Stalking is generally recognized as a pattern of harassing, threatening or intimidating conduct that makes the person fear for their safety. While the number of people stalked yearly in the United States and Kansas is unknown, it is generally believed over 1 million people are stalked each year. The majority of stalkers are men, but women can also be stalkers. As the Internet and other technology have become more prominent, e-mail, voice mail, text messages and Internet posts are becoming increasingly common ways for stalkers to harass their victims.
Kansas law defines stalking as:
- Recklessly engaging in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person which would cause a reasonable person in the circumstances of the targeted person to fear for such person's safety, or the safety of a member of such person's immediate family and the targeted person is actually placed in such fear;
- Engaging in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person which the individual knows will place the targeted person in fear for such person's safety or the safety of a member of such person's immediate family; or
- After being served with, or otherwise provided notice of, any protective order included in K.S.A. 21-3843, prior to its repeal or K.S.A. 21-5924, and amendments thereto, that prohibits contact with a targeted person, intentionally or recklessly engaging in at least one act listed in subsection (f)(1) that violates the provisions of the order and would cause a reasonable person to fear for such person's safety, or the safety of a member of such person's immediate family and the targeted person is actually placed in such fear.
Things to consider if you believe you are being stalked:
IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 911.
- Protect yourself and family – Your first priority should be to protect yourself and family. If you are afraid for your safety and can safely do so, leave.
- Report the stalking to the police – While officers may not always have probable cause to make an immediate arrest, it does start a formal record of the stalking behavior, if a police report is made.
- Be clear and firm about your relationship status – If the stalker is a former intimate partner or someone who wants a relationship with you, you must be clear and firm about stating the relationship is permanently over or you do not want a relationship. It is believed to be harder for the stalker to get the message you are not interested, if you do not tell them firmly you do not want a relationship or the longer it takes for you to do so.
- Stop all personal communication – Especially for long-term stalking situations, cut all personal communication with the stalker, so they do not get the wrong impression about your intentions. Let the court system, via protection orders or other court judgements, handle communication with the stalker.
- Get a Protection from Stalking Order – Protection from Stalking Orders will not stop all stalking. Protection from Stalking Orders are believed to be the most effective if issued and served soon after the stalking behavior starts. The Newton Police Department takes violations of Protection from Stalking and Protection from Abuse Orders very seriously, and if probable cause exists showing a violation has occurred, we will, if the suspect can be found, make an arrest or, at the minimum, we will send a report to the appropriate prosecutor's office to have charges filed.
- Avoid face-to-face contact – Avoid agreeing to mediation, joint therapy, shared custody or face-to-face child exchanges, if possible. If a custody agreement or other court order requires you to do any of those things, you may want to contact your lawyer or a victim's advocate to see if you can get the court order modified due to the circumstances. Stalkers may be encouraged if they know they will get another chance to see their victim in a face-to-face situation.
- Keep a log of all stalking behaviors – Make sure to note the time, date and location of the incident. Describe what the stalker was doing, including how it made you feel, such as whether you feared for your safety, whether their presence made you uncomfortable, etc. If there were witnesses, make sure you make a note of who was present. Keep a copy of all e-mails, text messages, voice mails or other forms of communications for possible future court use.
- Develop a safety plan – Develop a plan of what you will do if you need to quickly leave. Make sure you include places you may go, neighbors, friends, family, work, etc. and let them know about your plans.
- Prepare an emergency bag – Prepare a bag in a place you can easily access, such as in your vehicle's trunk, at a friend or family member's house, etc. Things to consider including in your bag are: money, medications, toys or other items for children, a few changes of clothing, a list of phone numbers for friends, family, neighbors, law enforcement, domestic violence/sexual assault programs, attorneys, doctor's offices, daycare, etc. Make sure to include identification paperwork, such as passports, immigration documents, birth certificates, social security cards, medical cards, etc.
- Improve Home Security – Check how your doors, windows, locks, lighting and landscaping affect your ability to see and be seen. You can check your own residence for possible safety problems by downloading and completing a Home Safety Inspection.