What To Do If..
While a victim may not be in imminent danger, the potential always exists; therefore, a contingency plan (a safety “escape” plan) may be appropriate. Suggested considerations include:
A. Knowledge of and quick access to critical phone numbers, including:
- Law enforcement numbers and locations;
- Safe places (such as friends, domestic violence shelters, etc.);
- Contact numbers for use after safety is secured (such as neighbors/family, attorney, prosecutor, medical care, child care, pet care, etc.)
B. Keeping an accessible reserve of necessities, including:
- A small packed suitcase in the trunk of the car, or at another readily accessible location, for quick departure;
- Reserve money;
- Other necessities – such as creditor’s numbers and personal welfare items such as medication, birth certificates, social security information, passport, etc.
- Miscellaneous items – maintaining a full tank of gas in the car, backup keys for neighbors, etc. are practical;
- Toys, books, and other special items belonging to the child(ren) of the victim
C. Alerting people to the situation who may be useful in formulating a contingency plan, such as:
- Law enforcement
- Family, friends, or neighbors
- Security personnel
D. Installing solid core doors with dead bolts. If all keys cannot be accounted for, then change locks and secure spare keys. Consider installing a security alarm system.
E. Installing adequate outside lighting. Trim back bushes and vegetation around residence.
F. Maintaining an unlisted phone number. Be selective about giving out your number. If harassing calls persist, notify local law enforcement, but also keep a written log of harassing calls and any answering machine tapes of calls with the stalker’s voice and messages.
G. Getting a cell phone and keeping it with you at all times.
H. Treating any threats as legitimate and informing law enforcement immediately.
I. Varying travel routes, stores and restaurants, etc. which are regularly used. Limit the amount of time walking, jogging, etc. unless in a safe environment.
J. Informing a trusted neighbor, roommates and/or colleagues about the situation. Provide them with a photo or description of the stalker and any possible vehicles he/she may drive.
K. If residing in an apartment building with an on-site property manager, provide the manager with a picture of the stalker.
L. Having co-workers or roommates screen all calls and visitors.
M. Avoiding travel alone if at all possible. Stay in public areas. If assistance if needed, yell “FIRE” to get immediate attention. People more readily respond to this cry for assistance than to any other.
N. Using a “dummy” answering machine connected to a published phone line. A private unlisted number can be reserved for close friends and family. The stalker may not realize you have another line.
What Resources Are Available to a Victim of Stalking:
Assistance may be obtained from local sources, such as:
- Domestic violence shelters or counselors
- Rape crisis programs or counselors
- Victim assistance coordinators in the prosecutor’s office
- Law enforcement
Also, if the stalker is a family member, someone the victim has lived with, someone the victim is dating or someone the victim has had a romantic relationship with, she/he may be able to get a domestic violence protective order against the person.
First, the victim must show that the stalker has knowingly and repeatedly harassed her/him or made the victim afraid that she/he would be hurt. If that has happened, the victim should go to the Magistrate Court and file a petition for a domestic violence protective order. In the petition the victim will need to explain exactly what the stalker has done to make her/him afraid and how she/he was harassed. The magistrate may give the victim a temporary protective order until the hearing. A hearing will be held in the next ten days, and the family law judge will issue a final order for 90 or 180 days. If the stalker disobeys a protective order by making further contact with the victim, the police can arrest him or her.
If the stalker is not a family member or someone the victim has not had a romantic relationship with, she/he may be able to get a peace bond from the magistrate. The victim can also file a criminal complaint to the police. The complaint is investigated. If the police determine probable cause, a warrant would be issued for the arrest of the stalker.