Criminal Stalking is, unfortunately, a common problem. A newly divorced parent may find him or herself being stalked by a jealous ex-spouse. In some cases, a family feud may cause a relative to engage in online and/or physical stalking. In yet other cases, teenagers are stalked because they unwittingly befriended a stalker online, angered a peer by breaking up with him or her and/or made someone at school jealous. There are many levels of stalking and not all forms of stalking can be considered criminal stalking. This distinction is important to make, as it will enable a parent to know when to call in law enforcement and when to deal with a stalker on his or her own. As laws vary from state to state, the Stalking Resource Center has posted links to relevant laws in all 50 states for one’s preference. Below are some more tips for your consideration.
Criminal Stalking: Who to Turn to When Faced with Online Stalking?
Many cases of online stalking are not criminal in nature. However, this does not mean that there is no one that a parent or teenager can turn to for help. If the stalking is done via social media sites, the person can be reported to the site in question. Social media sites take these reports seriously and will ban a person from using the site if they engage in any form of stalking.
Email service providers and mobile phone services make it easy for individuals to block unwanted contact. Teach your teenager how to block numbers and email addresses. Even so, you should also explain to your young person the importance of ignoring contact rather than continually seeking to block new emails and phone numbers. Ignoring a stalker has been shown to be more effective than continually attempting to outwit him or her. Stalkers see the latter tactic as a game and will continue to look for ways to get in touch.
Criminal Stalking: When Does Online Stalking Become Criminal?
Online stalking becomes criminal if the stalker makes threats of physical violence and/or threatens (or actually does) to post nude or semi-nude images of the teenager online. Stalkers who reveal their names over the Internet or phone can also be charged with a criminal offence, as can stalkers who attempt to entice an underage individual to engage in sexual activity or illegal activities such as taking part in a crime, smoking, drinking or taking drugs.
Online stalkers who cross the line and harass their victims in “real life” can also be charged with criminal behaviour. If the stalker comes on the property uninvited, he or she can be charged with trespassing. Stalkers who use or threaten to use physical violence can likewise be charged. Parents who have gotten a court order against a stalker can press charges if the stalker breaks the court order.
Criminal Stalking: Handling a Criminal Case
If you suspect your teenager is being stalked, talk to him or her about the issue. If your child is clearly not comfortable talking to you, seek help from a counsellor.
Your teen should then give you all the evidence, including text messages, email messages, recorded phone calls, notes, etc. Look through this evidence carefully to assess if you need to call law enforcement. Keep all the evidence, as you may need it later on.
If the police catch the perpetrator, be sure to press charges. This is a must. If you let your stalker go, he or she will go on harassing you. What is more, the stalker is likely to become bolder and more threatening than he or she was before.
Criminal stalking is not a pleasant matter to deal with. However, it is not something that can be ignored in the hopes that it will go away. Parents should teach their teenagers how to avoid stalkers by taking common sense measures to protect their private information online and never engage in prolonged chats with those that they do not know in real life. Young people should also learn how to recognize the signs of stalking and report any form of this behaviour to parents immediately. Parents who are faced with such a situation should research local laws, and talk to police and/or school officials to get legal help if need be. Taking appropriate action will keep your home and loved ones safe both now and in the future.