with people you don't know well. That way, if they cause any trouble, you can delete the account without being inconvenienced. If you emailed a troublemaker with your main account and then set it to block emails from that sender, he could get another email account to email you on. But if you never gave him your main email address but one you only communicate with him on, you can delete it without a second thought and if he doesn't know your main one, he won't be able to email you any more.

Choose an email address and screen names on forums and chat rooms and so on that don't reveal your real name, your gender or location.

Resist the temptation to reveal anything about yourself that could identify you during an online discussion, no matter how friendly it seems.

Search for your name in Google to see if anyone's talking about you online or any website's posted your address or other details. Search in Google's web search, images and groups directories, to see if the stalker's posted photos of you online or said anything about you.

Google also has an Alerts feature that you can use to be notified of any new mentions of your name on the Internet. You can sign up to be alerted of any articles and so on with keywords of your choosing in them. If you sign up to be alerted of any mentions of your name, you'll be able to tell if a stalker's posting things about you online under your name.

Look on the Internet for the latest advice about what to do to protect your security and privacy.

A lot of stalkers know a lot about things like how to hack into computers and how to use spyware to spy on people and so on. Some spyware can log every one of your keystrokes and record all your passwords. It can be programmed to send email from your computer to the person who wants to know those things. It can be installed by means that don't require anyone to be at your computer. One way is via email attachment. You can be sent an email that looks harmless, as if it's just a letter or form to fill in, but it's really a piece of spyware that'll install itself on your computer and then send some of your personal files or information about what you do to someone who wants to know.

Some spyware programs can turn your computer on and off, make it crash or restart. Some can turn on your computer's audio or video to record you while you sit at the computer. They can be controlled by someone on a computer some distance away who can use them to read your emails or open your personal files. They can also take pictures of your computer screen sometimes and send them to a stalker as an email attachment. They can also record all your log-in names and passwords for online accounts.

Protecting Your Computer Against Spyware

Change your email address and delete your old one so a stalker can't send spyware to it.

Get a good firewall that can stop unwanted things being downloaded from the Internet. Look online for information about the best ones and what they can do. Some are free.

Make it so anyone who wants to use your computer, including you, has to put a password in first. You can probably find instructions online about how to do that. It'll mean, for one thing, that if the stalker breaks in while you're not there and tries to use your computer, it won't be so easy.

In your Internet browser, go to 'tools' and then 'options' and change your security preferences so you get the highest level of protection possible.

Be careful about opening email attachments, even from trusted friends or reputable companies. Some spammers change the 'From' email address to the address of a reputable company, or some spyware can scan your address book for names of friends and then disguise the email to look as if it came from one.

Make sure you've got good anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on your computer, and scan your computer with them regularly to pick up anything that's got there that shouldn't have. Look at several websites to find anti-virus and anti-spyware software reported in quite a few places as good. Some is free.

When you're not using the Internet, take your computer off-line. And when you're not using the computer, switch it off at the wall, so some sophisticated spyware program can't turn it on in your absence and send a stalker some of your files.

Sometimes, it's best to buy a new computer altogether if you know yours has been invaded; then you can set security preferences right from the beginning that make it hard for your computer to be invaded.

Other Technology Some Stalkers Use to Spy on Their Victims

Some stalkers track their victims' cars by attaching a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tracker device to their car. If you're getting your car seen to for any reason, ask the person looking at it to see if there's anything there that shouldn't be.

Some stalkers can use technology to intercept what wireless video cameras inside their victim's house are recording, so they're actually using them to spy on the victim. So it's best to have them switched off at any times it's thought they won't be needed.

Stalkers could also use technology to tap your phone. Look online for the latest advice on what to guard against and how to guard against it. Stalkers think up new ways of harassing victims as new technology comes along. But there will usually be ways to combat what they do, either with technology, with no-cost precautions like keeping doors locked, or legally. Sometimes it takes the law and technology time to catch up. But try and do what you can, and perhaps campaign for better laws if they're not protecting you adequately.


Part Eight
Safety on the Telephone

Stalkers can sometimes phone their victims time and time again, dozens of times a day. Or even an occasional phone call can be frightening if there's a reason to believe it's meant menacingly.

Phone

Get an answering machine to screen all your calls. Look for a way of keeping the messages the stalker puts on it as evidence against him. Get a male friend or family member to record the message people hear when they dial, so the stalker won't hear your voice. Don't use names in the message, not even first names.

Alternatively, you could always unplug the phone sometimes to stop it ringing.

You could keep a log of when the stalker calls.

If you can afford it, getting a second line can be good, with a new number you ask the phone companies to leave unpublished and unlisted, that you mainly only give to close family and friends. Then the stalker can try ringing and ringing the old number all he likes but you can just ignore it, especially if you get a phone for it where you can turn the ringer off but it still rings the other end so people phoning will assume it's ringing your end.

Prepare for an Emergency

Have a list of emergency numbers stuck on the wall near each telephone. They could include police, fire departments, women's shelters and so on. But don't put the numbers of friends and family members there in case they're seen by unwanted visitors.

Keep a pen and paper near each phone, perhaps along with a clock, so you can write down the content and time of any menacing or strange calls you get.

Phone companies often update their equipment, so phone them about once a year to see if they've got anything new that could help you.

Warn your friends and family not to give out information about you to people who phone them, even if they claim to be old school friends, delivery people and so on. They could instead take the person's number and give it to you if you'd prefer that, so you can decide yourself whether it's likely to be someone who genuinely is who they say they are.

If you don't have an answering machine to screen calls, you could maybe not say anything when you pick up the phone till the other person has said hello, so you don't reward the stalker for calling with the sound of your voice. If they haven't spoken for about five seconds, you could hang up. Friends and family will learn to speak first.

Cordless and mobile/cell phones can be eaves-dropped on more easily than land lines, if someone has the right equipment. So can baby monitors. So be careful what you say when one's on. Turn a baby monitor off when it's not in use.


Part Nine
Self-Defence

Try and find a good self-defence course. Most courses teach you ways of defending yourself if someone's trying to rape you or snatch your bag or something, which is good as far as it goes, and learning self-defence techniques against things like that can be very useful and important. But try and find a course that prepares you for things you can do if your life is in danger. Even if your stalker's never been violent, that doesn't mean he never will be.

Hitting someone

Look for courses that deal with real-life situations you might encounter. You might only have to spend between 20 and 40 hours being trained. Courses are best when the people training you wear padded suits so they encourage you to fight as hard as you can and you still won't hurt them, rather than you being a bit careful because you might. You don't want to find yourself being too gentle out of habit if you're attacked.

You could ask if your local rape crisis centre or community college or YWCA or other local organisations like that can recommend good self-defence courses, especially ones designed for women. You could also ask your local police department if they can recommend self-defence courses that are a bit like the ones police are given but adapted for civilians. That would partly mean they focus on how to disable an attacker and quickly escape, rather than the ones the police use which would primarily teach techniques for keeping an attacker close while you're restraining them so you can handcuff them.

If you can, do more than one kind of self-defence course, so you get skilled in a number of techniques and can choose whatever seems best.

Also, if you can, try and find a driving course that teaches the kinds of skills police and security staff might want, skills of defensive driving. If you can't get on a course, there are books that describe how to do things while driving that keep you safer.

Things you can Use as Weapons

Fighting

If you haven't got any real ones, you can still do a lot of damage with things around the house you can use as weapons. It might be as well to plan and practise the moves you might make with some in case you ever need to use them for real.

If you're close enough, forcefully swinging things at an intruder several times in succession can be more effective than throwing things.

Naturally, getting away from an attacker is the safest thing. But if you can't, there are things you can do. Here are some examples of things and techniques you could use:

Look around now and plan for what objects you could use as weapons if you had to. Rehearse in your mind how you'd use them. Try practising doing what you think you'd try to do by striking at the air hard with those things, for instance really putting a bar of soap in a sock or a can of food in a blouse sleeve and swinging it vigorously, imagining you're forcefully hitting certain areas, or aggressively swinging a big saucepan. That kind of thing. The more you practise, the more naturally it'll come to you and the less you'll have to waste vital time thinking about what to do if you have to defend yourself for real with those things.

You could be in danger in some places of being charged with an offence if you hurt the stalker. The best thing you can do to dissuade the police from bringing charges against you might be to give them as graphic a picture as you can of his threatening behaviour. There's no guarantee it'll work. But at the time you're in danger, you need to consider your safety first.


Part Ten
Other Things You Can Do To Protect Yourself

You could change your hairstyle or even buy a wig.

You could change your style of clothing and any distinctive thing you tend to wear or carry.

Look into finding new shops to go to.

Refuse flowers or other deliveries unless you're sure you know who they're from. You could tell the florist to take them to a local hospital as a donation. Don't take them there yourself, since then it might look to the stalker as if you accepted them.

Make a "Wanted" Poster for the Stalker

Prepare a page or two of information about the stalker to hand out to people. It should contain his picture if you have one. Also, include in it:

Make copies of the pages so you can hand them round to neighbours, friends, co-workers and others.

Don't Retaliate Against the Stalker

Clenching fists

You might like the idea of doing something nasty to him, but it'll probably make him angry, and then he might do something far worse to you than he would have done otherwise. So don't follow him or vandalise anything belonging to him, for example, and don't encourage anyone else to. Apart from making the stalker angrier, it could put you in a bad position if the case goes to court and he can say you did those things. You'll have discredited yourself, and the court might even think his behaviour might have been a valid response to yours.

Don't joke or talk about wanting to kill the stalker. You might have to kill him one day, and those words could be used against you in court, and they might sound to those listening as if you said them maliciously and they were a statement of intent, so what you did wasn't self-defence but calculated and premeditated.

The Pros and Cons of Getting a Restraining Order Against the Stalker

It can sometimes be helpful to get one, because stalkers often defend themselves in court by saying they didn't mean to scare you, since they have to have done that for it to be legally called stalking. Having previously taken out a restraining order against the stalker will prove you conveyed a message to him that you didn't want him around.

However, stalkers can be provoked to violence by having a restraining order brought against them. It can make them angry. And if not much is done to enforce it, as it often isn't, it can embolden them to do worse things, thinking they probably won't be punished.

So research the advantages and disadvantages of taking out a restraining order against the stalker before doing so. Talk about it with different people to get their opinions. And research the most recent developments. Some police forces that used to be bad at dealing with stalking might recently have got much better.


Part Eleven
Extra Protective Measures you can Take if you Have Children

Teach the children safety habits as soon as they're old enough to learn, things like knowing how to call the police, and never opening the door to anyone without asking you if it's allright first.

If the stalker's the father of your children, it'll unfortunately be difficult or impossible to avoid contact with him altogether; but there are things you can do to reduce it to a minimum and increase your chances of staying safe.

Look online and ask at places like battered women's shelters and citizens' advice bureaux if it would be possible to get the stalker's visits with the children supervised or limited. But if you find you're legally obliged to let him see the children on his own, you can at least do things to increase your safety while you're with him.

Child

Some women have prearranged times and places where they'll always hand over the children for a visit with the father, so they don't have to speak to him on the phone to arrange things every time. Some hand the children over in very public places where it's safer, such as in a busy restaurant. Some get family and friends to hand over the children for them.

If you have to meet the stalker to drop off and pick up the kids yourself, there are things you can do to keep you and your children safer:

Plan ahead so you have some ideas on how you'd handle difficulties.

Keep something between you whenever possible, like a table or whatever's available, and don't get any closer to him than you have to, so he's got slightly less opportunity to hurt you.

Have an escape route in mind, or two if possible.

Keep a close eye on him, especially his hands. If he produces a weapon, get out of there as quickly as you can!

If you're driving to the location where you're going to drop your children off or pick them up, keep the car doors locked and the windows up as much of the time as possible. Go to the place you're thinking of handing the children over at before you do, at the time of day you'd do it, before you suggest it to the abuser, so you can look around it, see how busy and thus how safe it tends to be at the time of day you're planning to drop them off or pick them up, and so you can plan ways of escape from it if you need them. Get familiar enough with the neighbourhood that you know there are several places you could drive to get away if you had to. Also look for places you could hide if you weren't in the car. Think about things he might do to threaten you and what you could do to counter them.

When you go to drop the children off or pick them up, try to get there after he does, so you notice where he's parked and you can park somewhere where you'll hopefully be able to get out easily; it'll reduce the possibility he'll come and block you in somehow. Back into a parking space so you can drive straight out of it rather than doing an awkward reverse. Or block him in if you can. The reason for that is to arrange it so you can get away quickly if you have to, whereas he'll have more difficulty following, or he'll have to make a turn to do that which will slow him down.

If the child's old enough to get out of the car and go to his car on their own, you can just let them out to go there; you don't have to go near the stalker yourself. If the child's not old enough, leave the engine running when you get out of the car so you could jump in and quickly drive away if you needed to. Ask the abuser to get out of his car to meet you halfway, so you don't have to get close to his car where he could be concealing a weapon.

As soon as he gets out of the car, begin to watch his hands. Hands with anything in them that could be used as a weapon could mean danger, as could hands in the pockets where something nasty could be concealed. Try to keep something between you and him, such as the body of your car, till you can see his hands are empty. If you can't stay there, at least be aware of other cars or objects you could use for cover if you had to.

If you see him get a weapon out or brandish one, run away as quickly as you can, preferably to your car to get away, but behind other cars or anything else that'll shield you if you have to. If he's threatening the child with the weapon as well as you or you think he might, keep the child with you. But if you're certain he's only threatening you, run away leaving the child there, behind cover if possible; although that might seem cruel, if he's reckless of whether the child's with you or not when he attacks but the child isn't his intended victim, then having the child with you could be putting the child in more danger than running away leaving him or her there would.

It's more likely he won't come out ready to attack though. But to reduce the chances of him deciding to, get any toys and bags out of the car and hand them over to him quickly along with the child, so he'll have his hands full, so he hasn't got them free to reach for a weapon.

Get back to your car as quickly as possible. Don't use those meetings to discuss anything you could discuss another way, such as over the phone where you at least won't be in physical danger from him. Discussing things face-to-face will mean that if he gets angry, you could be in danger.

He won't necessarily realise you're doing any of what you're doing as a defensive strategy if you don't let him know.

You might not be dropping the kids off by car, but still bear in mind the things about making sure you'd have somewhere to run to if you had to, keeping something between you and so on.

If your stalker has mental problems, he might well not be being treated for them. And since it would be considered not the done thing to force treatment on him even when he's a threat to others, there might be little you can do to get him any, unless he threatens suicide, in which case you could report him as being a danger to himself. If he is getting treatment, his doctors/therapists won't give you details of it because confidentiality's important to them, but they do have a duty to tell you if they think you're in danger from the person. So if you know who they are, ask them to do so.


Part Twelve
Making Safety More Affordable

A lot of safety equipment costs quite a bit of money; but there's quite a bit you can do without spending a lot, such as being alert to who's around so you can run somewhere safe if you see the stalker in the street, and defending yourself with objects around your home you can use as weapons. Even the most expensive safety equipment isn't a guarantee you won't be harmed.

One thing you can do is if you're buying things anyway, you can think about safety when making your choice of what to buy. Also, you could ask friends and family to give you presents for Christmas and birthday that help with safety, such as a paper shredder. Or you could maybe suggest they club together to buy expensive security items for you.

If you can't afford professional assistance, for instance from lawyers, you could see if there's a course for students studying to become such professionals near you, and whether students under the supervision of a teacher on it would provide advice for free.

You might be able to get good advice from free books you borrow from the library.

You might get free or cheap computer access at a library as well.

Some mobile phone deals are cheaper than others. You could ask mobile phone companies if they have cheap phones for emergency use only. Or you can get pay-as-you-go deals where the calls are expensive, but you don't have to pay monthly fees. If you don't make many calls, it won't cost much at all.

Even a phone that doesn't work could be better than nothing in a crisis, since if a stalker sees you putting it to your ear, he might think you're calling for help and back off for a while.

Ask your local police if they can look around your home and give you free security advice for protection against stalkers. A lot do offer the service free.

If you'd like to do a self-defence course but can't afford it, and can't get concessions, you could buy videos on the subject. They won't be as good as a course where you can practise techniques and get personal attention, but they might teach you a fair bit of useful stuff and be much cheaper. Seeing demonstrations of techniques and things will be better than just reading about them in books.

If you're a student, you might be able to get help such as security guards walking with you across the campus, and free Internet access so you can research more information. See if there's a women's organisation on campus that could give you safety advice and might have safety services you could use.

Try and join a support group for victims of stalking in your area, or perhaps one for survivors of domestic violence. Some people there might be able to recommend things that don't cost much, and if there are any safety devices you could share, that could help. And if anyone knows how to install safety equipment, they might help you with that instead of you having to pay someone to do it.

A women's shelter or crisis hotline might be somewhere you can go for help and advice that doesn't cost much. Even if the shelter/hotline's for domestic violence and your stalker hasn't been physically abusive, it could be worth contacting them because they might have useful information; and if they haven't, they'll probably know of organisations that have, so ask if they could recommend any. That could include places where you could get cheap legal advice. You could also contact a local law school and ask if they have clinics that offer free advice.


Part Thirteen
Avoiding Common Mistakes Stalking Victims Make

Don't Ignore Early Warning Signs There's Something Wrong With a Boyfriend

If in the early stages of a relationship, something makes you uncomfortable, don't ignore your instincts. If a boyfriend seems a bit controlling, or intolerant of others' opinions, or very possessive or jealous, or if he shows signs of violence, get out. You might feel attracted to the man, but staying in the relationship could mean trouble for you later and years of regret.

Try Not to Pity the Stalker

Tearful

Going on a date with someone who keeps pestering you out of pity could mean trouble later if he doesn't want to split up with you.

It can be tempting to make concessions to the stalker out of pity, particularly if he's a former boyfriend or husband and he sometimes sounds very upset that you won't see him. But giving him what he wants even with conditions attached will just encourage him. Often, a show of emotion could be just an act. Don't let feelings of pity stop you doing things to protect yourself or calling the police when you think it's necessary.

Victims have been alarmed sometimes because their stalkers have said things in an emotional state that have implied they'll commit suicide. It's easy to emotionally blackmail people. Though there's always the possibility they will commit suicide, if they do, it'll be because they're thinking irrationally, not because you did anything wrong. If they threaten suicide, offer to call the police or a mental health service for them, or just phone one. But don't give in and agree to see them after all. Often, their threats will just be a dramatic put-on display of emotion designed to make you change your mind; they won't mean what they say. And the tiniest hint of friendly behaviour from you can be interpreted as a go-ahead signal from a controlling person. And if you give in and say they can come and see you after all, they can use that against you in court if you later tell the police you wanted to break all contact with them. They can use what you said to try to prove you weren't serious because you yourself encouraged them to talk to you, so they had no reason to believe you minded them hanging around you.

Don't let yourself be persuaded to do things for the stalker out of sympathy by relatives the stalker has tried to get on his side. They might not think you're very nice for refusing, but if you do the stalker any favours, it'll likely only lead to trouble later.

Don't Think you can Reason With the Stalker

Some people waste a long time trying to persuade the stalker not to behave the way he does. But if he was determined not to take no for an answer the first time, there's no reason to suppose he'll become less determined if you persuade him it isn't a good idea, because people with personalities that make them do things that would seem irrational to most people will have different thought processes; so a stalker might well interpret you talking to him as a reward for his stalking behaviour; you're giving him attention, which is partly what he wants. So he'll be encouraged to carry on.

So it's best to just give the stalker a firm no at the beginning, as well-explained as you can, and then refuse to talk to him.

Trying to soften the blow because you want to be nice or respectful to him can just give him the idea that you have some feelings for him so if he does what he's doing some more, you might give in. So, for instance, if you really think you'd never want him as a boyfriend but to spare his feelings you say instead, "I don't think I'm ready for a boyfriend right now", the stalker will interpret that to mean you will be ready for one soon and he may as well hang around because you might choose him.

Man having a tantrum

And be firm about not doing anything the stalker could take as encouragement, no matter how frustrating it is. Just as if you give in to a toddler having a tantrum, you accidentally teach them that having a tantrum's the way to get what they want so they'll have more, if you get sick and tired of the phone ringing or begin to pity the stalker and pick it up after he's phoned you 50 times and got your answering machine, you've just accidentally taught him to ring more than 50 times if he wants to speak to you. If he rings your doorbell 100 times and then you answer it, he'll think he has to ring it that many times before you'll answer, and he'll likely do the same next time, or even ring it 200 times if you don't answer. If you do eventually, he'll just think persistence is the key to getting what he wants, and he'll be happy to try and try till he does.

And don't get a friend or family member or someone like that to visit to try and persuade him to stop stalking you on your behalf. He'll likely take it as a signal that you're thinking of him, and he'll be pleased, regardless of what the friend says.

Visits from the police and other legal professionals might have more effect, but it's not guaranteed.

Don't Contact the Stalker's Family

It might be tempting to try to explain what the stalker's doing to you to their family and try to get them to reason with him on your behalf, or to try to shame him by telling his family what he's doing, but it's likely to be too risky to be worth it. The family member will almost certainly talk to the stalker about what you've said, and the stalker will just be getting more information about you he can use against you in court or to intimidate you.

Don't Underestimate the Danger you Could be In

If the stalker hasn't made an actual threat, some people convince themselves they're probably allright. But stalkers don't always make threats before they attack. And in any case, just because he hasn't made a threat up until now, it doesn't mean he won't tomorrow. If you wait till then to try and increase your safety, you could be doing it in a panic, thinking you need to be quick.

It's also important not to defiantly decide not to make any changes in your life to protect yourself because you don't see why the stalker should get away with disrupting your life. It's inconvenient and it's not fair that you should have to make changes, especially since some could be expensive; but you'll have better peace of mind knowing they're keeping you safer.

An obsessed stalker will have no respect for the law; he'll want to contact you regardless of the possible penalties.

And even if the stalker's in jail or you've taken a lot of safety precautions, don't relax your guard, thinking you don't need to worry any more. Live as if you know he could get out of jail at any time; stay alert to danger, though not over-anxious if you can help it.

Don't Try to Intimidate the Stalker Into Giving Up Harassing You

Don't try stalking your stalker, for instance by trying to follow him to find out where he goes or who he is, trying to hurt him, setting a booby-trap for him, or trying to frighten him. If you try, you could end up putting your safety at risk, and getting penalised yourself by the legal system. You could end up being the one treated like the criminal.

Besides, the stalker could well see your efforts as a form of contact with you that means he's getting to you or you're thinking of him, so he'll get the reward of knowing he's having an effect on you. Chances are he'll be pleased you're giving him attention even if it's unpleasant.


Part Fourteen
Dealing With the Stress Caused by Being Stalked

Besides trying to reduce your anxiety by taking safety precautions so you'll have more confidence you're reducing your chances of being harmed, there are other things that are known to reduce stress:

Remember that when you take safety precautions against the stalker, though you might be inconvenienced and annoyed at having to do so, it will reduce your fear, because you'll be more in control, making it harder for him to find you.


Part Fifteen
If You Take the Stalker to Court

There are several things that can increase your chances of getting everything you'd like to say across and winning your case:

A prisoner

Rehearse What You're Going to Say

The day before you go to court, imagine you're in the witness stand, and try to imagine what questions the lawyer might ask you. Go over what you hope to say. Refresh your memory about the important things that happened, and think through how you'd like to respond to the lawyer and what the essential things are you want to get across. Practice saying the most important things in as short a time as you can to make sure you get them in.

If you've rehearsed, you might be more confident, and also be better at getting the points across that you really want to make, partly because you've refreshed your memory of the important things and worked out what needs saying most, and partly because if you've practised what to say, you're less likely to stammer and stumble over it in court and get too emotional to speak because some things are just this second coming back to your memory.

Take Notes and Documents to Court

If you make brief notes of the important things you want to say, perhaps a bullet-pointed list of keywords that'll jog your memory, you can read it to refresh your memory and give you more confidence you won't forget important things before you go up to testify about what happened.

It can also be useful to bring police reports, any notifications of restraining orders against the stalker you have, and any other official written evidence that you were being bothered by the stalker. It's possible the stalker's lawyer could challenge you under cross-examination about whether you can show evidence you tried to keep him away or were genuinely being bothered by him. If you can simply provide evidence on the spot, their tactic of trying to suggest their client the stalker wasn't really being a nuisance won't have worked.

Keep Your Responses to the Lawyer Short

Heated debate

Try and stick to the important points; the defence lawyer for the stalker will try to distract you by asking questions that could lead you into talking about things that aren't that incriminating to the stalker, such as the details of some conversation you had; the lawyer might ask challenging questions about whether you really did say what you say you did, and that kind of thing, in the hope you'll get engrossed in talking about that, and some of the important details of what happened will be forgotten.

So if you think the lawyer's asking you questions that aren't directly relevant to what you want to say, don't go into details. Remember the lawyer's trying to stop the stalker looking so bad. Say all you can about the most important things whenever you get the chance; the lawyer will try to stop you talking about those by cutting you short and challenging you about whether little details are true. So try to get in the most important facts but say little about less serious details.

The lawyer might also try to make you look like a liar, and also try to get you talking about insignificant details, by using other tactics. One might be to bring up any insignificant differences between what you're saying and things you've said in the past, even if they don't contradict each other. They'll point out the differences to try to imply you're making things up and can't get your story straight. Try to keep calm and dismiss the accusations as quickly as possible to get back to the important things.

Don't let the lawyer rush you. Though it's best to avoid dwelling on less significant details, do your best to fit in all the important things you can.

Going to court can be a frustrating experience, because evidence that seems very clear can be judged inadmissible for various reasons so you're not allowed to present it. But do what you can. Bring in evidence of the stalker's presence around your home, such as any handwritten notes he's left you.

Try and Keep Your Emotions Under Control

Angry

If you cry, it'll mean you have less time for talking. If you get angry, you may get carried away talking about things that aren't that relevant, or people might start thinking you're not a nice person and won't care so much about you, even thinking you might have done something to provoke what happened. So try your best not to cry, even when the most upsetting issues come up, and don't waste time bad-mouthing the stalker or talking about details that are less important than the ones that matter most, or you might not be given enough time to say what you really want to say.

One reason it might be difficult to control your emotions is because the stalker's defence lawyer will say things you feel provoked by. Do your best not to take it personally. Their job is not to get to the truth of who's telling the truth and who isn't, but to do everything they can to get their client off the charges. So even if they privately think he might well be guilty, they'll do everything they can to suggest that the stalker's been unfairly accused by you and that you're a liar and a nasty person. They don't really necessarily believe what they're saying at all; they just consider it an efficient way of doing the job they're being paid to do, getting the stalker off the charges. One trick they might well use is to make you seem emotionally unstable or mentally ill, to suggest you brought the accusations not because they're true but because you're delusional. If you show a lot of emotion, especially anger, it means they're more successful at giving a jury that impression of you. Don't let them. Trying to upset you is a tactic they use, just a trick to help their client; it's just the way the system works.

So try not to get upset or angry when the stalker's lawyer says hostile things that really aren't fair to you. They're just putting on an act to do their job. You might find it disturbing because you'll worry the jury will be convinced by what they're saying. But that's less likely to happen if you're convincing yourself. So try not to succumb to the temptation of disputing little details with them or arguing over something unfair they said about you that's not directly relevant to the most important things the jury needs to hear. Try to be calm and think clearly when answering the lawyer's accusations and keep the conversation on the important facts of the case.

Also, be polite to everyone, even if things seem to be turning against you, and the defence lawyer and the judge aren't being respectful to you. If they're rude to you it could even work in your favour, since it might make the jury sympathetic to you. But it won't if you're rude back so you come across as not a very nice person.

And don't tell any little lies, even if you suddenly think your answer's going to make you look bad unless you do. If you get caught out in a lie, the lawyer will make it seem as if that means your entire testimony is unreliable, and the jury might believe it.

Look at the Jury

Some jurors can interpret lack of eye contact as deception. They can think it looks shifty.

It might be uncomfortable for you to look at the jury, especially when you're talking about things you could have done better and you feel uncomfortable, or if you're talking about particularly upsetting things; but at least try and look at them from time to time.

Make it Clear You're Frightened of What the Stalker Will Do Next

There's no need to get dramatic about it or exaggerate, but do explain clearly what you're afraid the stalker might do next if he's not locked up. If the judge and jury don't think he's much of a threat, they'll have no reason to want to see him convicted.

Dress Modestly

Don't wear anything that looks that glamorous or stylish, or some people might think you were bound to attract a stalker's attention. Wear clothes that wouldn't make you stand out from a crowd. Dark shades could be best.

Also, don't wear any make-up, or very little.


Part Sixteen
Seek Advice From Others

Have a look on the Internet to see what other information on stalking is available. There might be new ideas and more advice on the latest threats, since some stalkers are always finding ways to use the latest technology to their advantage, so people are always needing new ways of combating what they do. You might also be able to get a lot of advice on how best to deal with the legal system in your area. Find out if there's a stalking victims' support group in your area, or if not, an online one, that you could join. It'll be good to get the support of others, and also they can give you more safety tips, and some might be knowledgeable about the best ways of ensuring your stalker's prosecuted and gets a decent sentence.

Some people feel sure they can deal with their stalker on their own, or they'd feel foolish telling anyone else they have a problem like that. But it's best to get help from others, both for emotional and practical support.

See if there are useful books on stalking and self-protection in your local library.

Find out what organisations there are to help and advise victims of crime in your local area. You might be able to find information on the Internet, or in your local library or police station or town hall.


Notes

This article is written slightly differently to most articles. It comes with a short story about someone finding out information to help people being stalked, - not a real person but a representative of others suffering the same thing, - and it's presented as if it's her thinking through what she's found out so she can tell others on an Internet forum.

If after browsing this article you'd like more detail on similar topics, try looking at the related articles on this website.

If there's anything about this article you'd like to comment on, Contact the author.

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Before putting any ideas that you might pick up from this article into practice, please read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.


The Story

Unhappy

Mandy got into a relationship with a man who turned out to be abusive at college. She feels lucky because she got out of it and now they have no contact with each other, both having moved away from the area to different places. But she's left upset and shaking her head in puzzlement at how she got into it. If someone had once asked her if she'd ever be attracted to a man who bullied people and tried to control her, she would have said of course she wouldn't. But that was what she found happening.

The man had been entertaining at first. And he'd given her gifts, taken her out to expensive places which she'd never have been able to afford to go to otherwise, being a student, and he'd flattered her a lot, writing her little love poems, telling her how beautiful and talented she was and behaving in a way she took to be endearingly respectful and charming, holding doors open for her, standing up for her when anyone said a bad word about her, and petting her and saying loving things to her whenever she'd had a stressful day. She'd thought it was good to be with him, and not having all the benefits he provided would have left a gap in her life that would have made her unhappy.

The man was abusive to some people, but he could sometimes be amusing while he was saying abusive things, and Mandy didn't like the people he was being abusive to anyway that much, so she didn't let it bother her much.

Shouting

But when she started spending more time with some male friends on her course, though they were only friends and nothing romantic was happening, her boyfriend started showing signs of jealousy. He started phoning her up several times a day asking where she was. At first, she was flattered, thinking he must care a lot. But he started telling her not to spend time with her friends and she didn't like it. They argued over it. Then he started getting abusive to her. He'd start aggressively ordering her around, shouting abuse at her. She started talking about leaving him, and at first he was angry, pointing out to her just how much she'd lose if she left him, telling her she'd be stupid to leave it all. But when the holidays came, they agreed to go their separate ways. He said he could easily get a girlfriend better than her, and soon he had another one.

Before they parted, Mandy one day heard him laughing and joking with one of his male friends about how to get girlfriends, saying he had a talent for turning on irresistible charm when he wanted to. She's shaken to think his charm could have been a cynical act.

Mandy hopes she'll never make the mistake of getting into a relationship with someone like that again, and is worried she might, since she was so taken in before. She goes to Internet forums, hoping to talk about it with people. She finds a lot of sympathetic supportive people. But she finds a lot of them have had, and are having, much worse experiences than she did. Some of them are being stalked by former boyfriends, who either want them back, or seem to be trying to get revenge for their rejection of them, even though they brought it on themselves by being abusive.

Mandy's sympathetic to these women and feels as if she'd really like to help them, partly in return for the support they've given her. She isn't sure how she can. But she decides to buy a couple of books on stalking to see if they contain useful advice. She reads them and plans what she can say to the women. One book's by a journalist who was herself stalked and found out lots of useful information to help herself and others, and one's by someone who's lectured police officers on stalking.

Mandy thinks there's a lot of important advice in the books that could even save lives. So she decides to read through it and think through what to say on the forum.

She says a lot in the end. People are thankful for what she tells them, and they find it helpful.



The End


Note that if you choose to try out some or all of the recovery techniques described in this article, they may take practice before they begin to work.

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The articles are written in such a way as to convey the impression that they are not written by an expert, so as to make it clear that the advice should not be followed without question.

The author has a qualification endorsed by the Institute of Psychiatry and has led a group for people recovering from anxiety disorders and done other such things; yet she is not an expert on people's problems, and has simply taken information from books and articles that do come from people more expert in the field.

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