Stalking and harassment is similar in meaning and process. In the response of the murder of Rebecca Schaffer (popular co-star of the television program “My Sister Sam”) in 1989, all states have enacted legislation that outlaws stalking behavior. Not only celebrities and people with high visibility gain the most attention. Authorities estimate that 75 to 89 percent of stalking cases involve ordinary people who previously married or dating, and that as many as 200,000 citizens in the United States exhibit stalking traits. So not only does stalking violate your civil and constitutional rights, but it could endanger your health and safety, cause severe emotional distress, and may become a federal offense!

Although men are sometimes victims of stalking, women are by far more at risk. For some men, stalking is a continuation of the violence that occurred during a past relationship. The breakup of the relationship usually causes the violence to escalate. That is why women who attempt to leave violent relationships are in greatest danger of being talked and harmed. Not all abusers are stalkers, but they share some of the same characteristics. They tend to be excessively possessive and extremely jealous. About 20 percent of abusers do not act out of uncontrolled anger. Most of these men raised in violent households. It would be only speculation to suggest that a greater number of violent stalkers would come from this group of men, but most stalking requires some premeditation or planning that is inconsistent with uncontrolled anger.

Stalkers are potentially dangerous even when they do not make a direct threat. In most cases, a stalker will follow, observe, telephone, write letters and confront the victim. They may also engage in other harassing behavior. This type of behavior is frightening to most women, so they try an escape the harassment by moving or changing their telephone numbers. Though this is a good deterrent, the stalker will most often locate his victim again. The man who killed Rebecca Schaeffer hired a private investigator to locate her address, which he easily obtained from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The stalking laws in place are in brief and it is my recommendation that those who fall into a situation of being stalked become responsible for their safety and report it to the police immediately.

-Report all suspected stalking to the local police department.

-Ask the police to document the incident even if they feel it is too insignificant for an arrest.

-Keep your own log with the date and time of each event and note any witnesses. -Video tape the stalking, if possible.

-If you have been the victim of domestic violence, get a restraining order.

Victims should follow through with all requests for assistance. The reluctance of law enforcement and the courts to assist victims of stalking and domestic violence is traced directly to the high incidence of victims who fail to follow through. More importantly, the decision to prosecute may be the most effective way to save one’s own life.

Make sure the home is secure and that neighbors, family and employers are aware of the problem. Even if she should decide to prosecute, the stalker has a right to a release on reasonable bail. If you should have any questions on the right to protection for stalking activity, you should contact your local prosecuting attorney’s office, law enforcement agency or domestic violence shelter


You can also contact the National Victim Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center: for more information.

CHS Self-Defense Class