Stalking: What to Do and How to Stay Safe

King County Stalking Protection Order

Stalking: What to Do and How to Stay Safe

If you think that you or someone you know is being stalked, we encourage you to follow the “STEPS” action plan created by stalking experts to engage in active and ongoing safety planning:

  • Do not minimize or downplay the level of risk involved with stalking behavior. Stalking can be a “red flag” for increased violence, psychological harm or life sabotage. Risk can be increased if the stalker has a mental health issue or illness. Risk also increases if the stalker’s behavior involves firearms or other dangerous weapons.Plan ahead for your safety by thinking about the specific threats you may face and vulnerabilities you may have. Think ahead about what you can do in specific situations, particularly if the stalker shows up unexpectedly, so that you can be prepared. Practice things you might say or do to avoid or escape a dangerous situation. Ask people you trust to watch out for you and help you stay safe.
  • Document the stalking behaviors and preserve evidence. If law enforcement or the courts were to ever get involved, documenting the stalking can help highlight the pattern of behavior, and show that the behavior is deliberate and intentional. Whether or not you choose to petition for a Stalking Protection Order, documenting the stalking behavior is strongly recommended.Learn more about Documenting Evidence below.
  • People who are being stalked must be active and ongoing in their safety planning, which can sometimes mean making changes in lifestyle, daily routines or living situation. It is important to be clear with the stalker that the harassment and stalking is unwanted. Document how the stalker was notified that their contact is not wanted and should stop. Law enforcement may be able to help communicate this request, or a stalking protection order may be a helpful protective measure. Then avoid contact with the stalker as much as possible.
  • It is really important to seek support. Telling trusted others friends, family, teachers, employers and neighbors what is happening can provide emotional support and help with thinking through safety measures. Consider notifying law enforcement to see what kind of support and assistance they can offer.Check out comprehensive safety planning information from the Stalking Resource Center

Whether or not you choose to petition for a Stalking Protection Order, documenting the stalking behavior is strongly recommended.

Because stalking involves multiple incidents, it is important to document each incident of stalking behavior in as much detail as possible, including details such as date, time and location of each incident; what happened; vehicle and license plate information; witnesses; how the behavior affected you and changes you had to make in your life as a result. Tracking the Stalker tips and a stalking incident log can be helpful for detailing each incident.

Often stalking logs are helpful in making police reports and can become evidence in a stalking case. IT IS IMPORTANT not to include any new personal information that the stalker could learn in your stalking incident log.

If the log were to become evidence in a criminal case, it would be made part of a public record and the stalker would ly be allowed to review the log as part of the discovery process.

Do not record information you want to remain confidential.

TIPS for documenting stalking:

  1. Call the police to report each incident of stalking and/or violations of a protection order.
  2. Take a picture of each police incident report or the patrol officer’s card. This will be helpful for any follow-up police work that may be needed.
  3. Keep all text messages, emails and voicemail messages from the stalker. Do not delete this important electronic evidence!
  4. If you receive unwanted mail or gifts, save everything for possible follow-up and collection by law enforcement.
  5. If the stalking involved unwanted social media contact, do not immediately delete your accounts. Contact the police for assistance in collecting the evidence. You may want to take a screen shot of each contact.
  6. If you receive unwanted phone calls, document how many calls you receive and the time of the calls.
  7. If family members or friends are also being harassed or have witnessed stalking incidents, document the witnesses’ names and times of contact.

    Ask witnesses to document their version of the incident and consider giving their statement to law enforcement if necessary.

  8. If your property (car or home) are being vandalized/damaged, take pictures of the damaged property and call the police.

Community Resources

  • Victim Connect Helpline 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846)
  • Stalking Resource Center A Program of the National Center for Victims of Crime that promotes awarenees, action and advocacy to enhance victim safety and hold stalking offenders accountable. Comprehensive information available.
  • A website created by TK Logan which contains numerous resources for stalking victims.
  • OutrageUs A non-profit that helps victims and professionals take action and find effective strategies to address stalking and partner violence.
  • Stalking Victims Sanctuary Helpful information and resources for stalking victims.

State & Federal Government Resources

U.S. Dept. of Justice Office on Violence Against Women – Stalking Page

National Institute of Justice Stalking Page

National Organization for Victim Assistance Stalking Page

University of Washington Health & Wellness Stalking Information

WA State Office of Crime Victim Advocacy Stalking Page

WA State Address Confidentiality Program

Resources For Digital & Online Abuse

Technology Safety from National Network to End Domestic Violence
Comprehensive resources and information on the use of technology for agencies and survivors of stalking, trafficking, domestic and sexual violence. Includes toolkits and an App Safety Center

Digital Trust
Comprehensive resources and information on how stalkers use technology and what to do about it

Crash Override Network
A crisis helpline, advocacy group and resource center for people who are experiencing online abuse


Stalking and Harassment Assessment and Risk Profile (SHARP)
A research-line tool to help assess the “big picture” of a stalking situation, to educate about risks and offer safety suggestions. Created by TK Logan, Ph.D. Robert Walker, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., and Jeb Messer, B.A. (9/11/13).

Stalking Incident and Behavior Log

Tracking the Stalker (PDF) with sample log

Resources For Law Enforcement, Advocates, & Service Providers

Victims of Crime: Stalking Resource Center
Resources for Law Enforcement
Risk Identification for Stalking and Harassment

Aequitas – The Prosecutor’s resource on violence against women
Responding to Stalking: A Guide for Prosecutors

Coercive Control

Coalition Ending Gender-based Violence King County clearinghouse of agencies serving survivors of gender-based violence

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Battered Women’s Justice Project


OVC Help Series for Crime Victims

Stalking: What to Do and How to Stay Safe
The Facts About Stalking

During a 12-month period, 3.4 million individuals over the age of 18 are stalked in the United States.2

Three in four stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.3

Individuals ages 18 to 24 experience the highest rate of stalking.4

Almost half of stalking victims (46 percent) experience at least one unwanted contact per week.5

The most common stalking behavior reported by victims was unwanted phone calls or voice messages (66 percent), followed by spreading rumors (36 percent), following or spying on the victim (34 percent), and appearing at places frequented by the victim without having a reason for being there (31 percent).6

One in four victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology (such as e-mail or instant messaging).7

Some protective actions victims took included changing their day-to-day activities (22 percent), staying with family (18 percent), installing call blocking or caller ID (18 percent), changing their phone number (17 percent), and changing their e-mail address (7 percent).8

Stalking is a dangerous, potentially lethal, crime. While legal definitions vary from one jurisdiction to another, stalking is generally understood to be a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Stalkers use a variety of actions to frighten, harass, and control their victims.

Stalking may include following a person; driving by a victim’s place of employment or school; sending unwanted gifts, cards, or e-mails; persistently calling or text messaging; tracking a victim’s whereabouts using technology such as cameras or global positioning systems (GPSs); vandalizing property; and threatening to hurt the victim, his or her family, another person, or pets.

Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and at the federal level, and it can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, geographic location, or personal associations. The majority of stalking victims are women and most stalkers are men, but men can be victims, too.

Three four stalking victims were stalked by someone they know; of these, 45 percent of stalkers were acquaintances of the victim and 30 percent were intimate partners.1 Stalking by an intimate partner is the most dangerous type of stalking.

Intimate partner stalkers have considerable leverage over their victims because they know so much personal information about the victim. These stalkers also tend to be more insulting, interfering, and threatening than non-intimate partner stalkers.

Alarmingly, a strong link exists between stalking and women who were murdered by their current or former intimate partner.

If You Are Being Stalked

As a stalking victim, you may experience a variety of emotional, physical, and financial consequences. The constant stress in stalking situations is very real and harmful, and it can exact a terrible toll on victims.

The daily lives of stalking victims are unpredictable, and that often makes them feel anxious or on edge. Stalking victims may feel vulnerable and unsafe, and many say they feel they are always looking over their shoulder. Many victims come to believe that the stalking is never going to end, which can lead to feelings of isolation, anger, frustration, depression, and hopelessness.

Stalking victims often experience trouble sleeping, eating, and focusing, or they may have disturbing thoughts and flashbacks. Victims often lose time from work as a result of the stalking. And some take drastic measures to protect themselves such as moving or changing their names.

If you are being stalked, remember that what is happening to you is not your fault and not caused by anything you have done.

Where Can You Get Help?

Every stalker and stalking situation is different and unpredictable—what works for one stalking victim may not work for another. But there are steps you can take to increase your safety.

First, take all threats seriously and trust your instincts. If you feel that you are in danger, you probably are. Contact your local victim services agency or a domestic violence or rape crisis program.

Trained advocates can work with you to develop a concrete plan to help you stay safe, understand the law and your rights, decide whether to seek a protective order, connect with other services, and provide emotional support.

Consider telling family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors about the stalking, and provide as much information as you feel comfortable about the stalker. This may help you feel less alone and provide a support network of people who care about your safety.

You may wish to report the stalking crime. If so, contact law enforcement as soon as possible. Also, it is important to document every stalking incident as thoroughly as possible. Keep e-mails, messages, gifts, and letters.

Take photographs of property destruction or physical injuries the stalker has inflicted. The stalker may have broken other laws by doing things vandalizing your property or physically assaulting you.

Law enforcement can use this information to investigate and prosecute the stalking.

You might consider obtaining a protective order or other court order that prohibits the stalker from contacting or being near you. Each jurisdiction differs in the type of orders that are available.

Additionally, you may be eligible for crime victim compensation for certain out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and other reasonable financial needs. To be eligible for compensation, the victim must cooperate with the criminal justice system.

Local victim advocates and assistance programs in your community can assist you in obtaining a protective order and provide you with information and applications for victim compensation.

Resources for Information and Assistance

Stalking Resource CenterNational Center for Victims of Crime1-202-467-8700

National Network to End Domestic ViolenceSafety Net Project1-202-543-5566

Technology Safety

National Domestic Violence Hotline1-800-799-SAFE (7233)TTY 1-800-787-3224

Directory of Crime Victim ServicesOffice for Victims of CrimeOffice of Justice ProgramsU.S. Department of Justice

This product was developed by the National Center for Victims of Crime under an agreement with ICF International in support of the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center under contract number GS–23F–8182H/OJP–2006F_124. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

1 Katrina Baum et al., «Stalking Victimization in the United States,» Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.



Stalking: What to Do and How to Stay Safe

Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Un other crimes that involve a single incident, stalking is a pattern of behavior.

It is often made up of individual acts that could, by themselves, seem harmless or noncriminal, but when taken in the context of a stalking situation, could constitute criminal acts.

Legal definitions of stalking differ depending on where you live; however stalking is a crime under the laws of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and the Federal government. Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time.

What is Stalking?

While this list isn’t exhaustive, you may be a victim of stalking if someone:

  • Repeatedly calls your phone, including hang-ups
  • Follows you and shows up wherever you are
  • Sends unwanted gifts, letters, texts, or emails
  • Damages your home, car, or other property
  • Monitors your phone calls or computer use, possibly through spyware
  • Uses technology, hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go
  • Drives by or lingers near your home, school, or work
  • Threatens to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets
  • Performs other actions that control, track, or frighten you
  • Uses other people to try to communicate with you, children, family, or friends

If you have been stalked, you may:

  • Be fearful of what the stalker is capable of doing
  • Feel vulnerable, unsafe, or not know who to trust
  • Feel depressed, hopeless, angry, anxious, irritable, on-edge, and hypervigilant
  • Have flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, feelings, or memories
  • Feel confused, frustrated, or isolated because other people don’t understand why you are afraid
  • Miss work or school for fear of seeing your stalker
  • Change your normal or preferred social media habits

What can I do?

While there is no universal set of steps that will work for everyone, these actions may help you feel in control of your life again:

  • Call 911 for Immediate Assistance – You know yourself and your situation better than anyone. Trust your instincts and call for help if you feel you are in danger.
  • Alert Others – Tell trusted friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and/or your HR department to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and so they don’t mistakenly give out information to someone pretending to be a loved one.
  • Connect with an Advocate – Advocates can often be found at local domestic violence and/or sexual assault agencies, police departments, and district attorney’s offices. Advocates can help explain local stalking laws, walk you through filing a protective order, connect you with local services, and help you develop a safety plan.
  • Document Every Incident – Make a log of encounters with the stalker, hang-up calls, and public sightings. Save all messages, emails, and your call history. Consider using this incident and behavior log form from the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center (SPARC).
  • End All Contact – Sometimes this is easier said than done, but try not to answer calls or messages, even if you are requesting that the stalker stop. Any contact may encourage the stalker to continue the stalking behavior.
  • Take Threats Seriously –A direct threat against you is an obvious sign of danger. A stalker can also use threats of suicide or self-harm to manipulate you into staying in contact or a dangerous situation.
  • Create a Safety Plan – Develop a personalized plan to keep yourself safe. Find help doing this here or connect with an advocate for assistance.
  • Prepare Your Children – Teach your children what to do if there is an emergency, where to hide if there is danger in the house, or how to call the police or a trusted person for help.

Learn more

The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC) offers a variety of information related to stalking, including information on stalking, safety planning, and other resources.

Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors from the National Network to End Domestic Violence contains safety tips, information, and privacy strategies for survivors when using technology.

Visit our VictimConnect Resource Map for additional resources or contact the VictimConnect Resource Center by phone or text at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help you or a loved one after experiencing stalking.


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