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The stalker believes he is
a law unto himself.
On this page:
We are often contacted by people who are having problems with stalking by ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends and would-be lovers who were turned down. Below is a list of nuts and bolts things that you can do to assist in putting an end to harassment and stalking. It's what we like to refer to as "Stalking Stopping 101." The information below is an expanded version of a response to an email we received from a mother of three who was being stalked by her violent ex-husband.
Stalking Stopping 101
Stalkers are like bullies in that they specialize in picking on people who won't call for help -- for whatever reason. They also specialize in picking on people who just want the problem to go away. And they especially like picking on people who -- no matter how competent they are normally -- are at a loss what to do when the social rules are violated. In other words people who will not mount an effective counter-offensive.
They are however, like cockroaches, in that they cannot withstand their actions being seen in the light. Calling in help, flicks the light on -- and EVERYBODY is watching him. The smart ones end up scurrying to for cover, the dumb ones end up squished.
Go to the police, go to a lawyer, go to child and family services at the court. Go to family, friends, co-workers, your boss and neighbors and let them know what is going on. These people will watch your back for you and are an important step in creating both an early warning system for you and witnesses. But the first place you need to take a trip to is the local women's crisis center. The hotline number is in the phone book. There for the asking is all kinds of free information on how to deal with this problem. They can help you by giving you detailed steps of the general information I'm giving you. This is important because different states, districts and municipalities handle this stuff differently, the local domestic violence/women's crisis center know the specifics for where you are. What's more is that they can often direct you to the exact people you need to talk to within the system or to attorneys who specialize in this kind of problem. The more you know, the more information you get about all the options you have, the less scared you're going to feel. You are not alone in this, there are a lot of institutions, agencies, organizations and groups right around where you are that can help. They will exert pressure on him.
Now, having said this, this pressure is going to take some time to come to bear. The response won't be immediate, HOWEVER, you use that time to your advantage. We'll go into this in a bit.
Another point is: If you want this situation to go away, it's going to take time, work and money on your part. If you are not willing to invest these three things to protect your children (because by protecting yourself, you are protecting your children), then nothing is going to help. NOBODY is going to be more interested in protecting you than yourself, and if you think that you can hand it off to someone else, it ain't gonna work.
Rule #2, Do you have joint custody of the kids? Does he have visitation rights? If yes, work around it. If you have sole custody it will be easier to get a restraining order. If you have joint custody, there's a trick that stalkers/abusers really, really hate (because it turns the light on). That is have him pick the kids up at the local police station for his visits. You drop them off and leave. He picks them up and tells the cops when he's going to drop them back off, you pick them up after he's left. This does three things. First, it allows you to get a restraining order on him and not violate his visitation rights. Second, it keeps you from having to deal with him face to face. Third, it gets everyone involved known by the cops. Good for you and the kids, bad for him.
In the same vein, child support is often used as a weapon. Instead of having him dropping it off or mailing it to you directly, have him pay it through the courts. This makes him accountable to the courts, not you. Now that system isn't perfect, but it's definitely a big step toward a) removing any excuse he has to deal with you, b) in helping you build a case about his bad behavior and c) getting the system looking in his direction.
Rule #3 Go back to your divorce lawyer. If you didn't use one, get one. Have the attorney make the necessary changes (like paying child support through the courts), see what else he suggests. He knows the laws where you live, he knows the system....use him. Furthermore, have the attorney inform your ex that any further discussion goes through him. His attorney can contact your attorney and they can do lunch. A letter of notification from your attorney that your ex has to go through the lawyer is an important step in creating a paper trail against your ex saying he is to keep away from you.
The other thing is that, I assume money is an issue. Tell the lawyer what is going on. Ask him if you can pay him in installments. "Hi, I'm being stalked, can I pay you $50 a month?" Also the Women's Crisis Center will probably be able to point you towards lawyers who not only will be willing to work on a payment plan, but who know all kinds of neat little tricks to make what your ex is doing like pogo sticking through a minefield.
Get a restraining order
The thing you have to realize is that a restraining order is NOT going to solve your problem. It is not a cross that will chase the evil vampire away. Nor is it a holy tailsman that once you have it you are magically protected. Restraining orders are violated ALL the time.
Although there is a chance that he will knock this behavior off when informed that he has an order against him, don't bank on it. The value of a restraining order is not in the physical protection they give you, but what they give those trying to help you. They give the police what they need to arrest him. They give the DA what he needs to prosecute him. They give the courts what they need to convict him.
However, a restraining order is not a toy. Nor is it something that you can stop doing just because you "changed your mind." In dysfunctional relationships, restraining orders are frequently violated by the women themselves. It sounds stupid, but you would be amazed at how often dysfunctional women will turn around and either ask for favors from the man (like mowing the lawn) or, when they are having a lonely and bad night, call him up and invite him over to have sex. Do NOT do this. The purpose of a restraining order is to help you cut off any and all direct contact with him.
Unfortunately, cops see this kind of behavior all the time as dysfunctional people in abusive relationships are constantly doing stupid and weird things. Remember, by calling in help, your behavior will also be reviewed too. You have to demonstrate to them that you are consistent with your desire to get him out of your life permanently. Until the police know for sure that you are not using them to play silly little reindeer games, they will be suspicious of you. Once they see you are behaving, they will begin to trust you.
The cops NEED evidence
Now, remember I said that the organizations that can help you won't be very fast? Well instead of sitting around worrying while waiting to be rescued, you actively collect proof of his misconduct. Buy or borrow a video camera WITH a time and date option. Keep it with you and FILM! Anytime he drives by your house, loiters around, follows you in your car, film him. If he comes and pounds on your door at night, push the record button on the camera and get the incident on tape. You don't need visual, (you don't have to open the door or film out the window), the audio is enough to prove he was there. If your co-workers see him loitering around work, pull the camera out of your purse and film (these recorders are getting smaller all the time). Get caller ID and record the evidence of the time he calls...even if the number is blocked. If you can't get caller ID, keep a log of harassing, hang up phone calls. Better yet, go down to Radio Shack and get a phone recorder. It's what journalists use to record interviews. It plugs into the phone and you just push the button (Most states allow you to record any conversation that you are involved in without the other person's knowledge or consent -- Do NOT tell him you are recording) Now you have him on tape threatening you.
This evidence gathering is CRITICAL for enforcing a restraining order. Instead of going in there and saying "he's violating the restraining order" you walk in and show the cops tapes. And guess who goes bye-bye? This blows any alibi he might come up with out of the water -- even if he has someone lie for him (We have actually encountered cases where the stalkers' wives covered for the stalker). This is also where friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and bosses knowing about the problem come is important. Even if you don't see him, with that many people watching for him, someone will. With a restraining order violation, they usually don't have to testify in court, just confirm to the police that they saw him.
Now most states and municipalities have stalking laws, if you have concrete evidence tapes/ logs/ eye-witnesses/ a combination of these, the cops can and will bust him...especially if he is violating a restraining order on top of that. The stronger the evidence you gather, the stronger the case. Although even with weak evidence they will have a talk with him to see if they can get him to slip up and admit to his actions.
Rule #6 upgrade your home security. There are all kinds of low cost tips and advice on making your home and property more secure in the property crime section. Such measures will not only assist you in your problem with a stalker, but go miles for preventing burglary and other property crimes (like vandalism).
While most of the information you will get on the home security page is cheaply acquired, there is a set up that is available right now that just tickles me pink. Depending on where you get it, it can run between 150 to 300 dollars if you do it yourself, more if you have it installed.. But the peace of mind...and the evidence ... you get is priceless. Security cameras are cheap these days. And multiple camera systems aren't that much more. They feed into your computers and record. But what is even better is when security cameras are on a motion sensor. No motion, no filming. He steps on the property to do vandalism when you aren't home...guess who's filmed, dated and timed? That's what the cops need to bust him. The problem with most stalker vandalism is you KNOW who did it, but until the cops have proof they can't do anything. This camera/motion sensor system gives them the evidence they need. (It has the added benefit of keeping the kids honest too. "I didn't do it" "Do you want to check the film?").
Also, if he is driving by your home several times a day, point the camera on the street for the day. RECORD it. (This is where the motion detector really comes in handy). Even setting up an old VCR camera pointing out the window and then letting it record on slow will work. You can pick these up for dirt cheap. When you watch it, set the counter to zero and have a pen and paper handy. That way when you take it to the police you tell them where on the video counter each incident is (this save them from having to watch the entire thing). Constantly driving by your home IS a prosecutable offense (as it is proof of stalking), especially if you have a restraining order.
The truth is home security won't stop him, but it will warn you that he's coming. Which is more than important. If he decides to make a run at you, your security buys your critical time to prepare.
Rule #7 I highly recommend you build a safe room. Do this regardless of whether or not you're willing to defend yourself using a weapon. This gives you a place to retreat. The warning that you will get from the upgraded home security will give you time to get you and the kids into the safe room. Do NOT skimp on the cost of building a safe room as it is your best and last bastion against an all-out assault.
Rule #8 Consider getting a weapon. We tend to assume a certain degree of reason in our dealings with people. This is especially true when it comes to using violence (as in the attitude of "we can solve this problem without violence"). Recognize that despite all the fear mongering, there is a general resistance to using violence in humans. For our numbers, we are an amazingly peaceful race who spend more time getting along than we do engaging in violence. This resistance towards violence is based in many different levels, starting with our consciousness and going onto relationships, culture and politics. Inherent in our core assumptions about life is that we can resolve situations without using violence.
Having said that, the simple truth is that stalkers think they are a law unto themselves. They are selfish, psychologically imbalanced and driven by anger. People in this state often resort to violence. The bottom line is he isn't getting what he wants by being reasonable, so why should he be reasonable? This is why, no matter how hard you try to keep it from going there, stalking and domestic violence cases can escalate into extreme violence. In essence, you can try all you want to keep it from going there, but if he's determined to take it there, it will go violent.
What we are saying is that you have no control over whether he decides to attack you or not. What you do have control over is if he can successfully attack you. That is a reality that you must face.
With this in mind we suggest that you take a look at the following links. The difference between self-defense and fighting. On the decision to use force. On home defense. The legal ramifications of use of deadly force. These are issues that you will face if you decide to defend yourself. And yes, it might come down to this, so you need to have thought about it.
Furthermore, we do not advise anyone to ever pick up a weapon (of ANY sort) without training in the legal and psychological repercussions of it's use. This is not the same thing as telling people to get training on how to use a weapon, it is getting training in when and why you are legally justified in using a weapon. The fact is the mechanical details of using a weapon is easy, it's making sure that you use it in self-defense that is difficult. And contrary to popular misperception the legal standards of when you can use a weapon are when it is self-defense.
Rule #9 Take the initiative ... Notice the typeface was a little different on this rule than all the others? That's how important it is. Gathering evidence also gives you a really big psychological advantage. Being stalked is scary. It feels like you are out of control. It feels like a cat and mouse game and you're the mouse. What's more is most stalkers are doing what they are doing as a head game. They're getting rent free space in your head while you are worrying about when they are going to move again. And yes, it often is a build up for violence.
The point here is that the tables are now turned. When you are gathering evidence, every time he does a little head game, he is giving you what you need to convict him before he can turn violent. Now while that may sound extreme, that is the end game your strategy is working for. Stalking is an escalating interview, by gathering enough evidence of stalking before he can attack, you put an end to it. However, often what happens when you get the data and turn it over to the authorities, stalking evaporates, because now the cavalry has arrived. He ain't dealing with just you anymore, he's dealing with a whole lot of people who won't put up with his shit.
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