Violence Prevention

January is Stalking Awareness Month

Understanding and Preventing Stalking
adapted from Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC) 

What is stalking?

Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety and the safety of others, or to suffer substantial distress.

Course of conduct means a pattern of two or more instances. This can include the same stalking behavior repeated or more than one behavior. Documenting unwanted contact or behaviors can help establish a pattern. 

What are stalking behaviors?

Stalking behaviors can fall under several categories. These categories are not exhaustive because in stalking, context matters. A behavior that might seem harmless in one context can feel threatening in the context of stalking.  

  • Surveillance: watching, following, monitoring, and/or gathering information  
    Following or tracking someone (in person or online) 
    Using technology (e.g., a camera, GPS, or recording device) to monitor someone 
    Surveilling someone’s social media activity 
    Hacking into someone’s accounts,  
    Gathering information about someone through their friends/colleagues/family members
  • Life Invasion: showing up in a victim’s life where the victim does not want them to be 
    Showing up uninvited to places the victim might be, like their classes, organization, workplaces, or living space 
    Unwanted contact, including phone calls, texts, DMs, and social media comments 
    Leaving unwanted gifts or notes 
    Joining groups the victim belongs to 
    Contacting people in the victim’s life
  • Interference: sabotaging, attacking, humiliating, or otherwise changing the victim’s life for the worse 
    Forcing confrontations 
    Damaging property 
    Tampering with accounts 
    Spreading rumors or misinformation to damage the victim’s reputation 
    Impersonating the victim online
  • Intimidation: behaving in a way that is intended to threaten or scare a victim 
    Threats to hurt, humiliate, or otherwise harm 
    Intimidation through a third party 
    Threatening gestures  
    Threats to hurt oneself or others (e.g. victim’s family, friends, pets) 

What can we do about stalking?

Respect others’ boundaries, privacy, and independence
In healthy relationships of all kinds, we can show respect for other peoples’ boundaries, privacy, and independence through our words and actions. 

  • Respond positively when someone sets a boundary (for example, saying “thank you for telling me that”) and stopping the behavior that is making them uncomfortable  
  • Recognize that it is healthy for people to have outside interests and relationships 
  • Understand that everyone deserves privacy, including digital privacy 
  • Avoid questions or behaviors designed to monitor or control another person’s actions or relationships  

Safely intervene if you notice staking behavior
Bystander Intervention tactics can help us safely and effectively interrupt violence, including stalking behaviors. To learn more about how to be an active bystander, please join one of our Bystander Intervention trainings, open to all USF students.

Don’t normalize or minimize stalking   
Movies, tv shows, and books often frame stalking as romantic, funny, or just someone being awkward, which can lead to people downplaying stalking behaviors. If you hear or see someone minimizing stalking, help them understand that stalking is dangerous, traumatic, and criminal. 

Support people who experience stalking 
Many people who experience stalking disclose to their friends or family first. By providing support, validation and resources, you can help them feel safer and more comfortable seeking out other forms of support. 

  • Believe them. Remind them that the stalking is not their fault. 
  • Validate them. Honor whatever feelings they are experiencing and thank them for sharing with you. 
  • Check In. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you are a safe person to talk to if they need support.   
  • Respect their choices. Trust that they know what they need to feel safe.
  • Offer resources. Offer to connect them with a confidential resource, such as the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention  

Need Support? A confidential victim advocate can help with safety planning, filing reports, injunctions for protection, emotional support, and more. 

Contact the Center for Victim Advocacy & Violence Prevention: 
24/7 Victim Helpline: (813) 974 5757  
Office (USF Tampa campus): SVC 2057