Last night on the radio Delilah read a letter from a woman who said she was “a prisoner in her own home”. She said that her ex-husband kept up with every move she made through their young daughter and by watching her at home and work, peering through the windows of her home. In her letter she reached out for help begging Delilah to tell her what to do, and, as is true to her form, Delilah told her that she was being stalked and explained to her how to get some help.

I have been stalked twice in my life that I am aware of: once the stalker harassed me for two years and the second time was less than three months. A friend of mine asked if the second time was easier because it was a relatively short period of time. No, it wasn’t easier to face because the length of time was less than the first, but it was easier to face because I knew what to do. Knowledge is power, I told her; information is power. You have to know what to do so that you stand the best chance of surviving. Women are 3 times more likely to be stalked than men and the emotional and psychological paralysis that sets in can very quickly become crippling.

Stalking is a federal crime punishable by imprisonment however, not all States classify it that way on a first offense. That is why you must document everything, each and every incident separately with dates, times, locations and a description of the event that ensued. Each offense must be followed up with a filing a report with your local law enforcement agency. The file I had on my first stalker was almost 2 inches thick. It contained page after page of events and photographs; it looked like a manuscript, but it was my evidence. You must have tangible evidence to take to the authorities; in this case your word is not good enough.

Who is a stalker? Since stalkers are most often someone you know, the stalking begins when you have, in one form or another ended the relationship.  A stalker is someone calls, emails, write letters or sends unwanted gifts; someone who follows you when you are driving or walking in the park; someone who  shows up where ever you go, work, grocery store, movies, church; comes on your property or into your apartment complex uninvited. Depending on the psyche of your stalker this may be all they do. However, if they are not made to stop or if they are not getting the response they desire they may take it to the next level. Stalkers may also monitor your phone calls, use GPS to track your movements, install spyware on your computer or hidden cameras in your home; contact your friends, family and coworkers; and search through your garbage. The average time a stalker spends pursuing their victim is 1-2 times per week. It is important to note that as the frequency of stalking increases so does the intensity.

Stalkers also are known for making verbal and written threats against you, your friends, family and pets are way they exact their power over you; 20% of the time they use weapons when making threats. Statistics here are staggering. When a stalker reached the level of exacting threats by use of physical force or brandishing a weapon more than 54% of female victims are murdered.

Threats need to be taken seriously. Threats mean danger and if you are in danger call 911 first. Then seek the help of someone who can help you protect yourself and your family or go to a shelter. There are shelters for men as well as women; safe places where you can be sequestered away until you can safely return to your home. Statistics vary on how many victims are killed by their stalker, but it does happen.

How do you know if you are being stalked? The stalker makes you feel fear: feel afraid of what the stalker might do. You begin to sense your vulnerability and question who you can trust. You feel anxious and on edge all the time and this causes your level of stress to dramatically accelerate which makes it hard to concentrate at work, extremely difficult to relax at home. You don’t sleep which perpetuates a short-tempered attitude, trouble remembering things; it causes eating disorders, flashbacks and worst of all you begin to feel isolated because you begin alienating your own family and friends…the ones you should be trusting.

Victims sometimes unknowingly make it easy for the stalker. If you suspect you are being stalked develop a Plan of Safety. Change your routine. If you usually go to the gym in the morning, go after work instead; don’t go places alone and develop strategies for what you will do in case the stalker shows up school, work or home.  Solicit the help of close trusted friends and let them know how they can be of help to you – don’t just say I’ll call you if I need you; set them up with something specific to do. Perhaps a friend can pick up your child from day care for you twice a week and meet you at the mall.

Remember DO NOT communicate with the stalker and do not attempt to respond to their attempts to communicate with you. You cannot survive being on their level; you must be proactive. According to The National Center for Victims of Crime in the United States alone 3.4 million people are stalked each year; 3 out of 4 of those victims know their stalker, and women are the victim 75% of the time.

Remember, this is not television. Each stalking case is different. The police are over worked and they do not have the man power to set up surveillance at your home or work. You have to take control. If this is what you are faced with get help. Do not allow yourself to become another statistic.