Are You a Victim of Stalking?
In general terms, stalking is when a person becomes fearful of their safety because someone is repeatedly pursuing, harassing, and/or following them, which is unwanted and serving no legitimate purpose.
This definition is much broader than the criminal definition of stalking listed below:
Legal Definition of Stalking (Virginia Code 18.2 - 60.3)
- Any person who on more than one occasion engages in conduct directed at another person with the intent to place, or when he knows or reasonably should know that the conduct places that other person in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury to that other person or to that other person’s family or household member is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- A third or subsequent conviction occurring within 5 years of a conviction for an offense under this section or for a similar offense under the law of any other jurisdiction shall be a Class 6 felony.
Class 1 misdemeanor: Not more than 12 months in jail and/or not more than $2,500 fine.
Class 6 felony: Not more than 5 years in the State penitentiary or up to 12 months in jail and not more than $2,500 fine.
Categories of Stalkers (taken from J. Reid Meloy)
- Simple-Obsessional - The most common category of stalking cases and also the most lethal type of stalker. These stalkers have a relationship with their victim, and intended victim(s) may include a spouse, child, or other family members, a co-worker, physician, or their boss, etc. Domestic violence-related stalking falls under this category.
- Love-Obsessional - This type of stalker is less common and usually involves stranger and celebrity stalkings (e.g. Rebecca Schaefer, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow) This type of stalker is often diagnosed with a mental disorder.
- Erotomanic - This is when the stalker truly believes the victim loves him/her, even though no actual relationship exists between stalker and victim. These stalkers are often diagnosed with delusional disorder. David Letterman's stalker fit this profile, because she believed they were married and tried to move into his house.
Common Stalker Characteristics
- Obsessive and compulsive
- Falls “instantly” in love
- Needs to have control over others
- Views problems as someone else’s fault
- Difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality
- May be of above average intelligence
- Does no take responsibility for own actions or feelings
- Socially awkward or uncomfortable
- Unable to take “no” for an answer
- Sense of entitlement
- Cannot cope with rejection
- Views self as a victim of society, family, and others
- Dependent on others for sense of “self”
- Often switches between rage and “love”
If You Are Being Stalked
Collect evidence. But only when it’s safe and in accordance to state law. In Virginia, evidence could include taped phone conversations, photographs of your stalker in action, mail or other pieces of evidence left on your car, at your house, etc. Put evidence in a plastic bag and give it to your police investigator or keep it in a safe place.
Document everything. Use an Incident Log to record information such as witnesses’ names, exact dates, times, & locations, and what the stalker was doing, saying, wearing, etc. If a police report was filed, list the case number on the log as well.
Notify both law enforcement and your local domestic violence program. If you live in Alexandria, call the Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit at 703.706.3974 and the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program at 703. 746.4911. In cases of stranger stalking, please contact the police and the Alexandria Victim-Witness Assistance Program at 703.746.4100. If you live outside the City of Alexandria, please refer to our resources page for help in your area.
Tell everyone - give friends, co-workers and neighbors a description of the stalker. Ask them to watch for the stalker, document everything listed above, and give a written account to you.
Notify the stalker to stop. This should be done in writing by you. Make a copy of this letter and keep it in a safe place for evidence. A sample "no contact" letter could look like this:
"I am not interested in having any type of a relationship with you. Do not continue to call me, send letters or have any other type of contact with me. Your behavior puts me in fear of my safety. If you continue, I will call the police and file stalking charges.
Press charges and obtain a protective order. Request warrants each time the stalker breaks the law. The stalker will likely be arrested, bonded, and released. Ask that a term of the bond be no contact with you. Ask for a protective order so the stalker cannot have any type of contact with you.
Keep all legal documents. Obtain and keep copies of warrants, protective orders, court orders, etc., in a safe place.
Check your credit for fraud or identity theft.
Develop a support system. Keep in touch with friends and family who are supportive and understanding. If you do not have an adequate support system, join a stalking support group, or talk to your local domestic violence program and/or victim witness assistance program.
Seek counseling, if needed. Being stalked can be very traumatic. You may begin to feel terror, rage, depression, and mistrust, among other symptoms. Watch out for symptoms such as changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns, exhaustion, and/or frequent crying spells, etc. Some stalking victims develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A counselor may be able to help alleviate or reduce these symptoms.
Know that you have done nothing to provoke the stalking. Stalking is never the victim’s fault and it is never okay. Stalker's are generally irrational with their thoughts and there may have been nothing you could have done to prevent the stalking behavior.
Stalking Protective Orders
What is a Stalking Protective Order?
A Stalking Protective Order is a civil order that can:
- order the respondent to refrain from further acts of stalking against you
- prohibit contact between the stalker and you, including in person, phone and /or mail contact with you
- prohibit contact between the stalker and members of your family
- order the stalker to stay away from your residence and/or place of employment
Who can get a Stalking Protective Order?
- Anyone who receives a Stalking Warrant may request an Emergency Stalking Protective Order from the magistrate. The stalking victim (complainant) may then petition the General District Court for a Preliminary and/or Stalking Protective Order.
- If you are related or married to, living together in the last 12 months or have children in common with the stalker, you may also be able to apply for the family abuse protective order, in which case a warrant would not be a pre-requisite for the protective order.
Please contact 703.746.4911 for more information about protective orders.
Kinds of Stalking Protective Orders (Three types)
- Emergency Stalking Protective Orders (ESPO)
- requested by petitioner at time of issuance of stalking warrant
- valid for 72 hours or until 5 p.m. the next day that court is in session
- Preliminary Stalking Protective Orders (PSPO)
- petition General District Court before expiration of ESPO
- valid 15 days and must be personally served on respondent to be enforceable
- Stalking Protective Order (SPO)
- entered by the judge at the final hearing
- valid up to two years from date of issuance and must be personally served on respondent to be enforceable
- valid in all fifty states and US territories, so wherever you go, you must carry it with you.
How to get a Stalking Protective Order
Stalking Protective Orders are free. There is no charge for petitioning for a protective order, filing copies of a protective order, or having the order served on the abuser.
If you are an Alexandria resident or city employee:
- If you are being stalked by a family member or (former) dating partner, please call the Domestic Violence Program at 703.746.4911.
- If you are being stalked by a stranger, please call the Victim-Witness Assistance Program at 703.746.4100.
If you reside outside the City of Alexandria:
- Please call your local domestic violence or victim-witness assistance program, or the National Center for Victims of Crime's Stalking Resource Center at 1-800-FYI-CALL (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. EST).
Disclaimer: The Alexandria Office On Women presents the information on this website as a public service. While the information on this site is pertaining to legal issues, it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney.
Support Services for Victims of Stalking
The Alexandria Domestic Violence Program offers many support services for victims of stalking. Please contact 703.746.4911 if you are interested in any of the services listed below:
24-hour hotline: 703.746.4911. Qualified staff and volunteers are available to assist those in crisis. If you are not an Alexandria resident, please contact your local domestic violence program or, the National Center for Victims of Crime at 1-800-FYI-CALL (Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m - 8:30 p.m. EST).
Stalking Survivor's Support Group: Runs twice a year for eight weeks. Topics discussed include power and control, anger, mistrust and recovery. Free to city residents and city government employees, minimal fee for out of city residents.
Individual Counseling: Short-term counseling is available to stalking victims.
Court Advocacy: An advocate from the Domestic Violence Program or Victim-Assistance Program will accompany you to court during all criminal proceedings and protective order hearings.
A Speakers’ Bureau is also available to provide presentations on issues pertaining to stalking as well as other issues relating to domestic violence.
Stalking & Identity Theft
What is Identity Theft? Identity theft is when someone steals your identity and then impersonates you to open bogus credit card accounts, rent apartments, and engage in criminal acts, among other things. Since the new accounts are given a “new” billing address, victims are often never aware that their identity has been stolen. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates that there are between 500,000 to 700,000 identity theft victims each year in the United States and thanks to technology, the numbers are rapidly rising.
Identity theft is a common practice among stalkers, especially domestic-related stalkers, because they have easier access to your personal information, such as bank accounts, social security number, mother’s maiden name, and credit card account numbers.
If you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, you may find the following information helpful (Compiled from all three credit bureaus):
- Obtain a copy of your credit report. There are three major credit bureaus, Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. Look over your credit reports for any fraud activity. You may be able to qualify for a free credit report.
- Inform the creditors. Taking quick action can help overcome some of the difficulties caused by identity theft. Contact the creditor (i.e. bank or credit card company) that issued the fraudulent account and inform them that the account is fraudulent. If your checks were stolen, notify your bank immediately and close your account.
- Protect Yourself. Make sure a security alert or victim statement is on file with all three national credit bureaus. All of the credit bureaus should have a fraud division: Experian 1.888.397.3742; Transunion 1.800.680.7289; Equifax 1.800.525.6285.
- File a report with the police. Make sure you get the police case number for each report filed. Alexandria city will not issue police reports to civilians. If you suspect that your mail has been stolen, notify the Postal Inspector. Theft of mail is a felony offense.
- Document all contacts. Make notes of everyone you spoke with; ask for names, department names, phone numbers, and write down the date and time that you spoke with them.
- Understand the process. Each creditor may have a different process for handling a fraud claim. Make sure you understand what is expected from you, then ask what you can expect from the creditor. At the conclusion of an investigation, ask for a document stating that you are not responsible for the incurred debt.
- Follow-up. Make sure everything a creditor/credit bureau has requested is received. It is always a good idea to call or send a letter for confirmation.
- Review Reports Regularly. Obtain another credit report several months after you believe everything has been cleared up. If a discrepancy in your account is discovered, you know how to handle it. If your credit report is back to normal, you can feel confident that the matter has been resolved as you expected. Check your credit report again every six months, for the next year.