Is someone stalking you?
There are many safety precautions you can take if you believe you are being targeted by a stalker. Stalking is a crime in Canada; it is defined as persistent, repeated and unwanted attention which causes fear.
- Don’t suffer in silence – tell everyone who needs to know what is happening to you. Make sure your roommates, trusted neighbors and family members are aware that you are receiving unwanted attention. If you have children, make sure they know that they should not interact with the person. Ensure that schools, day care centres and child care workers are aware of your concerns If you have serious safety concerns or if you have been threatened, contact police immediately. Remember, criminal harassment is against the law.
- Make your wishes clear. If you are not interested in someone, state that fact as clearly as possible, in a respectful but non-confrontational way. Explain nothing – why you don’t want to spend time with someone is irrelevant, simply say you do not wish to do so; the reason you feel that way is nobody’s business but your own. Don’t try to be gentle. If you say something like, “I’m sorry…I’m just not interested in a relationship just now…” the person may get the impression that you could change your mind. If you say, “I have a boyfriend (or a girlfriend)” the person may get the impression that if it were not for the friend, you would go out with them. It is best to be direct and clear. A simple statement like, “No, I don’t want to go out with you; please don’t ask again,” may save a lot of time and misunderstanding.
- Say “no” once, and only once. Do not give him / her the satisfaction of any further reaction. Saying "no" does not signal the commencement of a negotiation – it is your final answer.
- Don’t teach stalkers bad habits. If you answer the phone on the twentieth ring, you are teaching the stalker that the price of getting in touch with you is patience. Do not respond, no matter how many times the stalker calls. Do not return unsolicited gifts because doing so implies a connection. Discard them or give them to someone who can use them.
- Get a new cell number. If somebody has your cell number and you cannot get them to stop calling, get a new number! People have said, “But why should I have to get a new number?” Here’s why: You cannot change somebody else’s behavior, but you can change the way you respond. If you don’t want to hear from somebody, place limits on the number of ways they have to contact you.
- Take safety precautions at home. Have caller ID so you know the caller’s identity before you pick up the phone, keep your doors and windows locked, park your vehicle in a safe location and ask someone to walk to your car if you have safety concerns. Don’t open your door until you know who is on the other side of it.
- Take safety precautions in the community. If you encounter a stalker in a public place, seek help immediately and remain in the public space. Holler for help if you feel the situation is urgent. If you are driving and you feel you are being followed, do not go home: drive to a well-lit public place (like a gas station) and phone 911 on your cell. Otherwise, stick to well-travelled roads when walking or driving.
A Word About Prevention
- Safeguard personal information. Whether you are internet dating, participating in a consumer survey or purchasing clothing, do not disclose personal information unless you are comfortable providing it. Practice saying “No”. If a clerk asks for your telephone number after you purchased something, say “No”. If you meet someone on-line or in a bar and they want your telephone number or address, give a temporary email address that you can cancel if and when you choose to do so. If you are not sure you want to have a relationship with someone, don’t offer them additional ways to get in touch with you. Resist the urge to tell them what University you attend, what program you studying or in which residence you live.
- Be careful what you post on social media sites! If you don’t want your grandmother or your future employer to know something about you, keep it off Facebook. Information posted on the internet is impossible to control, so control what you post.
- Cultivate your assertive self. Your personal boundaries are valuable, so keep them in good shape. Resist the urge to explain yourself and try to say "No" (and mean it!) at least once every 24 hours.
- Be mindful of cultural expectations. Here in the Lower Mainland, we live in a vibrant, complex environment that is rich in language, culture and ethnicity. As we negotiate our daily lives, we need to be mindful of the effects of cultural differences.