What is stalking?
Stalking is when a person follows, contacts, intimidates or harasses another person with the intent to make that person afraid or in ways that would make a "reasonable person" afraid. A stalker can be someone you know- a former intimate partner, a current or ex-spouse, a coworker, a classmate, etc. Or it can be someone you don't know. A stalker may choose a victim for a variety of reasons and employ a number of methods of following and harassing her or him. What is most important to know is that stalking is a crime in New Hampshire. There are laws to protect you and services available to help you deal with this frightening crime.
Stalking is a crime in New Hampshire. It is against the law (RSA 633:3-a) for someone to:
- follow another person from place to place more than once with no legitimate purpose with the intent to make the person afraid, or if this behavior would cause a "reasonable person" to be afraid
- appear more than once with no legitimate purpose at or around a person's home, work, or other place where the person can be found, with the intent to make a person afraid, or if this behavior would cause a "reasonable person" to be afraid
- intimidate another by causing substantial emotional distress and to threaten another person with death or bodily injury
- follow someone from place to place if there is a restraining order or bail order against the follower. If a restraining order or bail order is in effect, the follower is also prohibited from showing up at or near any place described in either order
Stalking is a unique crime because the stalker usually has only one intended victim. Stalkers are obsessed with controlling the victim's actions and feelings. They believe that they can achieve this by threatening, harassing and in some instances, harming their victims.
Often, the victim can best assess the stalker's potential for violence. Because no one can guarantee complete safety, the victim can best choose what actions need to be taken. Whatever steps are taken, the primary concern for everyone involved is the victim's safety.
What can you do if you are being stalked?
Notify law enforcement. If you believe you are being stalked, call the police right away. Be sure to tell them about any previous action taken and the results (i.e., the stalker was warned to stay away from you). Consider obtaining a cellular phone. In the event that you are being followed while driving, you can call 9-1-1 immediately and document the incident as it is happening. It is important to get the docket or file number of your complaint, as well as the name of the reporting officer so that you can follow up on the complaint.
Arrests can only be made if the stalker has already been warned by the police to stay away from you. If there is already a restraining order in place, the police must arrest the stalker. In the event of an arrest, the stalker will likely be bonded and released. Ask that a condition of the bond be no contact with you. Obtain copies of all documents and the name of the judge.
Document everything yourself. Record witnesses' names, dates, times, locations, and what the stalker was doing, saying, wearing, driving (license plate number), etc. If it can be done safely, take pictures of the stalker. Law enforcement agencies log your complaint each time you call. Request a copy of each report.
Tell family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Provide them with a description or photograph of the stalker. Ask them to watch for the stalker, to document everything listed above, and to give the written account to you.
Save all written material, legal documents, and telephone messages recorded on answering machines. Save and date all cards, letters, notes and envelopes from the stalker. Obtain and keep all copies of warrants, protective orders, court orders, etc.
Report threatening calls to the telephone company. Make use of your telephone provider's tracing system and Caller ID. Dial *57 immediately after receiving a harassing phone call, and the call will be traced for a small fee. Be sure to log the date and time of each successfully traced call. Save and date all telephone messages, because they, too, can be utilized as evidence. Do NOT tape telephone conversations without telling the stalker her or she is being taped beforehand. It is illegal to tape someone without his/her knowledge, and renders such evidence useless.
If you think you are being followed from place to place, or if you are being threatened or intimidated by someone, it is important that you begin to take the necessary steps to maximize your safety.
- Utilize the law enforcement community and courts.
- Obtain a Restraining Order. You can go to District Court and obtain a Stalking Protective Order against the stalker. You do not need to have had a prior relationship in order to qualify for a Stalking Protective Order.
- Change the locks of your home and/or car.
- Avoid walking alone. Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Obtain a post office box- give your address and phone number to as few people as possible.
- Get an unlisted telephone number.
- Alternate daily driving routes and keep car doors locked at all times, even when the car is in use.
- Park in well-lit areas, obtain a locking gas cap, and always visually check the front and rear passenger areas before entering your vehicle.
- Know the locations of both the police and fire stations.
- Keep an emergency bag packed with clothing, money, emergency telephone numbers, toys for your children, etc.
- Report all threats sent by mail to the local police or FBI.
- Alert neighbors about what is happening, and have a prearranged code or signal in case the stalker is hear or at your home.
- Post a "No Trespassing" sign on the edge of your property where it is clearly visible.
Some victims of stalking may also choose to relocate. The following suggestions can be used to maximize your safety if you decide to move:
- Call the Social Security Office and request that your Social Security number be changed, if you can prove that the stalker is using it to find you.
- If you move, do not leave a "paper trail". Don't have anything forwarded (mail, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, telephone number, etc.)
- Take all medical/immunization records (especially for your children) with you.
- Pick up or forfeit security deposit money.
Taking Care Of Yourself
Contact Bridges: We are a great resource, and can provide you with a number of confidential services, including 24-hour support and assistance.
Develop a support system: Keep in touch with friends who are supportive and understanding. Tell someone about each encounter with the stalker.
You may experience extreme stress and trauma and want to seek assistance: You may begin to experience rage, terror, suspicions, an inability to trust anyone, depression, changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns, exhaustion, and/or frequent crying spells. Your body and mind are simply reacting to the extreme stress. Talking to someone who is trained to work with victims may help alleviate some of the symptoms that are interfering with other aspects of your life.