What you should know about stalking

Written by Staff Writer

Editor’s Note — Need help? You can click here to talk to Abby Keffer Morris, a psychiatrist, relationship and behavioral psychotherapist and radio talk show host.

We tend to think of stalkers as men alone in some remote place. But the trend is growing and experts say many women and girls are victims of stalking behavior, too. This is the case not only for men, but even married couples with one or more spouses engaged in harassing behavior. The targeting can happen anywhere: at work, home or in the car.

Much like fearing a predator lurking in the woods or dark alley, too many of us become afraid of our homes or the activity around them. Unfortunately, it’s usually not so simple. Abusive relationships may involve dating or even something as simple as an ex-friend returning with a hand-written note or a rare-to-the-lonely phone call.

Stalking is a crime, but it’s often complex. It is different from harassment. “Harassment is when someone has agreed to be accountable and there is some form of abuse toward that person,” says psychologist Dr. Jenn Berman, who works at the Metropolitan Behavioral Health Hospital in New York City. Stalking, on the other hand, is defined as a psychological or behavioral pattern of targeting and harassing another person. “Sometimes, it’s just someone being angry with someone,” she adds.

So, what should you do if you’re scared or annoyed? Stalking can be a nightmare. Sometimes, it could go on for months or years and results in emotional distress or the loss of the life partner, but it’s also deadly. If you find yourself in one of those situations, you might be a victim, but if you’re not you need to know the signs. As for the one person in a situation who is worried, she can ask for help. You can call the National Stalking Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Or the LAPD has a 24-hour crisis line at (323) 890-4840.

Once you’re familiar with stalking behaviors, you can learn how to best defend yourself or take a few simple steps to make sure your safety is not compromised.

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