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.
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.