Dealing with Stalking
Is someone you care about being stalked? It can be hard to know how to help someone who is dealing with stalking. Thank you for taking the time to get more information about what your loved one is going through. Your understanding and commitment to supporting them is appreciated.
It may be helpful if you do some research about stalking so that you can learn more about what stalking is and how you can help your loved one during this difficult time. You can find out more about stalking on our website here. If possible, show your loved one this information or help them find it. Then, when you’re ready to talk with them about the stalking, remember three simple words: Ask. Listen. Believe.
Ask. Listen. Believe
“I’m worried about you. Is everything okay?” When you start the conversation like this, you’re showing that you see something is wrong and you’re willing to talk about it. Victims of stalkers might be embarrassed that the stalking is happening or they may not understand the seriousness of the crime. Showing your concern helps them understand that you want to support them and that you believe what’s happening is wrong and serious.
Now that you’ve asked about the stalking, it’s important to really listen to your loved one’s answer. They may brush off the stalking as not important or they may express their fears that the stalker is becoming dangerous. By listening without judgment, you can better open the conversation to the ideas and options the victim may have. If, for example, you try to convince your loved one that the stalker is dangerous you might end up pushing them away.
Stalking victims themselves may have a hard time believing that they are being stalked. The stalker could be a friend, a person they’ve dated once or twice, or even their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. When they finally realize that they are being hunted by someone that should care for them, they need to be able to talk about the situation. If you dismiss their fears or brush off the seriousness of the behavior, you are telling them that you don’t care what happens or that the stalking isn’t important. In fact, 76% of intimate partner femicide victims had been stalked by their intimate partner, according to Judith McFarlane in her study, “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide.” This means that in 3 out of 4 cases where a female was murdered by her partner, that partner stalked her first. By believing in the victim’s story, you are helping start an important conversation about how the victim can plan for her or his safety.
It’s not your fault
A victim of stalking may feel that the stalking is their fault. They may ask themselves questions like: “What did I do to make him start following me everywhere?” “Did I send her the wrong message when we talked?” It’s important for victims of stalking to realize that it isn’t their fault. The stalker has made the choice to break the law. Reassuring the victim that they aren’t to blame for the stalker’s behavior can go a long way to helping them cope with the stalking.
It may be reassuring to the victim if you discuss issues of safety with them. “How can you keep yourself safe? How can I help?” These questions can guide the conversation so that the victim is the one who creates the safety plan. Allowing them to tell you how you can help them stay safe is empowering for the victim. They may feel that they have lost a lot of personal freedom since the stalking started and this is a way you can help give some of that power back. You can find more information about safety planning here and you can also help the victim find this information so they can read more about it on their own.
Stalking affects every victim differently. Whether they are scared or wanting to tough it out, you can help by finding information and resources that may help them cope. You can direct them to our stalking page here. You can also provide them with our information. At the DOVES Program, advocates are available by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 866-95-DOVES (866-953-6837). You can also call if you feel you need support and guidance. We have resources and information that may help you and the victim.
Taking care of yourself
Supporting someone who is being stalked can be a tough job. It’s important to respect your boundaries and care for yourself. You won’t do your loved one any good if you’re a nervous wreck. You won’t be able to give them the calm, loving support and guidance they may need. It’s better to give yourself a break and acknowledge the emotions you’re feeling. If you are feeling stressed or scared, find someone to whom you can relate your fears. If you need to talk, you can call the DOVES Program to speak with an advocate. Don’t feel like you're alone. We understand your desire to support your loved one and we want to make sure that you take care of yourself too.