We Need to Stop Normalizing Stalking

Stalking is a criminal action defined as “behavior that is directed at a specific individual that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid”. Critically, stalking makes seemly frightening, normal things into idols of fear. Seven and a half million Americans were victims of stalking in 2011 alone. Millions of people are fearing for their safety right now, but we as a country don’t think stalking is a serious crime. 

You might think that it will never happen to you (and I hope that I never does), but college people are the most common victims of stalking. About 13% of college women report that they have been stalked sometime during their college years, and nearly 80% of college aged stalking victims.

Media may be the biggest perpetrator of the normalization of stalking behaviors. For example, Twilight make this behavior seems normal. They literally romanticize stalking; there’s nothing romantic about sneaking into someone’s room uninvited and watching them sleep. 

Movies like this downplay it and make a joke of it. When we trivialize a serious crime, we are not only alienating and confusing victims, but we are also validating, excusing, and siding and sympathizing with stalkers. 

Adele’s hit-song Hello does the exact same thing. Calling someone a thousand times is a prime stalking behavior. That’s not love; that’s obsession, but people think it’s a romantic song about true love. When we popularize these behaviors, it makes it harder for victims to be believed and to feel like they should report. 

Today's culture and media have much influence upon the estimated 83% of victims don’t report being stalked and it’s likely because they don’t think the threatening behaviors constitute stalking.

Stalking is inherently controlling, abusive, and manipulative. It’s not light hearted or playful. It’s not a sign of love. These behaviors often accompany other forms of abuse (including psychological and emotional abuse). 

Additionally, these behaviors tend to escalate over time. It’s not a sign of love to text your partner fifty times in an hour or to slash their tires if they’ve made you mad even if Carrie Underwood makes it seem okay. These behaviors aren’t funny or normal in anyway, and we shouldn’t treat them as such. We shouldn’t colloquialize the term stalking either. It invalidates the victim’s experiences. 

 

Stalking behaviors include (but aren’t necessarily limited to):

  • Repeatedly calling someone, including hang-ups. 
  • Trying to cut off the other person’s other relationships 
  • Demanding to know where the other person is
  • Following the other person and showing up wherever they are
  •  Sending unwanted gifts, letters, texts, or e-mails. 
  • Damaging the other person’s home, car, or other property. 
  • Monitoring the other person’s phone calls or computer use. 
  • Using technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where the other person goes. 
  • Driving by or hanging out at the other person’s home, school, or work. 
  • Harassing the other person’s friends, family, coworkers, etc
  • Threatening to hurt the other person’s family, friends, or pets. 
  • Finding out about the other person by using public records or on-line search services, hiring investigators, going through their garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers. 
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten the other person. 

 

Victims of stalking may:

  • Feel fear of what the stalker will do. 
  • Feel vulnerable, unsafe, and not know who to trust.
  •  Feel anxious, irritable, impatient, or on edge. 
  • Feel depressed, hopeless, overwhelmed, tearful, or angry. 
  • Feel stressed, including having trouble concentrating, sleeping, or remembering things.
  •  Have eating problems, such as appetite loss, forgetting to eat, or overeating. 
  • Have flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, feelings, or memories. 
  • Feel confused, frustrated, or isolated because other people don’t understand why they’re afraid

 

If you believe that you are being stalked, you should never try to the communicate with the stalker. Instead, save the evidence, contact the police, reach out to your friends and family, call a victim helpline, develop a safety plan, consider getting a restraining order, and trust your instincts. You are never at fault for your stalker’s behavior, and you are not alone.