In honor of January being National Stalking Awareness Month, it’s time to talk about the very real threat that is stalking. According to John Carroll University’s Violence Prevention and Action Center, one in six women and one in 19 men in the U.S. have experienced stalking in their lifetime. 66.2% of female stalking victims were stalked by a former partner. And sadly, 31% of those women were sexually assaulted by said former partner.
What can we do to protect ourselves from a stalking situation?
According to several outlets that provide information for women’s well-being, there are many steps we can take to keep ourselves safe. WomensLaw.org, LegalVoice.org, and KU’s Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity are great resources to turn to if you fall under suspicion that you’re being stalked.
From their safety tips, we’ve compiled a list of ways to protect yourself from stalking and to hinder a potential stalker already in play.
1Cut off all communication with the suspected stalker.
Tell the stalker once, and only once, that you want their behavior to cease. Then, cut all ties with them. Do not answer their calls or their texts and avoid any situation in which you may see them. Responding to them may only increase their desire to follow you and could prove to be dangerous.
2Tell your trusted friends and family about your concerns.
Letting your loved ones know that you suspect you have stalker is vital. Not only can they help you stay safe, but if anything were to happen to you, these people would be able to tell authorities exactly where to look. Remaining alone in a struggle with a stalker only isolates you more, which is usually what a stalker wants.
3Refrain from tagging yourself at specific locations.
It’s fun to let your followers know where you are. But for obvious reasons, location tagging can be dangerous if you have potential stalker. Similarly, posting photos with recognizable backgrounds can also lead a stalker to you. Think before you post.
4Never let your cell phone out of your sight.
This is especially important if you’re currently living with someone you suspect may be stalking you. Stalkers can quickly install spyware software onto your cellphone that would allow them read your texts and emails, listen into your phone conversations, and gain access to passwords.
And just to be safe, always use a hard-to-guess passcode to keep your phone as secure as possible.
5Get a post office box instead of a mailbox.
Stalkers can easily gain access to your information by stealing your mail from your mailbox. Take the extra step to keep your address and personal information more private by getting a box at your local post office. Do not file an official change of address with the U.S. Postal Service and instead inform family, friends, and businesses of your new address by phone.
Also, don’t accept packages that you didn’t order. These packages may contain hazardous materials or disturbing items from your stalker.
6Shred all unwanted mail items.
Again, if stalkers are serious, they will go through your trash and recycling. Invest in a simple shredder and shred any unwanted paper items with your address and personal information printed on them.
7Keep all documentation of the stalking.
Save text messages, voicemails, emails, letters, and any physical evidence you have from your stalking situation. Write down odd occurrences as well. These pieces of evidence can be used if legal action must be taken to resolve the stalking.
8Avoid traveling and being alone when possible.
Ask a friend to go with you to the store or to run errands. If you enjoy outdoor activity and exercise, get a friend to exercise with you. Break travel routines and switch up your daily schedule in an effort to throw a stalker off. You should also try to stay with a friend or family member if you do not feel safe at your own residence.
9Tell the three main credit bureaus to put a fraud alert on your credit reports.
Call Experian: (888) 397-3742, Equifax: (888) 766-0008, and TransUnion: (877) 322-8228, and tell them to put a fraud alert on your credit report. A stalker who has had access to your Social Security Number may be able to gain access to your credit information. Putting a fraud alert on your credit report can protect you from identity theft.
10Have an escape plan.
Figure out how to get out of your home if your stalker arrives at your door. Pack a bag of essentials — clothes, cash, food, and pepper spray — and have it ready for a fast escape. Tell friends and family about your escape plan, and come up with a code word you can use to tell them when the plan is in action and you need their help.
11File a police report.
If you sense you’re in serious danger, do not hesitate to contact the police. From there they can help you file charges, get a protection order, and provide you with resources to help you free yourself from the situation.
Alternatively, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224) to find shelters and domestic violence programs.
If your instincts are telling you that something is wrong, then it’s time to start following these guidelines to ensure that your safety is first priority. Reach out for help and take the necessary steps to free yourself of the situation.