Table of Contents
Fear is one fundamental warning sign when stalking has occurred or is occurring. Stalking is a behavior that includes the strategic tactic of implementing constant fear into another’s life with the constant worry of what someone may do at any given moment. Stalking is also a crime. It’s a serious offense as well as a serious accusation.
A question one may ask themselves if they are concerned that they are being stalked is if they are scared, worried, fearful or afraid of what the individual in question may do next. Yet, while many stalkers may make their presence noticeable, such as with vandalism, gifts or grandiose gestures, some types of stalkers are silent and give little to no warning that they are victimizing anyone or potentially planning an attack.
Stalking behavior may vary significantly depending on the stalker, however, there are major traits that stalkers exhibit, and there are also steps to take that one can use to protect themselves. The following section takes an in-depth look at all three areas of the stalking situation, the type, the traits and the treatment.
Psychologists have identified five distinct types of stalkers in an attempt to help police and health professionals to identify, catch and treat people who relentlessly harass and intimidate a chosen victim (Frean, 2001).
Five Types of Stalkers
Rejects/Rejected – The one who wants you back. Reject stalkers can be a narcissistic ex-spouse or partner that refuses to let go and before you know it, you’re immersed in unwanted messages, many a week, or even in a day. They can drive by places they know you frequent, follow you on social media and even create additional accounts to contact you. They can arrive at your door, be on your back porch or even at your favorite weekend private place to escape. Yet, it isn’t always a former partner that feels rejected, but can instead be someone that sees themselves as rejected. For example, a family acquaintance, a close friend or business colleague, where advances aren’t reciprocated or who saw you as rejecting them can be categorized as a rejected stalker.
Incompetent Suitors – These stalkers are chasing a relationship with someone, that maybe caught their eye, maybe after a brief courting or conversation occurred. Stalkers aren’t always someone in a relationship (either personally or professionally) with the victim. Some stalkers have never met their victim, or possibly they met them briefly and things didn’t develop in a healthy manner. Stalkers can focus on a stranger, someone they met only one time, someone they saw online, or someone they’ve known for years. Incompetent stalkers strive for a caring relationship and connection with the victim. They may be incompetent in many ways such as poor social skills, self-care, work life, and mannerisms. Possibly unable to read signals of distress or discomfort from the victim. While stalking isn’t satisfying, since the goal is to achieve a loving intimate relationship, they pursue the victim in hopes that the relationship will be the outcome.
Intimacy Seeker -Fantasies that they are in a relationship are predominant. This is often a type that is seen with celebrity stalking cases. They believe that they are the victim, not the actual victim they are stalking. They believe that who they are stalking is also in love with them and sends messages (i.e., telepathically, with signals/signs). They can see their victim wearing blue, which is the stalkers favorite color, and they process this as a signal of true love, wanting, connection, etc. Additionally, this type of stalker may believe that attention they receive means more than it really does. For example, a caring, nurturing and attentive professional counselor may provide an authentic connection and rapport with a client. A professional, such as a psychologist can experience being stalked by a former client, one that believes a relationship is ongoing and are starved for the positive attention of the psychologist.
Because individuals who stalk others suffer from severe attachment disorders, their hunger for attachment motivates them to shadow psychotherapists, which makes being stalked a genuine occupational hazard for psychotherapists (Farber, 2015).
Resentful Stalker – The resentful stalker wants revenge and sets out to cause fear, harm, and damage. Anger and hate are foundational feelings and they see themselves as the victim. They create havoc, distress, and fear. They resent their victim and have a vendetta and/or grievance against them. For example, a neighbor that has angered them, maybe they parked in their parking spot one evening and they feel justified in stalking and instilling fear in them. Another example is a stranger that they feel anger and hatred for. They may not know their victim, yet they are angry for a reason they feel justified in while simultaneously seeking revenge and striving to cause harm (either emotionally, physically, professionally, etc.). A neighbor that feels justified in their actions such as seeing someone park in a spot not designated for them or a random stranger they saw do something that offended them can result in months, even years of harassment and vengeful behaviors.
Predatory Stalker – One of the rarest yet deadly. There is no relationship goal but only control. Stalking is their way of ‘courting’ often with sexual assault being the primary purpose and pleasure. Predatory stalkers take great pleasure in voyeurism and spying on their victim intensely. Often times resulting in a sexual assault with no warning. Predators are absent of ‘love’ in their mind, no wooing, no love songs and signs of an ‘admirer’ but instead that of an imminent attack in mind. They may know their victim or not. An association isn’t a determent, so knowing the victim doesn’t eliminate them as a potential victim. They may implement early indicators to instill fear yet never revealing too much ‘too soon’ as their plan isn’t about a relationship and winning the victim over, but instead controlling their victim. Unlike other stalkers mentioned, there is no attachment emotionally to their victim. They may be seen as friendly, likable and even popular and they can easily (and often) appear as the loving and caring member of society who is devoted to their community and family.
Please note that a stalker can belong to numerous categories simultaneously. Their type of stalking style can overlap into more than one category. For example, the ex-spouse or partner can be both the rejected stalker and also the incompetent stalker, knowing they are rejected, wanting you back and also being incompetent in many areas such as holding a job, maintaining relationships with others and having authentic and appropriate social mannerisms.
Common Signs Of Stalking
Stalkers will appear at any time, anywhere and it causes fear within their victims – either it’s repeatedly in your professional or personal life such as at the office, or online with repeated unwanted messages and contact from the stalker, it is constant and unpredictable as well as relentless.
Seeking control – Stalkers seek, for the most part, total control, particularly that of the Predatory stalker. A stalker seeking a loving relationship may not realize the level of fear and control they are inflicting.
Obsessive behaviors such as being obsessed with the victim and displaying obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
No boundaries, even legally. They may be served papers to stay away; they may be told by older siblings, cousins, parents, police, judges and clergy members to stay away yet refuse to abide.
Continues to pursue a person after repeated rejection – Someone says they aren’t interested yet the stalker doesn’t believe it. The victim may repeatedly state they are uninterested, yet it goes unnoticed.
Leaving gifts/items for someone -Gifts can range from simple graffiti to the gross and gory. Gifts, from the ‘good (i.e., candy, clothes, shoes, subscriptions, flowers, food) and the bad (i.e., deceased bodies/body parts, destroyed photos of victim or victims loved one, blood and bodily fluids, sexually explicit material) can all cause discomfort for the victim.
Hacking accounts – This can range from online accounts to the home alarm system.
Spying – Another word for stalking essentially, yet it is displayed in cyberstalking, voyeurism, designing situations where one is forced to be watched/around/seen by the stalker and more. An example would be for the stalker to begin legal proceedings to force contact (such as a frivolous lawsuit where they both are forced to appear in the same place at the same time and possibly be required to speak to each other.)
Threatening – Either physically threatening to harm themselves or the victim, or even another person.
Steps To Protect Yourself
Stalking causes fear and can be paralyzing. Not knowing the intention or instances that may suddenly escalate can involve intense emotions. If you are having to modify your own behavior, to avoid someone, if you find yourself changing your route, or avoiding a specific site, to simply avoid someone and they also begin to ‘pop up’ all over the place, and message you, watch you….or you find yourself feeling like you are being watched…..maybe there are gifts appearing – then that is a indicator that there is an issue.
Knowing the types of stalkers allows for an understanding of the approach that is being taken towards the victim, as well as how to best respond. Whether it is domestic, such as an ex-lover or a casual acquaintance, or a complete stranger, never keep the stalking a secret.
Be vigilant – Be alert, be aware, be prepared to protect yourself.
Do NOT engage – The stalker may ‘twist’ all interaction and read it as something it isn’t and tell others, such as police, that you are interested/pursuing/receptive/open/etc. It’s best to avoid the stalker at all costs, including all loved ones intervening, as it may be seen as a threat, an obstacle to their goal. Place a ‘No Contact’ order on yourself, refusing to be baited into any engagement.
Document – It’s important not to engage and instead document and report all incidents, make copies and share all interactions with others immediately. Record everything, even if it’s you talking about what is occurring. Take videos, photos and keep records of it all. Keep copies of the records and also email them to yourself, loved ones and those involved, so all information is well safeguarded and shared.
Have a safety plan in place – If you are being stalked, your safety is the priority. An immediate safety plan needs to be put into place. Trusted people need to be involved, and the police should be notified of any situation. Have numbers on speed dial along with an additional phone that is hidden, charged and ready, etc. if needed.
Have a professional check the home and perimeter of the property to ensure precautions are taken such as deadbolts, locks, windows, ladders, anything a stalker can use to gain entry. Reach out to the local law enforcement, local security personnel and anyone else with knowledge of the law and protecting one’s self. Take advice from a trusted expert. Get a home and car alarm system.
Don’t isolate yourself – Often a stalker wants to isolate, control and confine you. Do not become a prisoner of fear, worry, and distress. This can be a dangerous situation, and you need reinforcements and resources.
Reach out for help – Let every single loved one know. Let others, both professionally and personally know. Enlist all the help that is offered. Become involved with support groups. Join a self-defense course. Develop and design a rapid response system to an escalating situation and become prepared to protect yourself.
Allow loved ones and colleagues to be aware of the stalking to ensure they don’t engage or reveal any information. It can be scary to share your story of being stalked, yet it’s vital that people know not to disclose your private and personal data such as home address, direct line phone number, email address, seeing a photo of you or the store clerk stating yes, they know you, and where you live. If you’ve already taken precautions to change sensitive information, it’s vital to have loved ones and associates not share the information. They should be aware someone is searching, watching, gathering, and using personal information and the less that is known, shown or seen, the better.
Remove photos of your home, car, and office online – A stalker seeing photos on social media of your home can learn the layout, they can recognize your car, even see a mailbox number or license plate tag. They can learn how to walk right into your bedroom based on last year’s birthday photos and clear layout of your home design. Remove pictures of the inside of your office and of your closest colleagues as they too can then be stalked also.
Internet search – Remove all private information such as addresses, number, photos of any location you frequent or live, all private data.
Formulate a check-in system – Loved ones knowing a safety plan is in place and that a stalker is causing fear, can assist in the important development to devise a multiple layered system of checking in with loved ones. It can range from having safety words to panic words to having unique words for specific stalking situations. For example, calling Bob and saying ‘green’ every evening (The leaves are green today, how are you?) may mean the house is clear, I’m safe inside with the alarm set. If they state ‘banana’, for yellow, it may mean ‘Something is wrong, but I’m scared to speak out loud’ (I’m really craving a banana, can you come over and bring one?), this may mean sending a friend over to do a wellness check, maybe stay for a while tonight. Then, the full-blown safety word being in place is key, such as ‘laters’ (Hey Bob, can’t talk, call you in the morning, laters). This word can signal the stalker is there, that police need to be called and an immediate response needs to happen. An additional word can be given in case the stalker has ‘learned’ the code. This is the ‘multilayer’ requirement. Say the stalker forced you to tell Bob the ‘leaves are green’ just as they know you do daily, yet you can insert the ‘laters’, or even an additional safety word such as ‘emerald green’ to the wording (Hey Bob, I’m great, I loved all the emerald green leaves today, it was gorgeous. How are you/I will call tomorrow.”).
Resources – A support system, a plan in place, professionals offering advice, police motoring the situation, are all steps to take to ensure you are taking advantage of every option offered. Look to legal resources, websites and more to gather all possible assistance available.
Vary routine – Have a non-predictable pattern. Change your way to work, your time to walk the dog, the store you buy your groceries, the bank branch you go to, the times you go to that fantastic restaurant, the gym hours you keep and more. Anything that you find yourself looking forward to on a consistent basis, change the time a bit, the day, maybe the way to get there. Something you do daily, no matter how small, such as immediately checking the mail after pulling into the driveway, can be altered to stay predictably unpredictable. It’s a great idea to have loved ones stop by randomly, anytime they are around, in the neighborhood, down the street, just out before heading home, etc. A strong presence of random company can alert the stalker that anyone can interrupt their advances or actions at any time.
Stalkers have a range of motivations, from reasserting power over a partner who rejected them to the quest for a loving relationship. Most stalkers are lonely and socially incompetent, but all can frighten and distress their victims. Bringing stalking to an end requires a mixture of appropriate legal sanctions and therapeutic interventions (Mullen, 1999). —
Suggestions for Police Procedure
Some additional suggestions for police and law enforcement when dealing with stalking concerns or complaints. If you are a victim of stalking and believe the police are not taking you seriously, you can share these following tips with them.
Listen to the victim –Gather all data and information for all incidents including prior reports or concerns. Observe the pattern of behavior. For example, a card on their car may seem harmless, yet if it is the date the stalker stated they would ‘kill them’ or ‘save them from this life’, it can speak to the level of behavior. The type of threat and any additional source of information is pertinent to understanding the stalkers personality.
Questions to Ask – “Why is this behavior scary?”, “Is there any significance to the subject’s statements, such as a significant date, something they stated for this day or occurred on this day?”. While it may appear harmless, understanding the context of the gift, statement, and situation can speak to the stalkers state of mind which they may ‘hide’ when questioned.
Request all photos/videos/tapes/recordings and evidence that’s been collected over time.
Provide ongoing and monitoring of behavior over time, for both the victim and the stalker. Stalkers are persistent and are known to stalk for months and often years, so it’s key to display a ‘Not going anywhere’ approach, especially when confronting the stalker knowing control is their ultimate goal.
Protection orders & Policies – While you are keenly aware and are an expert on the parameters of protection orders/restraining orders, the victim most likely won’t be. They may need resources to reach out to for help and also in knowing how to enforce their protection order best. Also, the stalker may not care about a protection order in place so it’s important to be aware that a piece of paper isn’t going to stop the harassment and the victim may need enhanced protection after serving the protection order.
Farber, S. K. (2015). My patient, my stalker empathy as a dual-edged sword: A cautionary tale. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 69(3), 331.
Frean, A. (2000, Sep 01). Psychologists list 5 types of stalkers. The Vancouver Sun
Mullen, P. E., Pathçº¯, M., Purcell, R., & Stuart, G. W. (1999). Study of stalkers. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(8), 1244-1249. doi:10.1176/ajp.156.8.1244