The bottom line is the stalker is looking for attention. As the ground-breaking book Surviving a Stalker shows clearly in story after story, the stalker seeks a positive reaction, though he’ll settle for a negative one because at least he knows he’s in your life that way. So the critical question becomes: how do you navigate around this situation?
Even if you’ve involved your local law enforcement, you’re still the one best able to protect yourself. Which means that you’ll need to know what to do should you—or a loved one—become the target of an obsessive individual. The following tips are a small sampling of the security precautions offered in Linden Gross’s seminal book Surviving a Stalker, a revised, expanded and updated version of her book To Have or To Harm, published by Warner books in 1984.
Just Say No
To begin with, if you don’t want to pursue a relationship, say no quickly. You need to be direct and clear, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable. Since people see and hear what they want when emotions are at stake, if you’re not explicit your message won’t get through. Indeed, it’ll be interpreted as encouragement. Other advice, which you’ll find in the chapter titled “If It Happens To You: A Safety Primer,” includes not wavering, allowing the individual to maintain his dignity, and listening to what’s being said rather than what you want to hear. If someone says he loves you too much, he’s probably right.
As soon as you see that someone is being overly persistent, you need to take the matter seriously. Though your pursuer may never resort to violence, the unwanted attention will most likely cause you discomfort and unpleasantness at the very least. So whether you’re dealing with a former lover, a colleague, or a stranger, you need to play it safe and protect yourself, your family, your home and your work place. Ideally, of course, many of these protection measures should be in place before a problem arises.
Removing yourself from the stalker’s reach should be your top priority. If a stalker doesn’t know where you live, make sure it stays that way. Tips on ensuring your privacy, include having your mail delivered to a private post office box. You’ll need to cut off all communication with your stalker. That means not responding to his calls. You’ll also discover, however, that changing your phone number will only prompt him to find your new one. Instead, Surviving a Stalker advises you to get a second number, and leave the first one (which you never answer) hooked up to an answering machine. In addition, you’ll learn ways to minimize any and all chances for personal contact with a stalker.
Should you receive a threat, consult your local police department or a threat assessment professional. But remember to treat the threat like you would a promise: evaluate the issuer’s character, motives, and the circumstances in order to judge how likely he is to carry out the threat. Letting the air out of a threat by not reacting to it can mean the difference between escalation and deescalation of your stalking situation.
Whatever options you pursue to insure your physical safety, try not to neglect your emotional well-being. You may feel like you’re alone in this nightmare, but there are places to turn, and our resources page can get you started. You’ll find more tips, resources and sanity-saving advice in Surviving a Stalker, which demystifies this crime and details how victims can best deal with it. “Linden Gross’s work will help all of us understand a dynamic that has been characterized by confusion and misinformation,” says Gavin de Becker, America’s foremost authority on stalking and the author of The Gift of Fear. “It will save some lives and improve many others. It will help those victims who need to know what to do right now, and, more importantly, if will help many of you never to become victims at all.” You’ll also find that sharing your experience with other victims who truly understand what you’re up against can ease the burden a little, while providing an educational forum in which to learn more about the issue and how to better keep yourself safe. So read Linden Gross’s gripping book to find out how you can set up your own support group at home, and be sure to check out the Stalking Victim’s Sanctuary online support group.