Stalking is any repeated behaviour by a person that makes you:
- worried about your safety
- causes you physical harm or
- causes you emotional harm.
People are usually stalked by someone they already know such as:
- casual acquaintances
- work colleagues or clients
- estranged friends or family members.
In some cases, victims may be stalked by strangers.
Stalkers usually focus on the main victim, but other people such as your family members, friends or workmates may also be threatened or harassed.
Examples of stalking
The stalker may try to communicate with you by:
- telephone or online
- letters, notes or graffiti
- unwanted gifts or other items.
Other common stalking behaviours include:
- approaching you
- following you
- loitering outside your home or workplace
- watching you
- damaging your property
- ordering goods or services for you
- spreading gossip about you
- contacting your family or friends
- making threats to harm your loved ones
- using abusive or offensive words or acts
- starting false legal actions against you.
Sometimes, stalkers get other people involved to increase the level of stalking.
Technology like the Internet or mobile phones can be used as a way to harass, intimidate or control you.
This may include:
- harassing you or making threats on social media sites
- posting embarrassing, fake or intimate videos, photos or comments about you
- gathering information
- impersonating you
- interfering with your computer
- tracking what you do online.
Stalking is a crime in Victoria. When someone repeatedly behaves like this, it may qualify as stalking.
Common reactions to being stalked
Being stalked can make you feel stressed and anxious. Most people report at least some changes to their emotional health, physical health and lifestyle.
- increased fear and anxiety
- feeling helpless
- feeling suspicious of others
- withdrawing from others.
- trouble sleeping
- loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
- a worsening of pre-existing physical conditions.
- restricting social outings
- reducing attendance at work or school.
What to do if you're being stalked
Getting help is important
The stalking can also affect your loved ones, who may need support as well.
Call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817.
Contacting the helpline is the first step to get free services to help you manage the effects of stalking.
Contact the police
You should do this as early as possible. Call your local police station and make an appointment to see a police officer. Make sure you bring along any evidence of the stalking that you have.
If you know who is stalking you, the police can issue them with a warning. In many cases, this is enough to make the harassment stop.
Free and confidential home security checks can be arranged through most police stations. In an emergency, always call ‘000’.
Document the stalking
Stalkers might leave evidence like voicemail / SMS messages, emails, letters, cards or unwanted gifts.
These items are important for the police investigation and if your case goes to court. You should keep and date all items or messages from the stalker.
You should take photos of any property damage, such as broken windows or graffiti. Items like flowers or food should be photographed where you found them.
It’s a good idea to keep a log book for keeping track of any contact with the stalker.
You should write down:
- what the stalker did
- where it happened
- the date
- the time
- the names of any witnesses.
Tell the people you trust
Let the people you trust know that you are being stalked.
People who don’t know that you’re being stalked might accidentally give information to the stalker, or even become targets themselves.
The people you trust are important in supporting you and helping to document the stalker’s behaviour. Add their observations to your logbook. These people may be witnesses if your case goes to court.
Avoid contact with the stalker
Many stalkers think that any relationship is better than no relationship at all. You should avoid any contact with the stalker.
Contacting the stalker will only reward them.
Protect your private information
Be careful about who has your personal contact details. Shred your old mail instead of just throwing it out. You should do this for anything that has private information on it, like bank statements or phone bills.
Personal safety intervention orders
You can apply for a personal safety intervention order if you feel you are being stalked.
A personal safety intervention order is a court order made by a magistrate. It directs the stalker to stay away from you and not to attempt to contact you in any way.
If the stalker does not follow these rules, they can be charged with a criminal offence.
Personal safety intervention orders are less likely to be effective against some stalkers, such as people:
- with a history of violence
- with a strong sense of entitlement or ‘control’ over you, particularly ex-partner
- who have stalked you for a long period of time.
See more information about getting a personal safety intervention order.
An intervention order is not the only option for protection against stalking. It’s important to think about how you can protect yourself, especially if the stalker is an ex-partner.
Making a safety plan can help you do this.