Practical Advice for Victims of Stalking

I am very sorry to have to miss the AALS panel on Saturday, “The First Amendment Meets Cyber-Stalking Meets Character and Fitness,” as it looks to be a fascinating discussion. (Like many readers, I have enjoyed Danielle, Kaimipono, and Dave’s past posts on the topic).

In this post, however, I’d like to broaden the focus to include classic, old, “real-life” stalking and ask a rather simple question: What is the best practical advice to give someone who is being stalked?

It’s National Stalking Awareness Month and I’d love to hear from commenters about what they tell people who come to them seeking advice for dealing with incidents of stalking. In the past, I’ve had multiple friends who have suffered harassing phone calls, threatening emails, and physical surveillance from obsessed exes and over-zealous suitors and I’ve struggled to give advice that I thought would actually be effective in bringing a swift and final end to the abuse (without exacerbating the problem).

There is some good data on the internet but it is often difficult to wade through or outdated. Stalking: A Handbook for Victims by Emily Spence-Diehl, for example, is a useful resource and offers a step-by-step guide to addressing abuse, but it is over ten years old.

Given data on the prevalence of victimization (according to a national study released last year by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), during a 12-month period 3.4 million people reported being the victims of stalking), I’m guessing that there are many Co-Op denizens that might benefit from learning about the latest proven approaches.

I’ll get the ball rolling by suggesting that one of the easiest ways to take action is to talk directly to a trained professional who can help design a stalking safety plan. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) can be reached at 1-800-FYI-CALL, M-F 8:30 AM – 8:30 PM EST. The NCVC can also be contacted by email at

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4 Responses

  1. ohwilleke says:

    The biggest divide, in my experience, is between victims of stalking who have some need for continuing interaction with the stalker (e.g. co-parents who have ended their non-parenting relationship with each other), and those who do not have (and may never have had) any relationship with the stalker.

    The first case is quite a bit more complex than the later, where legal and practical remedies can usually be unequivocal subject to a risk of extra-legal retribution which varies from case to case.

  2. Jeff Bellin says:

    Assuming that a victim is interested in involving law enforcement at some point, I would suggest that the victim preserve voicemail, e-mail and the like that came from the stalker. I was helping another prosecutor at a stalking sentencing (after a guilty plea) where the defendant somewhat plausibly suggested that the offense was basically a scorned-suitor scenario, to which law enforcement overreacted. I think this strategy would have been effective, resulting in the proverbial slap on the wrist, except the prosecutor then played a series of unbelievably vile and very scary voicemail messages that the defendant left for the victim in the course of the stalking offense. The entire mood of the courtroom shifted as it became painfully clear why stalking, and particularly this stalking, necessitated criminal prosecution and punishment. My sense is that if the victim had not preserved the voice mail messages (as painful as that must have been to do), her very serious case might have been taken less seriously by law enforcement and the court.

  3. ParatrooperJJ says:

    A carry permit and a pistol are the way to go.

  4. Adam Benforado says:

    Thanks for the posts — keep the recommendations coming! Jeff, I think your point about documentation is crucial. Letters, voicemails, and emails are extremely helpful tools when seeking a legal solution to stalking, but even just keeping a written log of interactions is a good step.