What is stalking?

If someone’s behaviour makes you feel scared, unsafe and uncomfortable, even if it is someone you know, like a boyfriend, ex-partner or family member, it is not OK, and you have every right to seek help and support to stay safe and be free of harassment.

Stalking is a crime that affects 1 in 10 Australian adults, with women making up 75% of stalking victims. Anyone can be a victim of stalking, regardless of age, occupation, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The majority of those reporting stalking are pursued by someone they know – very often an ex-partner.

Stalkers, especially those whom you know, often want to exert their power over you – to ‘punish’ you for leaving a relationship or rejecting them, or simply to control your life.

If someone’s behaviour makes you feel scared, unsafe and uncomfortable, even if it is someone you know like a boyfriend, ex-partner or family member, it is not OK, and you have every right to seek help and support to stay safe and be free of harassment.

While stalking can often be a distressing and disruptive experience that leaves you feeling anxious, you can take steps to increase your sense of safety. There are services available that can offer you emotional support as well as practical advice and assistance. It is important to seek out the support you need as soon as possible.

Myth: It’s my fault.

In reality:

Women often feel guilty and blame themselves for the stalking. You are not to blame for the behaviour of the stalker, whatever your relationship is or was to them. Remember that the stalker is solely responsible for their behaviour, not you. You have every right to live free from fear.

What is stalking?

Stalking is when a person repeatedly contacts, harasses or spies on you, and it causes you fear or distress. Stalkers may also threaten and harass your family members, pets, friends or workmates. If they are unable to harass you (e.g. due to a court order), stalkers may enlist their friends or family to do so on their behalf.

You can be stalked physically as well as through technology (cyber stalking), such as:

  • your mobile phone, computer or iPad,
  • the internet on Facebook and other social networking sites
  • closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices

Stalking is a crime

Stalking is a crime in all Australian states and territories. Legal responses to stalking have improved in recent years – it is no longer necessary to show that you have sustained actual harm as a result of the stalking in order to get legal or police assistance. In Victoria, the law now states that a stalker is someone who acts with the intention and/or awareness of:

  • Causing you distress, physical or mental harm
  • Making you apprehensive or fearful for your safety and the safety of friends and family

Remember that you need evidence to make use of these laws. So if you are being stalked, you need to collect evidence of stalking to show the police when seeking assistance, and also for use in court, for example, when you are seeking an intervention order.

See our post on ‘What to do if you’re being stalked’ for more information on how to collect evidence.

Where can I go for help?

If reading this article has raised issues for you, you can contact WIRE at any time between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

Contact us here

Physical stalking includes:

  • approaching or following you, loitering outside your home, workplace or public venues
  • interfering with or damaging your property
  • making direct or indirect threats to harm you or your family or friends
  • leaving or sending letters, notes, faxes, ‘gifts’ or other unwanted material
  • ordering or cancelling goods and services on your behalf
  • starting false legal actions against you to maintain contact with you
  • physically assaulting you or your family or friends (or attempting to)

Cyber-stalking includes:

  • sending repeated emails, text messages, and voicemail messages
  • using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) devices or tracking apps, such as phone-finder apps or Find My Friends apps, to track your physical location and follow you without your permission
  • keeping you under surveillance using devices such as closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras
  • harassing, humiliating or threatening you through social media sites such as Facebook or Myspace, or through other online networking sites including blogs, chat rooms, games or dating sites
  • hacking into your email or internet accounts to impersonate you and send or post malicious or offensive content to your friends and family
  • emailing or posting abusive, sexually explicit or humiliating comments, photos or videos about you on the internet
  • emailing or posting private information or false accusations about you on the internet
  • intercepting your emails, changing your passwords and permission settings without your knowledge or your permission
  • tracking your internet use and email or installing spyware on your computer

If you are stalked for more than two weeks, chances are, your stalker will persist for 6 to 12 months. Long-term stalkers typically become violent, so it is very important for you to be proactive and seek police advice and assistance.

Want more information? You can download this 2012 WIRE Information Booklet (PDF) but please note that some resources in it will be out of date.

Order our information booklet

Are you a professional looking to provide this information to your service users? This WIRE information booklet Stalking helps you explore what stalking is, who stalks and why and what to do if you are being stalked and more.

Order now

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