Stalking – Separating Fact from Fiction

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Stalking — Separating Fact From Fiction“… In a recent conversation amongst those who use a prominent well known free single’s website, one party made reference to the effect as to how when one member notices another member is, or is not online, the behaviour seems to be stalking behaviour.  The comment was made in jest, but even in jest the act of noticing whether or not other members are logged into the site was being mis-interpreted as a form of stalking when in reality, the information showing those online members was readily available to any member as a regular option – no where near the definition of “stalking”.

In the last twenty years, the term “stalking” has filled the media as Hollywood stories of celebrity stalkers abound.  It’s often been said on night time comedy shows that in Hollywood you are a nobody until you have a stalker to prove you’re a somebody.

Why He Doesn't Love You Anymore by James C Tanner. Self-help for those struggling with the pain of a broken heart, rejection, and emotional abandonment.

Stalking, in a basic description, is unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group toward another person.  This can include a religious community stalking a member, former member, or someone who they are trying to influence.  This can include a neighbourhood stalking an undesired neighbour in an attempt to push them out of the community.  This can include a former spouse, former lover, co-worker, law enforcement officers with a grudge, or absolute stranger.  Stalking behaviors are most often related to harassment and intimidation which may include following the victim in person, or monitoring them, their activities, conversations and such through ulterior means, including illegal means.  People who behave in this manner are predators.

While stalking is deemed to be illegal in most regions and jurisdictions in the world, some of the individual actions which can contribute to stalking can be legal, such as gathering information, repeatedly/excessively calling someone on the phone, repeatedly sending unwanted gifts (in the U.K., which has the lowest requirements in this area, a minimum of two unwanted gifts is required before being classified as potential stalking, and elsewhere in the world that number is higher), repeatedly sending emails, or sending text messages. The actions become illegal when they begin to breach the legal definition of harassment, such as sending undesired repeated texts and especially those with sexual references.

Women often stalk both men and women, but according to studies, men generally only stalk women.


False Claims of Stalking Are On The Rise

In 1999, Pathe, Mullen and Purcell [1] wrote about the rise in popular interest in stalking for purposes of promoting false claims.  In 2004, Sheridan and Blaauw[2] wrote on how their studies showed that 11.5% of claims in a sample of 357 reported claims of stalking were false.

According to Sheridan and Blaauw, 70% of false stalking reports were made by people suffering from delusions. After eight uncertain cases were excluded, the false reporting rate was judged to be 11.5%, with the majority of false victims suffering delusions (70%).  Another study[3] estimated the proportion of false reports due to delusions as 64%.

Stalking is a frightening issue, but so too is the damage caused by those who wrongfully accuse a party of stalking.  Innocent wrongfully accused people have had lives and reputations destroyed by another person’s mis-use of the term “stalking”.


The Five Types of Stalkers

In “A Study of Stalkers” [4] Mullen et al.. (2000) identified five types of stalkers:

  • Rejected stalkers pursue their victims in order to reverse, correct, win back, or seek out revenge for a prior rejection (e.g. divorce, separation, termination).
  • Resentful stalkers pursue a vendetta, a desire to achieve revenge, because of a sense of being wronged by a victim – motivated mainly by the desire to frighten and distress the victim.
  • Intimacy Seekers seek to establish an intimate, loving relationship with their victim, and this can occur between complete strangers where one is acting based solely on fantasy.
  • Incompetent suitors, despite poor social or courting skills, these dating partners have not yet learned the art of letting go of a relationship and develop some form of fixation, or in some cases, a sense of entitlement to an intimate relationship with those who have attracted their love interest.
  • Predatory stalkers spy on the victim in order to prepare and plan an actual physical attack on their victim which is often sexual in nature.


Actions Which Are Definable As Stalking

For stalking to exist, several criteria have to be met of which any combination of the following might qualify you as being stalked:

  1. There has to be a threat, or perceived threat. This threat must be based on the words or actions of the stalker and not based on someone’s paranoia, mental health issues, gossip or a wider spread ill-conceived public opinion of the alleged stalker.  Just because the town hermit appears in town one day and glares at you, combined with your prior knowledge of all the wild myths about hermits, does not mean he is stalking you.  It might mean he has cataracts and is struggling to see clearly as to who is walking along the street.
  2. For a person to be stalked at their home, they must be in the home at the time a stalker is loitering outside the home. If the targeted person is residing elsewhere, or not at home when an alleged stalker is loitering around the perimeters of the residence, then the action is not legally definable as stalking.  If the loiterer is improperly on private property, then it is at the most trespassing.  If a person is out for their routine daily walk past your home, that is not stalking.
  3. Is the person lurking around your workplace or activities with no other logical reason for being there? Does he/she park next to you in the garage or near you on the street without cause or reason other than to get close to you? Running into him or her every night at the gym or at church meetings does not make him or her a stalker.  Stepping out into the hallway at the same time during a coffee break at work does not make him or her a stalker.  Crossing paths while you and the other party are going about their normal work day, or attending, or driving past each other while enroute to regular functions is not stalking, but repeatedly seeing him or her after mutually attended events trying to get your attention at the mall or lurking in your neighborhood when you get home may be cause for concern.
  4. Is the person observing you excessively, including taking pictures of you as you go about your normal day to day activities, compiling personal (non-public) information pertaining to you, or going as far as to have someone observe you on their behalf, then you might have cause for concern. Some stalkers (especially in cases of ex-spouses) will hire private investigators to follow their ex in order to have a detailed report of what is going on in their lives – this could be interpreted as stalking through a third party.  However, if a person is claiming to be stalked and the rumours begin to damage the alleged party, if the alleged party hires a private investigator to confirm the identity of the slanderer for the possibility of follow up legal action, then that is not stalking, but is instead a pre-cursor activity which could support a follow up legal action.
  5. If you are receiving frequently repeated undesired phone calls or emails from a party, wherein you have clearly and personally asked them to stop contacting you, then you may have cause for concern.
  6. If a person is repeatedly giving you undesired gifts, then once again you may have cause for concern. A one-time gift, such as a flower from a friend which is given with honest intentions does not qualify as stalking, and the gift can be returned graciously if it’s not desired.   If the friend persists in giving multiple undesired gifts after that point, then yes there could be cause for concern.
  7. Everyone likes a hero, but some stalkers will set the stage to become a hero in the eyes of the party they are stalking such as by putting a nail partially into their victims tire and then happening along when the tire is flat leaving the victim stranded on the side of the road.
  8. Stalkers will often try to manipulate their targeted victim into interacting with them. This can include scenarios where the stalker threatens to hurt themselves, forcing their victim to intervene. The stalker may talk about suicide or vow to hurt someone else if the person they are targeting doesn’t return their affections.
  9. Stalkers may use the internet to follow you by sending you undesired messages or photos to you. In the era of Facebook and other social media sites where privacy settings are in place and a person’s minimal version of their online profile is accessible for public viewing, it cannot be interpreted as stalking when a person finds this information online.  If a person’s information is public, then they have made it public so anyone can access it for any reason.
  10. Too much undesired direct or indirect contact from a potential stalker. (Indirect contact is any contact made through a third party such as friends, family, church members, church leaders, and teachers, with exception to those in the legal community who are acting in a court ordained capacity/intervening role, such as acting on behalf of a party as legal counsel.)


What To Do If You Think You Are Being Stalked

If you think you’re being stalked, first you need to do two things:

  1. Keep a diary along with any evidence to support your claim.
  2. Contact the police to explain your concern:
  • Write down all that’s been happening to you, in a hard bound diary format, so that you have dates, times, locations, descriptions of people, car make/registration numbers and contact details of anyone who has witnessed the incident.  Include how you’re feeling, as later on it can show to the courts how this has affected you.
  • Show your diary and any evidence to the police and ask them to open a file on your behalf.  Note the Officer’s name, badge number, and file number you are given.  Record this in your diary.

As an additional safeguard:

  • Carry a cell phone with you, as well as some form of a personal attack alarm.
  • Try to show no emotion to your stalker, do NOT confront them or agree to meet with them, as they are trying to draw you out.
  • Check your home security.
  • Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers by the phone.
  • Inform friends, neighbours, colleagues of what is happening to you only after you are absolutely certain you are being stalked (false claims could result in slander and defamation actions being filed against you by the accused), they can also keep a record of what happens and suspicious incidents for you, as well as supporting and protecting you.



[1] Pathe, M.; Mullen, P. E; Purcell, R. “Stalking: false claims of victimisation”. British Journal of Psychiatry 174: 170-172 (1999).

[2] Sheridan, L. P.; Blaauw, E. (2004). Characteristics of False Stalking Reports”; Criminal Justice and Behavior. 31, No. 1, 55-72. doi:10.1177/0093854803259235

[3] Brown, S. A. (2008). “The Reality of Persecutory Beliefs: Base Rate Information for Clinicians”. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry 10 (3): 163–178. doi:10.1891/1559-4343.10.3.163. Collapsing across two studies that examined 40 British and 18 Australian false reporters (as determined by evidence overwhelmingly against their claims), these individuals fell into the following categories: delusional (64%), factitious/attention seeking (15%), hypersensitivity due to previous stalking (12%), were the stalker themselves (7%), and malingering individuals (2%) (Purcell, Pathe, & Mullen, 2002; Sheridan & Blaauw, 2004).

[4] Paul E. Mullen, Michele Pathé, Rosemary Purcell, and Geoffrey W. Stuart. “A Study of Stalkers”, Am J Psychiatry 156:1244–1249, August 1999.

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