SAFE from Stalking: A Comprehensive Guide to Protecting YourselfWritten by Emily Arismendy
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a crucial time to shed light on the pervasive issue of stalking and educate the public on the different forms it can take, from physical cases to the alarming rise of cyber-stalking. Stalking is a serious crime that affects millions of people each year, leaving victims feeling violated, frightened, and vulnerable. While stalking is never the fault of the victim, in our reality, taking preventative measures becomes a necessary step to safeguard against potential harm and promote a culture of awareness and protection.
What defines stalking?
Texas law defines stalking as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. A course of conduct can include acts such as following, communicating, or threatening the victim, or interfering with their property.
Stalking often goes unnoticed or isn’t taken seriously in its initial stages, primarily because the subtle signs may not appear immediately harmful. The lack of overt threats can create a perception that the situation is manageable or not alarming. However, this misconception can be dangerous, as stalking typically escalates over time. It typically starts with seemingly harmless behaviors and progresses to more invasive and threatening actions.
It is crucial to recognize the warning signs early on to prevent further escalation. Stalkers may start with excessive calls or messages, unwanted gifts, and following the victim. As the obsession intensifies, they may resort to online harassment, spreading false information, or even physical confrontation. The digital age has brought about several cases of cyber-stalking, where perpetrators use technology to monitor and harass their victims.
Protection Against Cyber-Stalking
In today’s technology-driven world, cyber-stalking has become a prevalent issue. To protect yourself from online harassment, it’s essential to be vigilant and take necessary precautions. Disable location services on your devices and review privacy settings on social media platforms. Regularly update passwords and be cautious about sharing personal information online. Consider using two-factor authentication for an added layer of security.
Cyber-stalking especially affects our youth, exposing them to online harassment and invasive behaviors that transcend physical boundaries. It is crucial for parents, educators, and peers to create a supportive environment and educate adolescents on digital safety to mitigate the risks associated with cyber-stalking.
Recently there was a case in Pearland, Texas of a teen being tracked and stalked through the social media app, Snapchat.
To turn off location services on your smartphone:
For iOS (iPhone):
- Go to “Settings.”
- Select “Privacy.”
- Tap on “Location Services” and toggle the switch to disable.
- Open “Settings.”
- Navigate to “Location” or “Security & Location.”
- Turn off the “Use location” option.
In the face of stalking, legal measures play a critical role in providing victims with the necessary tools to ensure their safety and bring perpetrators to justice. It is imperative to emphasize that stalking is a crime, and victims should not bear any responsibility for the actions of their stalkers. Here are a few legal protections available that can be taken against stalking:
- Protective Orders (Restraining Orders): Obtaining a protective order, also known as a restraining order, is a fundamental step in safeguarding against stalking. This legal document imposes restrictions on the stalker’s ability to contact, approach, or harm the victim. Protective orders can be customized to fit the specific circumstances of each case, outlining the prohibited actions and setting geographical limitations on the stalker’s proximity to the victim.
- Updated Lease Breaking Laws: Stalking often forces victims to consider relocation for their safety. Understanding and being aware of updated lease breaking laws is crucial for those seeking to escape a threatening living situation. Many jurisdictions, including Texas, recognizes stalking as a valid reason for breaking a lease without financial penalties.
- Civil Lawsuits: Victims may also pursue civil action against their stalkers. This legal avenue allows victims to seek monetary damages for emotional distress, medical expenses, or other losses resulting from the stalking. A successful civil lawsuit can provide a sense of justice and compensation for the harm inflicted by the perpetrator.
Stalking demands our attention. Understanding the definition of stalking, recognizing warning signs, and utilizing legal protections can all contribute to a safer society. Let’s stand united against stalking, support survivors, and foster awareness to mitigate this offense. Remember, resources and support are available, and together, we can make a difference.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Stalking Resource Center by the National Center for Victims of Crime: www.stalkingawareness.org
Texas Council on Family Violence: www.tcfv.org
National Stalking Resource Center: www.stalkingawareness.org
Texas Advocacy Project: www.texasadvocacyproject.org
The SAFE Alliance: 512.267.SAFE (7233) | safeaustin.org