Many movies traditionally paint a stalker as someone who physically follows you around without your knowledge and doing unsettling things like letting themselves into your home while you are out, sometimes while you are there, or watching through windows and calling you to tell you what you are doing at the moment. This is actually a part of it. However, due to the advent of glorious technology, stalkers have been able to take things to a level where they do not even have to be in your physical presence to know where you are, who you are with, or what you are doing.
Stalking in all its forms are usually spoken of in separate terms with relation to domestic violence. It must be known, though, that this is actually very deceiving. While not always exclusively tied to instances of domestic violence, it has become all too common for stalking to be an extended form of abuse that occurs in situations of intimate partner violence. What are some common ways abusers stalk their victims, and what methods do they use? (Their limits really only depend on how tech-savvy the abuser is, and this information can be easily learned online in articles and by retailers who unscrupulously (and obviously with motivation of financial gain) are allowed to sell the equipment to the public at large.)
First, courtesy of the New York State Office for Prevention of Domestic Violence’s What is Domestic Violence? — Stalking page, the following are signs of traditional methods utilized by stalkers to trade, follow, and shadow their targets using physical means (Again, as the previous post, I will identify things that were done to me in red text with further comments in blue text.):
Stalkers’ common behaviors include:
- Following, monitoring, surveillance of victim and/or victim’s family, friends, co-workers; He controlled use of the phones and checked all texts and calls going in and out against the listing on the account online. He had people watch the house when he was gone and also seemed to have people watching where I was when I was out. I was to keep in regular phone contact with him and also was expected to pick up the phone on the first ring, no matter where I was. Also, he had in depth knowledge of my father’s schedule and places he would go on occasion during the daytime.
- Disorderly conduct offenses; My stepmother had him charged with assault when they got into an altercation over the car keys. He tried to grab them away from her, and instead hit her on the hip.
- Criminal mischief, larceny, robbery, burglary, trespass, loitering;
- Forgery or criminal impersonation;
- Abusing or killing pet or other animal; I cannot accuse him outright of killing my cat, but there is no denying that he was physically abusive to the cat, whom I ended up training to hide so Kevin couldn’t find him.. because I couldn’t find a shelter or any friends or family willing to take him in.
- Repeated threatening communications or attempts to communicate, especially after being clearly informed to stop; after I left in December 2012, he had friends and family repeatedly call my work number and my parents’ phones attempting to get in contact with me.
- Violation of any order of protection; The law in my state does not recognize it as a violation, but I was allowed to file a police report documenting him leaving property at my dad’s former place of employment specifically asking it to be given to me and saying it was from him (after ten months of no communication).
- Crossing jurisdictions/borders to stalk/commit offenses;
- Kidnapping victim or children or threatening to do so; and/or
- Threats of suicide or homicide. He repeatedly threatened to kill me and various members in my family; my father was the most often threatened. Over the four years and three months that he physically abused me, not only did he threaten to kill me using various methods, he dragged me out of the house in the middle of the night and drove me into the woods (the last thing I remember is him holding a tire iron), an incident with a butcher knife, threatened to poison me, and other things graphic enough, I cannot mention them here. On more than occasion (the last not being more than a month before I left), he threatened to kill me if I ever attempted to leave. He also threatened to kill my father early in the morning when he arrived at work and also at his house (which is in the country far enough away from the police that he could escape).
The main difference between traditional methods of stalking versus cyberstalking is that traditional methods require the stalker to be in the same general locale as their victim. Cyberstalking allows the perpetrator to harass and intimidate their victim regardless of proximity. A list of examples of various types of cyberstalking are provided by the Beverly, MA Police Department and can be accessed via their Crime Prevention Topics page. Again, the items on the list I experienced are notated in red text with additional notes in blue text. Most of the stalking methods he used obviously took advantage of the physical proximity. Items not include in the Beverly, MA Police Department list are notated in purple.
Examples of Cyberstalking
• Threatening or harassing email — He routinely sent me nasty emails, IMs, and texts.
• “Flaming” – online verbal abuse
• Mass unsolicited email
• Identity Theft
• Leaving improper messages at guestbooks or newsgroups from the victim
• Initiating directed computer viruses
• Email forgery – sending false or damaging email from the victim – usually to people they know like co-workers, employees, neighbors, etc.
• Creating fake online profiles and email accounts misrepresenting themselves as the victim in an attempt to lure friends and family of the victim into unknowingly revealing information about the victim’s whereabouts or schedule.
• Distributing lewd images of the victim that were taken with or without the victim’s consent online via email, chat, or various websites.
• Hacking into and sending emails of a threatening nature to themselves in an attempt to discredit the victim.
• Hiding small cameras or other surveillance tools in the victims home, especially the bathroom and bedroom, and monitoring them from a distant location.
• Using your cell’s GPS to monitor and track your location.
As many of you who have been victims of stalking, whether directly related to intimate partner violence or not, know, these acts can do much more to you than simply frighten you or cause you to feel unsafe at times. It is plausible that you are under threat of severe harm and it is imperative that you not only document but report these behaviors to law enforcement immediately.
For more information, please see the New York State Office for Prevention of Domestic Violence website and the Beverly, MA Police Department website.