What is stalking?
Stalking is a crime. It happens when someone repeatedly follows, threatens and/or harasses you. Someone must only do two of these three things to be charged with stalking. A stalker does these things to make you afraid-afraid that he or she will hurt, rape, kidnap or kill you or someone you love.
A stalker might follow you when you drive to work. He or she might wait for you outside your home or office. A stalker might call you on the phone and make threats or hang up when you answer. Some stalkers slash tires, vandalize homes and threaten their victims with weapons.
Is stalking dangerous?
Yes. While a stalker's harassment and threats might at first seem just annoying and a little scary, they often lead to serious violence. Someone who stalks is someone who could hurt you. Stalkers have beaten, raped and murdered the people they stalked. Take a stalker's threats seriously.
Who is stalked?
Very often, battered women are stalked by their abusers, especially if they try to end the relationship. Most often, Stalking involves people who were once in a romantic relationship, but sometimes people stalk strangers or acquaintances.
Who are stalkers?
Stalkers can be black or white, rich or poor, employed or unemployed. Most stalkers are men, but women stalk, too. The best way to tell whether someone might stalk you is the way he or she acts. If someone you are close to shows several of the danger signs listed below, consider ending the relationship and taking precautions to protect yourself.
Signs to look for:
Signs to look for:
- Extreme jealousy and controlling behavior.
- A belief that destiny led him or her to you, so you belong to the stalker in some way.
- Few close friendships and an over-dependence on you as a link to the world.
- Failure to accept responsibility for his or her own behavior, feelings and mistakes.
- Repeated discussions of death, suicide and weapons.
How can I stay safe?
- Post a "No Trespassing" sign on the edge of your property.
- Keep your doors locked, and change the locks if your stalker has a key.
- Try not to spend too much time alone. It is when you are most vulnerable.
- Tell other people about what is happening to you, and ask your neighbors to call you if they see the stalker in your neighborhood.
- Report any threatening mail to the FBI.
- Go to a local domestic violence shelter if you have been in an abusive relationship with your stalker.
- Vary your daily routine so it is harder for your stalker to find you (drive to work a new way, shop at different stores, hide your car).
- Consider moving if you are in serious danger. If you do move, use a post office box instead of a street address. Give your new address to as few people as possible, and don't forward your mail
Can a stalker be arrested?
Yes. If someone is stalking you, call the police or go to the police station and make a report. Doing the things listed below will convince the police to arrest a stalker and may help prove your case later at trial:
- Send a registered letter to the stalker telling him or her to stop.
- Keep a detailed journal of what your stalker says and does to you.
- Talk to the telephone company about having threatening calls traced.
- If witnesses have seen the stalker's behavior, get them to write their names and addresses. Ask them to write down what they heard or saw and give you a copy.
- Keep any threatening letters or phone messages along with the date you received them.
- Take photos of any injuries or property damage caused by your stalker.
- Take photos of your stalker stalking you if you can do so safely.
When you talk to the police, be sure that they know about the evidence you have. If the police arrest someone for stalking you, the stalker must not call, write, come see you or harass you in any way when out on bail. If your stalker contacts you anyway, call the police. He or she can be taken back to jail and held until the trial.
Stalking is often not the only crime a stalker can be arrested for. Your stalker is also breaking the law if he or she hurts, threatens or rapes you, destroys your belongings , breaks into your home, trespasses on your property or harasses you on the telephone or through the mail. If your stalker does any of these things, call the police immediately.
Can I get a protective order?
If your stalker is a family member, someone you have lived with, someone you are dating, or someone you have had a romantic relationship with, you may be able to get a family violence protective order against your stalker. You must show that the stalker has harassed you or made you afraid that he or she will hurt you.
To get a protective order, go to magistrate court and fill out a family violence protection order petition. In the petition, you will need to explain exactly what the stalker has done to make you afraid and how he or she has harassed you. A hearing will be held in the next five days, and the judge will decide whether to give you a protective order for either 90 or 180 days. The magistrate may give you a temporary protective order until the hearing.
If your stalker is not a family member or someone you have had a romantic relationship with, you may be able to get an injunction from the circuit court ordering your stalker to leave you alone. You will need a lawyer's help for this.
If the stalker disobeys a protective order or injunction, the police can arrest him or her. Nevertheless, many stalkers disobey protective orders, and stalk again. Whether you have a protective order or not, you should take precautions to stay safe from a stalker.
Will a stalker go to jail?
Maybe, if he or she is found guilty in a trial.
If your stalker is found guilty and put on probation or given a suspended sentence, he or she still must participate in some sort of counseling or treatment. When the stalker is found guilty, the judge can also order that he or she have no contact with you for up to ten years. If the stalker contacts you anyway, he or she is in contempt of court and can go to jail.
Sentences a stalker can be given:
Sentences a stalker can be given:
Jail up to six months or fine up to $1,000 or both
2nd offence or in violation of a protective order
Jail from 90 days to one year or fine from $2,000 to $5,000 or both
3rd offence in five years
Jail from one to five years or fine from $3,000 to $10,000 or both
For help and information, contact:
- The West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline (304) 965-3552
- Your local domestic violence shelter
- The police
- An attorney
- The West Virginia Women's Commission (304) 558-0070
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