For Victims and Survivors of Stalking
Stalking is a serious crime that affects 1 out of every 12 women and 1 out of every 45 men during their lifetime. In most cases the stalker isn’t a stranger. The stalker may be a current or former intimate partner, a friend, customer, coworker, or an acquaintance. Some individuals use stalking as a way to try to re-establish a former intimate relationship or to feel connected to a person with whom they do not and/or cannot have a relationship. Stalking behavior can range from very subtle behavior to extreme and outrageous acts that might sound unbelievable to those less familiar with stalking. A stalker might engage in only one form of stalking behavior while another might engage in a wide variety of different and unpredictable stalking behaviors.
You may feel:
You are likely living in fear that at any moment your safety or life may be threatened. You may feel anxious, jittery, depressed, or unable to sleep through the night. You may feel exhausted and uncertain about how you can maintain your daily life at work, at home and in your social world. You may become isolated and realize that your life has been altered and disrupted in ways that are hard to describe. Trust your gut and take these threats seriously.
Things you should know
- Stalking is a Crime: Under Massachusetts’ law (MA General Laws, Chapter 265: Section 43), stalking is defined as a willful and malicious pattern of conduct that seriously alarms and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. Additionally, the crime of stalking requires the perpetrator to make a threat with intent to place a person in imminent fear of death or bodily injury.
- Criminal Harassment is also a crime: Under Massachusetts Law, criminal harassment is defined similarly to stalking, with the exception that there does not need to be a threat with intent placing someone in fear of death or bodily injury. Both Criminal Harassment and Stalking laws have provisions for a wide variety of electronic communications that are often used in these crimes. (MA General Laws, Chapter 265: Section 43a)
- Stalking victims might qualify for a restraining order: Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, including Jane Doe Inc., stalking victims have new protections in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Harassment Prevention Orders, available under MGL c.258E provide civil remedies for victims of stalking, harassment or sexual assault, requiring the offender to stay away from and to not contact the victim. The new protection order under 258E closely mirrors the protections offered by MGL c.209A which protect victims of domestic violence.
Stalking is often connected to sexual and/or domestic violence: Most stalking cases occur in the context of domestic violence – the victim is living in fear of someone they once loved and trusted in an intimate partner relationship. Rapists also routinely engage in following, surveillance, information gathering, and voyeurism prior to a sexual assault. After an assault, the rapist frequently threatens the victim, attempts to frame the incident (e.g. thinks and talks about the incident as if it were consensual), and maintains social contact.
Stalkers can use technology: While using technology to stalk does not involve physical contact, it is no less threatening than physical stalking. Stalking via technology, or as it is sometimes called “cyberstalking,” is illegal in Massachusetts and most states. You are likely to feel many of the same feelings as someone being stalked physically. Stalkers who use technology may do any of the following:
• access or interfere with your computer files and/or emails
• send threatening correspondence via email
• track your activities and movement through GPS (global positioning satellite) technology
• take photo/video images without your consent and/or send those images through the internet via social networks, email, or other channels
- Address Confidentiality Program available in Massachusetts: If you are being stalked, you may be eligible for the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). The ACP serves as a confidential mail forwarding system for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The substitute address is used as the victim’s legal residence, as well as work and/or school address. Consequently, government records may be disclosed to the public without identifying the victim’s new location. For more information call the ACP at (617) 727-3261 or (866) SAFE-ADD
- Keep a record: If you can, keep a written log of all stalking behaviors. Keep the log or notebook in a safe place, with a photo of the stalker, photocopies of restraining orders, letters or email printouts, and any other evidence of the stalking. When deciding what information to enter in the log, keep in mind that the log might one day be used as evidence in court and/or be seen by the stalker. You can also include any information that you think would help authorities identify or locate the stalker.
HELP IS AVAILABLE
You do not have to be in crisis to ask for help! Contact your local domestic and sexual violence program. A trained advocate can talk to you about safety planning, your options for obtaining a 258E Harassment Prevention Order and other available support and resources.
For emergency help, call 911.
For more information about stalking, your rights, and what you can do to help stop it, visit the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center.