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Staying Safe

UPDATED April 9, 2013

Safety Tips for Stalking Victims

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This page contains some suggestions on how to keep yourself safe if you are being stalked or harassed.  A stalker can be someone who you are/were in a relationship with, a co-worker, acquaintance or even a stranger.  These are general suggestions that may not be appropriate in every situation – please pick and choose the ones that seem relevant to your situation.  Following these suggestions can't guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer.

General safety strategies
Safety at home
Safety at work and school
Legal options / documenting the stalker’s activities

General safety strategies:

• Stop all contact and communication with the person stalking or harassing you but keep any evidence of the stalking (such as voicemails, texts, emails, etc. for future court cases or criminal actions).  Responding to the stalker's actions may reinforce and/or encourage his/her behavior.

• Carry a cell phone with you.  Keep handy or memorize emergency phone numbers that you can use in case of an emergency, e.g., the number of the local police station.  If you ever feel you are in immediate danger, call 911.  You may also be eligible for a free phone with free minutes from the Assurance Wireless Program, sponsored by Virgin Mobile.

• Trust your instincts.  If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, you may want to reach out for help, even if nothing immediately dangerous is happening.

• Have a safe place in mind to go to in an emergency.  You might go to a police station, place of worship, public area, the home of a family member or friend (unknown to the stalker), or a domestic violence shelter.  If someone is following you, it is generally not a good idea to go home.*

• Try not to travel alone. Always vary your routes to and from work or school, the grocery store, and any other places regularly visited. By changing your daily routes, it could make it more difficult for someone to learn your routine.  If you run or walk for exercise, you might want to get an exercise buddy to go with you.

• Be aware of how much identifying information you are posting on the Internet through social networking sites and online purchases. You may want to select the highest security settings on any social networking accounts and think carefully before giving out your personal information through online purchases. To read more, go to our Safety with Social Media page.

• Alert the three credit bureaus and ask to have a fraud alert put on your credit reports: Experian (888) 690-8086, Equifax (800) 525-6285, and TransUnion (800) 680-7289.  A stalker may try to obtain your Social Security number and/or mother's maiden name to use this information to obtain your credit information.  Putting an alert on your credit could help to prevent this and possible fraudulent activity and/or identity theft.  For more information on fraud alerts, you can go to What is a fraud alert and should I get one? on WomensLaw.org's Financial Abuse page.

Information adapted, in part, from Safe Horizon: What should I do if I am being stalked? and, in part, from PrivacyRights.org.

Safety at home:

• Alert your friends, neighbors, and apartment building personnel about your situation.  Give them as much information as you can about the stalker, including a photograph of him/her, and a description of any vehicles s/he may drive.  Ask them to notify you or call the police if they see the stalker at your house.

• Keep your address confidential whenever possible, including on bills, magazines, etc. This could make it harder for a potential stalker to find you on the Internet.  You may want to get a post office box at least two zip codes away from your home and use it on all correspondence and even your checks.  You can learn more about how to set up a P.O. box.

• Tell friends and neighbors not to give your address or phone number to anyone.  Explain that they should not even give information to someone posing as a deliveryman or mailman even if this person says s/he has a package for you – this could be the stalker.

• Don't put your name on the list of tenants on the front of your apartment building.  Use a variation of your name that only your friends and family would recognize.

• Identify escape routes out of your house.  Plan different routes in case the stalker is in front of your home, in the backyard, or if s/he enters the home.

• Pack a bag with important items you'd need if you had to leave quickly, such as a reserve set credit cards, money, medication, important papers, keys, and other valuables.  Put the bag in a safe place, or give it to a friend or relative you trust.  Consider, too, putting together a "stalking bag" that includes the stalking log, a camera, information about the offender, etc. that you can easily grab if you have to leave the house in a hurry.

• Install solid core doors with dead bolts at your house or apartment (solid core doors are sturdier than hollow doors).  If all of your sets of keys cannot be accounted for, you may want to change the locks (and secure the spare keys) in case the stalker managed to get a set of your keys.  Fix any broken windows or doors and consider getting an alarm system put in that will signal the police if the alarm is triggered.  Note: If you rent your apartment/house, you may have to get the landlord’s approval before making these changes.

• Get a new, unlisted phone number and/or block your phone number. If you are getting unwanted phone calls, you may want to change your phone number and keep it unlisted.  For additional safety, you may also want to ask the phone company (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) to block your number so it won’t show up on calls you make (this may be called “complete blocking” or "per line" blocking in some states).  Please be aware that blocking is not 100% effective and programming glitches can sometimes mistakenly reveal blocked numbers.

Information adapted, in part, from PrivacyRights.org.

Safety at work and school:

• Alert all co-workers, schoolmates and on-site security staff about your situation.  Give them as much information as you can about the stalker, including a photograph of him/her, and a description of any vehicles s/he may drive.  Ask them to notify you or call the police if they see him/her.

• Tell co-workers and schoolmates not to give out any information about you to anyone.  Ask the school administrator or the office staff at your job to make a notation in your file so that this is clear to any new staff members who have access to your personnel files.

• Ask a security guard at work or school to walk you to your car or to the bus.  If you have a car, always park in a well-lit area.

Legal options / documenting the stalker’s activities:

• Report all incidents and threats to the police immediately.  When making reports to the police, keep a note of the name of the officer in charge of the case and the crime reference number, if applicable.  You can also ask for a copy of the police report that is filed.

• Create a stalking log, which records the date and time of each incident as the incidents occur, what the stalker did or said, what actions, if any, you took and who was present.  Ask witnesses to write down what they saw and get the witnesses contact information (name and phone number) in case you need the police or prosecutor to later talk to the witness.  The Stalking Resource Center has a sample stalking incident log that you can print out as a guide.

• Save evidence of stalking / harassment.  Keep all voicemails, text and email messages sent by the stalker.  You can get hard copies of text messages by forwarding them to an email address and printing them out or you may be able to take photos or videos of the cell phone screen.   Another option could be to take the phone to the police and have them photograph the text messages or document them in another way.  Some people may be inclined to try to show the messages to the judge on the phone itself but this may mean that the phone itself may be taken into evidence and kept during the court proceeding, thereby taking the phone away from you.

• Consider getting a protective order against the person stalking you.  Most states allow you to apply for a protective order based on stalking if the stalker is an intimate partner.  Some states allow you to apply for a protective order based on stalking even if the stalker is not an intimate partner.  Enter your state in the drop-down menu of the WomensLaw.org Restraining Orders page to see what types of protective orders are available in your state.  If you do get a protective order, carry a copy of it with you at all times.  However, please remember even restraining orders do not always prevent stalking from escalating into violence.  Continue planning for your safety in other ways as well.

Special thanks to Privacyrights.org, from which we adapted much of this information.

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