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stalked is a life changing process. Stalking
victims are in a state of constant fear 24 hours
a day. The ongoing nature of stalking can cause
traumatic psychological damage to the victim.
According to 1994
statistics, one million people in the United
States have been stalked. High-profile cases of
celebrities being stalked have raised the
public's awareness to this crime. But the
majority of stalking victims are ordinary
people, mostly women, who are being pursued and
threatened by someone with whom they have had a
prior relationship. Approximately 80% of
stalking cases involve women stalked by ex-
boyfriends and former husbands. Some stalking
cases involve ex- employees who are obsessed
with the rejection of having lost a job.
Are there any laws
California was the first
state to pass an anti-stalking law in 1990 in
response to the stalking and murder of actress
Rebecca Schaeffer. Since then, all other states
have enacted anti-stalking laws.
In California, both criminal
and civil laws address stalking. According to
the criminal laws, a stalker is someone who
willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or
harasses another (victim) and who makes a
credible threat with the intent to place the
victim or victim's immediate family in fear for
their safety. The victim does not have to prove
that the stalker had the intent to carry out the
threat. (California Penal Code 646.9)
The criminal penalty for
stalking is imprisonment up to a year and/or a
fine of up to $1,000. There are more severe
penalties when the stalker pursues the same
person in violation of a court restraining
order, with a sentencing range of two to four
years imprisonment. Persons convicted of felony
stalking also face stricter penalties if they
continue to stalk their victim(s). Courts may
issue restraining orders to prohibit stalking. (California
Family Code 6320)
A victim, family member or
witness may request that the California
Department of Corrections, county sheriff or the
director of the local department of corrections
notify them by phone or mail 15 days before a
convicted stalker is released from jail or
prison. The victim, family member or witness
must keep these departments notified of their
most current mailing address and telephone
number. The information relating to persons who
receive notice must be kept confidential and not
released to the convicted stalker. (California
Penal Code 646.92) The court may order a
person convicted of felony stalking to register
with local law enforcement officials within 14
days of moving to a city and/or county. (California
Penal Code 646.9)
A victim of stalking may
bring a civil lawsuit against the stalker and
recover money damages. (See Civil Code
1708.7 for the elements and remedies of the tort
of stalking.) Victims may also request that
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suppress
their automobile registration and driver's
license records from being released to persons
other than court and law enforcement officials,
other governmental agencies or specified
financial institutions, insurers and attorneys.
To have their records suppressed, the victim
must submit verification such as police reports,
court documentation or other documentation from
a law enforcement agency. The documentation must
show that they have reasonable cause to believe
they are a victim of stalking. Release of a
suppressed record must be authorized by the
victim or the DMV. Records will be suppressed
for one year. The time may be extended if the
victim submits verification that he or she
continues to have reasonable cause to believe
they are being stalked. (California Vehicle
Code 1808.21, 1808.22)
As of January 1996, in
accordance with the California Public Records
Act, state and local law enforcement agencies
cannot disclose specified information regarding
a victim of stalking, including the victim's
address. If the victim is a minor, the parents
or guardians may request to have the victim's
name withheld. (California Government Code
6254) When stalking occurs in the
workplace, an employer can request a temporary
restraining order or an injunction on behalf of
the employee who is a victim of stalking. (California
Code of Civil Procedure 527.8)
Currently, there are few
federal laws that deal directly with stalking.
- The Interstate Stalking
Punishment and Prevention Act of 1996
punishes persons with a fine and/or
imprisonment for crossing state lines
"with the intent to injure or harass
another person...or place that person in
reasonable fear of death or serious bodily
injury..." (18 USC § 2261A, 2261,
- Two laws authorize grants
for law enforcement agencies to develop
programs addressing stalking and for states
to improve the process for entering
stalking-related data into local, state and
national crime information databases such as
the National Crime Information Center.
(42 USC §§ 3796gg, 14031)
- Another law requires a
training program for judges to ensure that
when they issue orders in stalking cases,
they have all the available criminal history
and other information from state and federal
sources. (42 USC § 14036)
- As of September 1996, the
Attorney General must compile and report
data regarding stalking as part of the
National Incident-Based Reporting System. (42
USC § 14038)
- The National Center for
Victims of Crime has additional information
on federal and state laws at its web site: www.ncvc.org/law/fedstalk.htm
Tips for Stalking
These tips will help you
guard your personal information and lessen the
chance that it will get into the hands of a
stalker or harasser. However, some of these tips
are extreme and should only be used if you are
indeed being stalked. Harassment can take many
forms, so this information may not be
appropriate in every situation and may not
resolve serious stalking problems.
1. Use a private
post office box. Residential addresses of
post office box holders are generally
confidential. However, the U.S. Postal Service
will release a residential address to any
government agency, or to persons serving court
papers. The Post Office only requires
verification from an attorney that a case is
pending. This information is easily
counterfeited. Private companies, such as Mail
Boxes Etc., are more strict and will require
that the person making the request have an
original copy of a subpoena. Use your private
post office box address for all of your
correspondence. Print it on your checks instead
of your residential address. Instead of
recording the address as "Box 123,"
use "Apartment 123."
2. File a
change-of-address card with the U.S. Postal
Service giving the private mail box address.
Send personal letters to friends, relatives and
businesses giving them the new private mailbox
address. Give true residential address only to
the most trusted friends. Ask that they do not
store this address in rolodexes or address books
which could be stolen.
3. Obtain an unpublished and
unlisted phone number. The phone company
lists names and numbers in directory assistance
(411) and publishes them in the phone book. Make
sure you delete your information from both
places. Don't print your phone number on your
checks. Give out a work number when asked.
4. If your state has
Caller ID, order Complete Blocking (called
"Per Line" Blocking in other states).
This ensures that your phone number is not
disclosed when you make calls from your home.
(California phone companies will to offer Caller
ID June 1996. See PRC
fact sheet 19 on Caller ID.)
5. Avoid calling 800, 888
and 900 number services. Your phone number
could be "captured" by a service
called Automatic Number Identification. It will
also appear on the called party's bill at the
end of the month. If you do call 800 numbers,
use a pay phone.
6. Have your name removed
from any "reverse directories."
The entries in these directories are in
numerical order by phone number or by address.
These books allow anyone who has just one piece
of information, such as a phone number, to find
where you live. Reverse direct-ories are
published by phone companies and direct
fact sheet no. 4 on "junk mail.")
7. Let people know that
information about you should be held in
confidence. Tell your employer, co-workers,
friends, family and neighbors of your situation.
Alert them to be suspicious of people inquiring
about your whereabouts or schedule.
8. Do not use your home
address when you subscribe to magazines. In
general, don't use your residential address for
anything that is mailed or shipped to you.
9. Avoid using your
middle initial. Middle initials are often
used to differentiate people with common names.
For example, someone searching public records or
credit report files might find several people
with the name, Jane Doe. If you have a common
name and want to blend in with the crowd, don't
add a middle initial.
10. When conducting
business with a government agency, only fill
in the required pieces of information.
Certain government agency records are public
record. Anyone can access the information you
disclose to the agency within that record.
Public records such as county assessor, county
recorder, DMV and business licenses are
especially valuable finding tools. Ask the
agency if it allows address information to be
confidential in certain situations. If
possible, use a post office box and do not
provide your middle initial, phone number or
your Social Security number. If you own property
or a car, you may want to consider alternative
forms of ownership, such as a trust. This would
shield your personal address from the public
record. (For more information on "government
records and privacy," see PRC fact sheet
11. Put your post office
box on your driver's license. Don't show
your license to just anyone. Your license has a
lot of valuable information to a stalker.
12. 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
13. Be very protective of
your Social Security number. It is the key
to much of your personal information. Don't
pre-print the SSN on anything such as your
checks. Only give it out if required to do so
and ask why the requester needs it. The Social
Security Administration may be willing to change
your SSN. Contact the SSA for details. (See PRC
fact sheet number 10 on "SSNs.")
14. Alert the three
credit bureaus--Experian, Equifax and Trans
Union--to your situation. Ask them to
"flag" your record to avoid fraudulent
access. (See PRC
fact sheet number 6 on "credit
reporting" for addresses and phone
numbers. See also fact
sheet number 17 on "identity theft.")
15. If you are having a
problem with harassing phone calls, put a
beep tone on your line so callers think you are
taping your calls. Use an answering machine to
screen your calls, and put a "bluff
message" on your machine to warn callers of
possible taping or monitoring. Be aware of the
legal restrictions on taping of conversations.
fact sheet number 3 on "harassing phone
calls." See also fact
sheet number 9 on "wiretapping and
16. If you use electronic
mail and other online computer services,
change your e-mail address if necessary. Do not
enter any personal information into online
directories. (See PRC
fact sheet number 18 on "privacy in
17. Keep a log of
every stalking incident, plus names, dates and
times of your contacts with law enforcement and
others. Save phone message tapes and items sent
in the mail.
18. Consider getting
professional counseling and/or seeking help
from a victims support group. They can help you
deal with fear, anxiety and depression
associated with being stalked.
19. Make a police report.
Consider getting a restraining order if you
have been physically threatened or feel that you
are in danger. When filed with the court, a
restraining order legally compels the harasser
to stay away from you, or he/she can be
arrested. Be aware that papers filed for a
restraining order or police report may become
public record. Put minimal amounts of
information and only provide a post office box
address. You should contact an attor-ney or
legal aid office if a restraining order becomes
necessary. (Note: Some security experts
warn that restraining orders sometimes lead to
violence. Before obtaining a restraining order,
consider your options carefully.)
20. And these final tips from someone who
was stalked for over three years: For your own
protection, carry pepper spray. Get a car phone
and/or a beeper. Carry a polaroid or video
camera. Never verify anything, like your home
address, over the phone.
For Stalking Victims
- Be alert for any
- Positively identify
callers before opening doors. Install a wide
angle viewer in all primary doors.
- Install a porch light at
a height which would discourage removal.
- Install dead bolts on all
outside doors. If you cannot account for all
keys, change door locks. Secure spare keys.
Place a dowel in sliding glass doors and all
- Keep garage doors locked
at all times. Use an electric garage door
- Install adequate outside
- Trim shrubbery. Install
locks on fence gates.
- Keep fuse box locked.
Have battery lanterns in residence.
- Install a loud exterior
alarm bell that can be manually activated in
more than one location.
- Maintain an unlisted
phone number. Alert household members to
unusual and wrong number calls. If such
activity continues, notify local law
- Any written or telephone
threat should be treated as legitimate and
must be checked out. Notify the appropriate
law enforcement agency.
- All adult members of the
household should be trained in the use of
any firearm kept for protection. It should
be stored out of reach of children.
- Household staff should
have a security check prior to employment
and should be thoroughly briefed on security
precautions. Strictly enforce a policy of
the staff not discussing family matters or
movement with anyone.
- Be alert for any unusual
packages, boxes, or devices on the premises.
Do not disturb such objects.
- Maintain all-purpose fire
extinguishers in the residence and in the
garage. Install a smoke detector system.
- Tape emergency numbers on
- When away from the
residence for an evening, place lights and
radio on a timer. For extended absences,
arrange to have deliveries suspended.
- Intruders will attempt to
enter unlocked doors or windows without
causing a disturbance. Keep doors and
- Prepare an evacuation
plan. Brief household members on plan
procedures. Provide ladders or rope for
- A family dog is one of
the least expensive but most effective alarm
- Know the whereabouts of
all family members at all times.
- Children should be
accompanied to school or bus stops.
- Routes taken and time
spent walking should be varied.
- Require identification of
all repair & sales people prior to
permitting entry into residence.
- Always park in a secured
garage if available.
- Inform trusted neighbor
regarding situation. Provide neighbor with
photo or description of suspect and any
- Inform trusted neighbors
of any anticipated extended vacations,
business trips, etc.
- During vacations, etc.,
have neighbors pick up mail and newspapers.
- If residing in an
apartment with on-site manager, provide the
manager with a picture of the suspect. If in
a secured condominium, provide information
to the doorman or valet.
- Central reception should
handle visitors and packages.
- Office staff should be
alert for suspicious people, parcels, and
packages that do not belong in the area.
- Establish key and lock
control. If keys possessed by terminated
employees are not retrieved, change the
- Park in secured area if
at all possible.
- Have your name removed
from any reserved parking area.
- If there is an on-site
security director, make him/her aware of the
situation. Provide him/her with suspect
- Have secretary or
co-worker screen calls if necessary.
- Have a secretary or
security personnel screen all incoming mail
(personal) or fan letters.
- Be alert to anyone
possibly following you from work.
- Do not accept any package
unless you personally ordered an item.
- Remove home address on
personal checks and business cards.
- Place real property in a
trust, and list utilities under the name of
- Utilize a private mail
box service to receive all personal mail.
- File for confidential
voter status or register to vote utilizing
mail box address.
- Destroy discarded mail.
- Phone lines can be
installed in a location other than the
person's residence and call-forwarded to the
- Place residence rental
agreements in another person's name.
- The person's name should
not appear on service or delivery orders to
- Do not obtain a mail box
with the United States Post Office.
- Mail box address now
becomes the person's official address on all
records and in all rolodexes. It may be
necessary or more convenient to list the
mail box as "Suite 123" or
"Apartment #123" rather than
- File a change of address
card with the Post Office giving the mail
box address as the person's new address.
Send postcards [rather than U.S. Post Change
of Address cards] to friends, businesses,
etc., giving the mail box address and
requesting that they remove the old address
from their files and rolodexes.
- All current creditors
should be given a change of address card to
the mail box address. (Some credit reporting
agencies will remove past addresses from
credit histories if a request is made. We
recommend this be done.)
- File a change of address
with the DMV to reflect the person's new
mail box address. Get a new driver's license
with the new address on it.
- Park vehicles in well-lit
areas. Do not patronize parking lots where
car doors must be left unlocked and keys
surrendered; otherwise surrender only the
ignition key. Allow items to be placed in or
removed from the trunk only in your
- When parked in the
residence garage, turn the garage light on
and lock the vehicle and garage door.
- Equip the gas tank with a
locking gas cap. The hood locking device
must be controlled from inside the vehicle.
- Visually check the front
and rear passenger compartments before
entering the vehicle.
- Select a reliable service
station for vehicle service.
- Keep doors locked while
vehicle is in use.
- Be alert for vehicles
that appear to be following you.
- When traveling by
vehicle, plan ahead. Know the locations of
police stations, fire departments, and busy
- Use a different schedule
and route of travel each day. If followed,
drive to a police station, fire department,
or busy shopping center. Sound the horn to
- Do not stop to assist
stranded motorist. (Phone in.)
Ten most common
mistakes that stalking victims make:
The following list is from the book Understanding-and
Surviving-America's Stalking Epidemic
by Linden Gross.
- Not listening to your
intuition. You need to keep your
internal radar tuned to pick up signals that
something might be wrong.
- Letting someone down
easy, instead of saying a definitive NO if
you’re not interested in a relationship.
Trying to be nice can lead a potentially
obsessive suitor to hear what he or she
wants instead of the message that you’re
- Ignoring the early
warning signs that annoying attention might
escalate into dangerous harassment and
- Responding to a stalker
in any way, shape, or form. That means not
acceding to your stalkers demands even once
he or she has introduced threats.
- Trying to reason or
bargain with a stalker. Stalking is like a
- Seeking a restraining or
protective order. All too often, this one
act propels stalkers to act violently. Still
tempted to get that piece of paper?
- Expecting police to solve
your problem and make it go away. Victims
have to take 100 percent responsibility for
their dealing with the situation.
- Taking inadequate privacy
and safety precautions.
- Neglecting to enlist the
support of family, friends, neighbors,
coworkers, therapists and other victims. It
may be tough to admit that you’re being
stalked, but it’s not your fault. Learn
how to gather the people who will constitute
your first line of defense.
- Ignoring their emotional
needs during and after a stalking.
For More Information
- Privacy Rights
1717 Kettner Ave. Suite 105
San Diego, CA 92101
Voice: (619) 298-3396
Fax: (619) 298-5681
- To obtain a guide for
stalking victims, write or call the National
Center for Victims of Crime
2111 Wilson Blvd.
Ste. 300, Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: (800) FYI-CALL or (703) 276-2880
- The National
Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) is
a nonprofit referral center. Contact them
1757 Park Rd. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20010
Phone: (202) 232-6682
Hotline: (800) 879-6682
- National Domestic
-- (NDVH helps victims find safe
(800) 799-SAFE, (512) 453-8117
Other web sites:
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