Stalking Teens: How to Protect Yourself

Each year 1.4 million people fall victim to stalking -- and it's reaching crisis proportion. Often we hear in the news of celebrities being stalked, but it's not reserved just for the rich and famous. Most stalking victims are ordinary people, and many are teenagers. Once you've been a victim of stalking, you'll know how traumatic it can be. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself.

What is Stalking?
Stalking is an obsessive behavior pattern. When someone repeatedly contacts you, follows you, send you things, talks to you when you don't want them to, or threatens you, it's stalking. It can make you feel afraid, nervous, anxious, harassed, or in danger. Here are some specific things a stalker might do:

* Writes you letters
* Call you repeatedly
* Damage your property
* Know your schedule and show up at places you go
* Send you mail, email, and photos
* Create a web site about you
* Send you gifts
* Steal things that belong to you

You can be stalked by someone you know casually, a current boyfriend or girlfriend, someone you dated in the past, or a stranger.

Stalking is a Form of Terrorism
While many stalkers don't attack, the threat of violence is usually implied. Even you are not physically harmed, you may still suffer tremendously in terms of fear, anxiety, and the disruption of your daily life.

Stalking is a crime in which the stalker exerts power and control over his or her victim. The stalker often tries to distort the victim's sense of reality. In some ways, stalking is like a rape that goes on and on.

What You Can Do
Unfortunately, many victims simply don't know what to do when confronted with being stalked. Often neither does law enforcement or the judicial system. Why? Because in many cases, stalkers successfully terrorize their victims without ever breaking the law. However, there ways you can avoid becoming a victim:

* Listen to your intuition
* If you're not interested in pursuing a relationship with some, don't be wishy-washy, and let them down with a definitive "no"
* Don't respond to a stalker in any way
* Don't try to reason or bargain with a stalker
* Avoid being tempted to get a restraining order; often this act imflames a stalker into violence
* Don't just wait for the problem to go away
* Tell you family and friends, neighbors and coworkers; you will need their support
* When you go out, tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back
* Memorize emergency phone numbers and keep spare change, calling cards, or cell phone handy
* Save all notes, letters, or any other items a stalker sends you -- this is important evidence
* Take measures to protect your privacy, such as changing your phone number and keeping it unlisted, getting a post office box for all your mail, etc.

-- Beth Adamo

External Links:
Workplace Harassment and Stalking
Handling sexual harassment investigation training

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