Stalking, Cyberstalking and Internet SafetyVictim Services 561-297-0500
"Harass" means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose.
"Course of conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of "course of conduct." Such constitutionally protected activity includes picketing or other organized protests.
"Credible threat" means a threat made with the intent to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety. The threat must be against the life of, or a threat to cause bodily injury to, a person.
"Cyberstalk" means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person, and makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury of the person, or the person's child, sibling, spouse, parent, or dependent, can be charged with stalking or aggravated stalking,
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF STALKING ON VICTIMS?
Fear: of what the stalker will do next, of leaving the house, of the dark, of the phone ringing
Anxiety: about the unknown consequences, the safety of family members or pets, what the future holds, whether the stalking will ever end, how other people will respond if they find out what's happening
Vulnerability: feeling totally exposed, never feeling safe, not knowing who to trust or where to turn for help
Nervousness: feeling anxious, fearful, jumpy, irritable, impatient, on edge, getting startled by small things
Depression: feeling despair, hopelessness, overwhelmed with emotion, tearful, angry
Hypervigilance: being continually alert to known and unknown dangers, taking elaborate safety measures against the perpetrator or any suspicious people, repeatedly re-checking locks and bolts
Stress: having difficulty concentrating, forgetting things, feeling generally distracted and worried
Stress-related physical symptoms: such as headaches and stomach aches
Eating problems: not feeling hungry, forgetting to eat, eating all the time
Flashbacks or intrusive memories: reliving frightening incidents, not being able to break away from disturbing thoughts, feelings, and memories
Sleeping problems: nightmares, interrupted sleep patterns, not being able to fall asleep, wanting to sleep all the time
Isolation: feeling disconnected from family or friends, feeling no one understands
Use of alcohol or drugs: to numb fear and anxiety triggered by stalking incidents, to induce calm and sleep
Fears about how the stalker will respond
Threats by the stalker to harm the victim or to harm themselves
Limited options for relocation to safer housing
Limited accessibility of victim assistance programs
Belief that no one can or will help
Fears about the consequences of seeking help (how others will respond)
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEING STALKED
Tell the stalker once, and only once, that their interest is unwanted and they are to stop, then have no further contact with the stalker under any circumstances.
Report all incidents to the local police, work or home security department, and university police. If more than one report is filed, have them filed together or refer on each report about the other reports to establish a pattern of behavior.
Keep an accurate and detailed record of contact and attempts to contact.
Have your cellular phone on, charged and on your person (not in your handbag) at all times.
Keep all evidence: gifts, flowers, and notes left by the stalker.
Print out any instant messages.
Keep any taped phone messages. Make note of any text messages.
Do not change your home phone number. If possible, have two phone lines with one telephone number remaining unlisted. Connect the original telephone number to a telephone answering machine and do not answer that line. Have friends and family call the unlisted telephone number. If possible, get caller id.
Prepare an escape plan from every location you normally frequent (work, school, stores, restaurants).
Know your neighborhood: what is open 24 hours, where the heavily populated areas are, what vehicles belong and where is safe shelter if needed.
Have a friend accompany you, whenever possible.
Make certain that family members, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances do not talk about you, or provide any information about you to anyone.
Describe the stalker (or show a picture) to those you interact with and ask that you be informed immediately if the stalker is seen.
Consider getting a restraining order.
Improve security at home by installing secure locks, cutting back trees and bushes; if possible install a security system.
Be alert in parking lots.
Always drive with your car door locked and allow enough space between cars for escape.
Use different routes and times when going to work, school or home.
Do not put your name on your mailbox or door.
Limit your personal information online.
Online Safety Tips: Keep yourself safe
Protect your security.Never give anyone else your password. No matter why they say they need it or whom they say they are, they don’t. If someone asks you for your password, report him or her to your online service provider. If you think someone knows your password, change it.
Protect your privacy. Surfing the ‘net seems anonymous, but Web sites you visit may gather your e-mail address or other information, or record which sites you have visited in a "cookie" which they or another site can retrieve later, without your knowledge or consent. Learn about the privacy and security features of your Web browser, and use them. For example, you may want to get a warning if a site tries to give you a cookie, or disable cookies altogether. You can customize your Web browser’s e-mail settings to use a pseudonym instead of your real name, and a blank or false e-mail address. If you want to give someone your real name or e-mail address, you can give it to him or her in your message.
Be cautious about revealing information that could identify you. For example, if you give someone your listed phone number, he or she can get your real name and street address. Cell phone numbers are better.
Remember that when you meet someone you've chatted with online, you're really meeting him or her for the first time. When you are online, you do not have non-verbal cues such as voice inflection or body language to guide your judgment of their honesty or intentions.
For your first meeting, pick a place that’s public and neutral. If you’re traveling to visit them in their town or neighborhood, you should pick a place you’re comfortable with when you arrive
More information on Safety Planning is available.
Victim Services Resources