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Domestic Violence And Stalking

7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the United States.  That’s not a small number.  The majority of these people are stalked by someone they know. The most common tactic of stalking for both female and male victims is repeatedly receiving unwanted phone calls, voicemails, and/or text messages.

When working as an advocate that serves survivors of domestic violence, we come to realize that stalking quite often comes hand-in-hand with it.  Both stalking and domestic violence involve the need for power and control over another person, so this makes sense. Stalking often occurs during abusive relationships and can continue once the relationship has ended.  During the relationship, abusive partners are constantly checking up on where their partner is, monitoring their location, and constantly asking questions about where they are going and who they will be with.  Even when the abusive partner has answers to those questions, they are doubting the truth. Abusive partners often accuse their victims of cheating, lying about where they are, or who they were with. This constant badgering and disbelief of the other takes a toll on victims. Can you imagine having your every move monitored and then questioned by your partner? Running one unscheduled errand, then coming home and being accused of cheating? That constant belittlement and distrust becomes part of your everyday routine. The need for power and control is a vicious cycle.

 When victims decide to leave a relationship, the stalking escalates and can become life-threatening.  Statistics tell us that 81% of women who were stalked by a current or former partner were also physically assaulted by that partner; 31% of these women were sexually assaulted (ncjrs.gov). When leaving an abusive partner, many victims do so secretively and without their partner’s knowledge. Once abusive partners realize their partner has left, they often spiral out of control. This creates a hostile environment that escalates the degree of stalking and likelihood of physical abuse. Whenever leaving an abusive relationship, it is important to take necessary safety precautions.

Understanding the various types of stalking and ways a partner can stalk you will help when safety planning. These forms of stalking can include: video surveillance, gps and location services, internet technology (threats made online, posting personal information publicly, impersonating the victim to gain information, spreading rumors, encouraging others to contact the victim, checking emails and messages, monitoring internet activity, etc.). When leaving a relationship it’s a good idea to change all passwords to accounts (such as: email, bank account, social media, bill paying electronically, etc.). Any account that an abusive partner could access, to either monitor your whereabouts or pull personal information from, should be changed.  Another step to take would be to disable all gps devices and location services on your vehicle, cell phone, computer, etc. For example: putting snapchat location services on “ghost mode”, disabling location services for Facebook and iPhone, removing gps access in your vehicle, etc.  Consider taking alternate routes to work and changing your daily routine. It’s also incredibly important to keep a record of all stalking instances and documentation that will help individuals who are seeking to get a protection order – saving paper copies of texts, calls, emails, notes, etc.

Abusers use stalking to terrorize and threaten victims, which can have detrimental effects on survivors. These effects can include fear, psychological distress, and negative health effects (anxiety, PTSD, and depression). Stalking can be difficult to recover from. It is important to remember that stalking is never your fault. When recovering from such abuse, we encourage you to reach out for help and support from friends, family members, or local programs.

If you or someone you know has been effected by stalking, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Call 1-800-770-1650 or text “iowahelp” to 20121. We are available 24/7 and our services are completely free and confidential.