What Should I Do if Someone is Stalking Me?Nov 19, 2020
Is someone stalking me? What should I do?
If you are asking these questions, you could be in danger. It’s helpful to know your legal rights and options.
According to the Supplemental Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older are victims of stalking and almost 75 percent of stalking victims know the perpetrator. The study also showed that the risk of stalking victimization was highest for individuals who were divorced or separated — 34 per 1,000 individuals.
Both men and women can be stalkers, and they come from every ethnicity, social group, and economic background. The study reported that almost half of all stalking victims feared what would happen next, and more than half missed work because of it.
Know the signs
How do you know if you’re being stalked? In most cases, several of the following behaviors or actions by the stalker are causing significant disruption in your life:
- Frequent contact. Repeated phone calls, e-mails, texts, social media posts, and letters that have no legitimate purpose and make you fear for your — or your family’s — safety. Worrisome phone calls can be hang-ups or long, silent voicemail messages.
- Escalating behavior. Refusing to take No for an answer when a relationship ends or romantic advances are rejected. Repeatedly stopping by your home or work when you’ve already said you are busy or have told the person that you don’t want any contact with them, can be a red flag.
- Violence. Violent actions, or any threatening behaviors — including vandalism of your car or home — should be reported immediately to the police.
What you can do
Talk about it. Discuss what’s happening with family members, friends, and neighbors. Don’t keep your concerns a secret.
Communicate. If you are receiving repeated and unwanted contact from someone you know, it is essential to tell that person—safely—that he/she is making you uncomfortable and that you want that person to stop what they’re doing. If the behavior continues, you may need legal help to resolve the situation.
Report. If the stalker is someone you don’t know, you should immediately contact your local police department and report the incident(s).
Save the evidence. Write down the events. Document what happened and when. Save texts, emails, letters, and phone messages. Do not record conversations with the other person. Recording someone without their consent can be a crime.
Get help. Explore resources online. Consider finding a professional advocate or attorney to help you explore legal options.
What are your legal options?
Stalking is a crime. In New Hampshire, a person may go to court and seek a protective order. This is the first step. The protective order may be put in place for up to one year and renewed each year, for up to five years. Seeking a protective order does not preclude the filing of criminal charges or initiating a civil lawsuit in the future.
In New Hampshire, there are two types of protective orders.
Domestic violence protective order (RSA 173-B). If the people involved are family or household members or current (or past) intimate partners, the person seeking protection must petition the court for a domestic violence protective order. This involves filing a written statement with the court and swearing under oath to its truthfulness. The written statement must establish three things:
- That the defendant committed or attempted to commit a criminal act. The various unlawful acts that may justify a domestic violence protective order are defined and listed in the statute.
- That the defendant’s actions represent a “credible present threat” to the petitioner’s safety.
- That the petitioner is a family member or household member of the defendant, or a current or past intimate partner of the defendant.
Stalking protective order (RSA 633:3-a). If the people involved are not family members or intimate partners, the person seeking protection must petition the court for a stalking protective order. The petition must show that:
- The defendant purposely, knowingly or recklessly engaged in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person which would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of a member of that person’s immediate family, and that the person is actually placed in such fear.
- The defendant purposely or knowingly engaged in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person, which the defendant knows will place that person in fear of for his or her safety or the safety of a member of that person’s immediate family, and that the person is actually placed in such fear.
- The defendant has been served with or received notice of, a protective order that prohibits contact with a specific person and the defendant purposely, knowingly, or recklessly engages in a single act of conduct that violates the order.
- A “course of conduct” is defined as 2 or more acts over time that show a “continuity of purpose.” The “course of conduct” is not a constitutionally protected activity, such as legal picketing or peaceful protest, or conduct that was necessary to accomplish a legitimate purpose unrelated to making contact with the targeted person.
- The acts that illustrate the course of conduct may include any of the following acts or a combination of them:
(1) Threatening the safety of the targeted person or an immediate family member.
(2) Following, approaching, or confronting that person or a member of that person’s immediate family.
(3) Appearing in close proximity to, or entering the person’s residence, place of employment, school, or other place where the person can be found, or the residence, place of employment or school of a member of that person’s immediate family
(4) Causing damage to the person’s residence or property or that of a member of the person’s immediate family.
(5) Placing an object on the person’s property, either directly or through a third person, or that of an immediate family member.
(6) Causing injury to that person’s pet, or to a pet belonging to a member of that person’s immediate family.
(7) Any act of communication, as defined in RSA 644:4, II.
Criminal charges and civil complaints
A willful violation of a protective order is a crime. A stalker may also be held liable for property damage, vandalism, and other damages — such as lost compensation, emotional distress, and medical expenses associated with the stress created by stalking events. These damages may be pursued in a separate civil complaint.
Have courage and get legal support
If you or someone you love is in danger, call the police right away.
Taking legal action to protect yourself takes courage, as well as experienced legal guidance. Most people need help to navigate the legal system that’s set up to protect them. The legal system can be complex and confusing, but can, with some help, often lead to satisfying outcomes.
Starting with the petition for a protective order, through criminal proceedings and potential civil actions, a strong legal partner can help you make informed decisions every step of the way.
About the Author: Bob Carey