January is Stalking Awareness Month. Dr. Marie Garay-Serratos is CEO of Phoenix’s Sojourner Center. She says stalking is neither funny nor cute.
“[The stalker] could show up at [the victim’s] work; they could show up at, maybe, a restaurant,” she says. “They could engage in threatening behavior … it makes the person who’s a target of the stalking extremely uncomfortable.”
Stalking is defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” Nearly eight million people a year — women AND men — are stalked in the U.S. alone.
Stalking is a crime in Arizona; in fact, it’s a felony. If convicted of stalking in Arizona, a person could spend at least two years in prison. They could do even more time if aggravating factors are involved.
If you suspect you’re being stalked:
1. Try to go places with friends or in a group
2. Do NOT engage the stalker. Hang up the phone or get a new number; block their email address and social media accounts; ignore them if you see them while out and about. Also ignore old friends who try to bait you for information they can give your stalker.
3. Keep a log of ALL stalking-related activity (emails, phone calls, messages, texts), including dates, times and places, and any threats made. This will help with any court case.
4. Go to the police and make a report. A stalking log with help with this; the authorities will have exact times and places.
5. Do NOT place any information online about yourself that could be used to identify you or your location. Get a new smartphone, if you had one during your relationship (most stalking behaviors and activities are established during relationships; many stalkers know or learn how to place tracking software on phones). Do NOT accept friend invitations from anyone on Facebook that you don’t know.