What is stalking?

Fundamentally, stalking is a series of actions that puts a person in fear for their safety. The stalker may follow you, harass you, call you on the telephone, watch your house, send you mail you don't want, or act in some other way that frightens you.

The exact legal definition varies from state to state, but all states now have some kind of law against stalking. Virtually any unwanted contact between a stalker and their victim which directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can generally be referred to as stalking, whether or not it meets a state's exact legal definition.

Stalkers use a wide variety of methods to harass their targets. The inventiveness, persistence, and obsessive nature of stalkers is almost unimaginable, until you have experienced being the target.

Stalking is a serious, potentially life-threatening crime. Even in its less severe forms, it permanently changes the lives of the people who are victimized by this crime, as well as affecting their friends, families, and co-workers. Law enforcement is only beginning to understand how to deal with this relatively new crime.

Stalking is more common than you might think, although it is hard to get accurate figures because law enforcement organizations have only recently started keeping records. Best estimates indicate that as many as 1.4 million Americans are stalked each year; and that 1 in 20 women will become targets of stalking behavior at least once during their lifetimes. Many men are also stalked.

What do you know about stalking?

Try our stalking quiz and find out!

Are stalkers really dangerous?

They certainly can be! Many stalkers change behavior over time and escalate the frequency or the intensity of their contacts. Ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands who stalk are often violent. Some of the most dangerous stalkers give little or no warning before they attack.

Some people who are being stalked are more afraid than they need to be, and others are not as afraid as they should be.

Safety for Stalking Victims

There is a book you should know about, Safety for Stalking Victims, by Lyn Bates of AWARE. Stalking victims are continuously confronted with the possibility of frightening, unpleasant actions against them, ranging from invasions of privacy all the way to lethal violence, but they are seldom given concrete, detailed advice on what to do about it. The purpose of this book is to change all that.

Are you being stalked? Do you know someone who is?

It started with an invitation to dinner. Or perhaps it began with a gift of flowers from an anonymous admirer. Or maybe it began with a peculiar letter from a "fan." Or it started with a silent, ominous watcher. Or maybe it started with a growled threat.

However it started, you now feel uncomfortable every time the phone rings, every time you have to be out alone at night, every time you go to your car or reach for your mail. He is out there, somewhere, and his unceasing, unwanted attentions make your skin crawl and your hands clammy.

You never thought it would happen to you, but you are being stalked.

Stalking is an insidious crime that eats away at your sense of security, leaving you feeling more vulnerable than ever before in your life.

So, what do you do now?

Contact AWARE! Our services are free.

How can AWARE help?

If you're being stalked, or just harassed and annoyed, you can't put your safety entirely in the hands of someone else. The legal process can take years, and police procedures can vary widely across the country. Your safety has to rest primarily in your own hands. Too often people in danger are told to "be careful" without being told exactly HOW to be careful. AWARE can provide the "how."

If you are interested in learning more about stalking, gaining confidence in managing your situation, and not becoming a statistic, contact AWARE. We have programs specifically designed to meet the needs of women, and men, who are being victimized by this terrible crime. More and more people are contacting AWARE when they face the challenge of protecting themselves. Some people call us because they are being stalked, or had been at one time. These people had made the decision to take what some people might call "extreme" measures to protect themselves. But all of those "extreme" individuals are still alive today.

AWARE can be a vital resource for stalking victims, and for others who want to help them, such as friends, family, employers, law enforcement officials, social workers, self-defense instructors, victim advocates, lawyers, and victim service providers. AWARE can help to evaluate and manage stalking situations; our primary focus is on the safety of the person being stalked. Of course, no organization can provide you with complete guidelines that guarantee your safety, but AWARE can offer very practical information that may substantially reduce the chances of your stalker inflicting physical or emotional harm.

Every stalker, every stalking target, and every stalking situation is different. Stalking targets need, and deserve, individualized, personalized care, attention, and respect. AWARE provides information and training that promotes self-responsibility and the implementation of effective strategies for safety.

If you are a stalking victim, AWARE can help you...

  • Learn about stalking
  • Recognize risks
  • Avoid danger
  • Learn survival tactics
  • Reduce your chance of being injured
  • Increase your confidence
  • Develop your protection skills
  • Develop a "best-case," "worst case" personal protection plan
  • Identify warning signs of a stalker's personality
  • Learn anti-stalking strategies and techniques
  • Avoid your stalker
  • Decide whether to get a restraining order
  • Deal with inappropriate communications and "gifts"
  • Manage your fear
  • Live in a state of "relaxed awareness"
  • Find other resources
  • Survive potentially lethal attacks

For people and organizations who work with or care for stalking victims, AWARE can provide:

  • Information about stalking
  • Detailed information on how to help protect the victim
  • Mistakes to avoid
  • Threat management
  • Stalking case management
  • Safety survey and analysis
  • Proactive personal safety planning
  • Referrals to other people and organizations

If you think you might be being stalked, even if you are not sure...

Consider that you could be in danger. Report it to the police. Keep a very careful log of every incident and every situation.

Contact AWARE. We can help.


People who have received help from AWARE say...

"Thank You!!! Your response was very informative! You mentioned some things that I really hadn't even thought about. I do appreciate your time."

"I think I know all I need to now in order to feel secure.... This is precisely what I was looking for."

"What a sensitive and compassionate answer. I thank you very much indeed, and so does my family."

"I can't tell you how grateful I am just to have someone listen and take the time to give me advice. Thank you so much."


More Information about Stalking

Stalking Victim Advisory

Check out our books and websites pages.