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Stalking: are you being stalked?

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Most often when we talk about stalking, we reference something that happens to celebrities. Obsessed fans stalking a celebrity get the most attention, but the National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 77 percent of women and 64 percent of men actually know their stalker.

The most common type of stalking is a prior personal or romantic relationship that existed between the stalker and the victim. Virtually all domestic violence or dating violence cases have stalking involved. This type of stalking is often referred to as "Fatal Attraction." So what is stalking?

Stalking is a pattern of behavior that makes the victim feel afraid, nervous, harassed or in danger. Stalking is one of the types of assault that most of us think is not a big deal, but stalking causes fear to the victim. Anyone, male or female, young or old can be a stalker. The majority of stalkers are men with female victims, although the reverse can also occur.

What constitutes stalking?

1. Stalking for the purpose of causing fear includes constant watching; following; obscene phone calls; aggressive approaches to the victim including assaults, kidnapping and rape; stealing or reading victim's mail and threats to victim's family or friends.

2. Harassment involves interfering with victim's relationships and constant unwanted visits to victim's home or workplace.

3. Cyber-stalking includes sending unwanted or threatening email or posting personal data about the victim on the internet.

What can you do if you are stalked?
- Don't speak to the stalker.
- Report the incident to law enforcement.
- Create a log of incidents including date and time, describe incident, location, witness names and contact info, and the officer name and badge number of the police called.
- Maintain an unlisted number, alert trusted neighbors and friends and provide a picture of the suspect.
- Inform on-site security and make them aware that you are being stalked. Provide them with a picture.
- Get a post office box for mail delivery.
- An Emergency Protective Order is another option: Texas has an anti-stalking law which has been effective since Jan. 28, 1997.

The impact of stalking may include increased anxiety, social dysfunction and severe depression. Stalking is very serious and victims should take all threats seriously. For more information on stalking and what you can do protect yourself from an assault call 654-1559.

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