What is stalking?
Stalking is repeated threats or unwanted attention from one person that induces fear. Stalking can be difficult to identify initially. Annoying at first, then escalating and becoming more overt, stalking can make victims fear for their safety. Covering a range of behaviors, the key elements of stalking are repetition and inducing fear. Some examples include:
- Repeatedly contacting someone by phone, email, or other social media or communication technology, even after being told to stop.
- Repeatedly using social networking sites and other forums to harass, threaten, or release sensitive information about a person.
- Using technology to locate, track, and/or follow another person without their knowledge and/or consent.
- Following another person without that person’s permission.
- Appearing at the work place or residence of another person with no legitimate reason to be there.
- Vandalizing a person’s property.
Not all situations involving stalking behaviors qualify as criminal stalking. You can still get help even if what you are experiencing is not criminal stalking. Contact the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, 540-231-7806, or the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, 540-639-1123, to talk about your options.
The use of technology in stalking
Stalkers often use everyday social media and location software to pursue victims. Facebook and Twitter, or more sophisticated keystroke-logging programs that stalkers install on victims’ phones and computers without their knowledge allow stalkers to pursue others with even more precision.
Browsing the web safely and privately is a concern for many people. A good general rule is that nothing online is private. Another general rule is that you can’t be completely anonymous online. However, you can take steps to prevent sensitive and personal information from making its rounds on the internet.
- The Stalking Resource Center outlines specific ways that stalkers use technology, and also offers tips for victims who believe their stalker is using technology to stalk them.
- The National Network To End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) has specific online safety measures available online.
What to do if You are Experiencing Stalking
If you or someone you know has experienced stalking, please know that assistance is available. Virginia Tech encourages all community members to seek help and report incidents of stalking.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, call the police.
- Consider taking out a stalking charge and requesting a Stalking Protective Order. Talk with an advocate from the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, 540-231-7806, or from the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, 540-639-1123, about your criminal and civil options.
- Cut off all communication with the stalker. Screen your calls. If the stalker knows your phone number, consider getting it changed, blocking the person’s phone number or using a prepaid cell phone with no contracts or billing.
- Document the stalker’s behavior, including date, time, location, what the stalker was doing, and if there were any witnesses. Save all emails, texts, and other messages.
- Vary routines, including changing routes to work, school, and other places you regularly frequent.
- Use Safe Ride, 540-231-7233, when you are on campus to escort you to your car, building, or residence hall.
- Make sure your personal information is marked confidential with the University. Log on to HokieSpa to make sure or to change your confidentiality levels. Remember, by default, the university lists personal contact information unless you change your privacy settings.
- Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites, or consider deleting your profiles altogether.
- Do not attempt to deal with the situation alone. Tell friends, neighbors, roommates, professors, coworkers, RAs, and other people you trust about the situation.
- Treat all threats, direct and indirect, as legitimate and inform law enforcement immediately.
- If in imminent danger, locate a safe place such as a police station, shelter, or populated public area.
- Consider talking with a counselor who is trained to assist you with the emotional impact of stalking. You can contact the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, 540-231-7806, the Virginia Tech Cook Counseling Center, 540-231-6557, or the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, 540-639-1123.
- To assist you in accessing resources and understanding reporting options, contact an advocate from the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, 540-231-7806, or from the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, 540-639-1123.
- Abusers will often isolate their victims. Share what’s happening with a trusted friend or reach out to friends and family you may have not connected with in a while. It is important to have a good support system.
- Virginia Tech encourages you to contact the police if you have experienced any act of stalking. If the act of stalking occurred on campus, contact the Virginia Tech Police Department, 540-231-6411. If the act of stalking occurred off campus, contact the police department in the locality where the act occurred.
- If you are or have been a victim of stalking by a student, consider making a report to the Deputy Title IX Coordinator, 540-231-8064. Stalking violates the Student Code of Conduct. Visit our Title IX at Virginia Tech page to learn more about the Title IX investigation process and your rights and responsibilities in that process.
- If you are, or have been, a victim of stalking by a professor, staff person, or other employee of the university, consider making a report to the Equity and Access office in Human Resources, 540-231-2010.