What to Do If You Become a Stalking Victim

Dr. Doreen Orion, author of "I Know You Really Love Me: A Psychiatrist's Account of Stalking and Obsessive Love," and the Web site antistalking.com offer the following tips for people who may have become the object of a stalker's attentions.

1. Tell the stalker "no" once and only once, and then never give him or her the satisfaction of a reaction again. The more you respond, the more you teach the stalker that his or her actions will elicit a response. This only serves to reinforce the stalking.

2. Get a dog. The Los Angeles Police Department's Threat Management Unit says this is "one of the least expensive but most effective alarm systems."

3. Block your address at your state's department of motor vehicles and voter registration offices. If you don't, anyone can learn where you live. This is how Robert Bardo found actress Rebecca Schaeffer and was able to kill her at her front door.

4. Never give out your home address or telephone number. Get a post office box and use it on all correspondence. For those places that will not accept a post office box, change "P.O. Box" to "Apt." and leave the number. Put this address on your checks.

5. When a stalker gets your home telephone number, don't change it. Instead, always let an answering machine pick up. Get a new, unlisted number, and give it to everyone who calls but the stalker. Eventually, only the stalker will be using your old number.

6. If it upsets you when the stalker calls, put the machine in a room you don't use. You can even have someone else monitor the tapes. This way, the stalker will think he or she is still getting through to you, although you will never make the mistake of picking up when the person calls. Whenever you close off one avenue for a stalker, he or she will find another and it could easily be worse.

7. Document everything. Even if you have decided not to go the legal route, you may change your mind. Keep answering machine tapes, letters, gifts, etc. Keep a log of drive-bys or any suspicious occurrences.

8. Take a self-defense class. A lot of security experts don't advise this, fearing that it gives victims a false sense of security, but Orion does. She says the best self-defense classes teach you how to become more aware of your surroundings and avoid confrontations, things that stalking victims would do well to learn.

9. Have co-workers screen all calls and visitors at work.

10. Don't accept packages unless they were personally ordered.

11. Remove any name or identification from reserved parking at work.

12. Destroy discarded mail.

13. Equip your gas tank with a locking gas cap that can be unlocked only from inside the car.

14. Get a cell phone and keep it with you at all times, even inside your home, in case the stalker cuts your phone lines.

15. If you think you are being followed while in your car, make four left- or right-hand turns in succession. If the car continues to follow you, drive to the nearest police station -- never home or to a friend's house.

16. Never be afraid to sound your car horn to attract attention.

17. Acquaint yourself with all-night stores and other public, highly populated places in your area.

18. Consider moving if your case warrants it. No, it's not fair, but nothing is fair about stalking. If you stay and fight through the legal system, you might get some justice, but you almost certainly won't get safety. There is no possibility of life imprisonment for stalkers. Research how to keep your destination secret. Stalking and victims' organizations can help.

19. Don't be embarrassed and think you caused this somehow. Stalkers need no encouragement. Your shame is your stalker's best weapon. It makes you more likely to engage him or her or agree to plea bargains, which are bound to be taken as sympathy.

Instead, tell everyone you know that you're being stalked, from neighbors to co-workers, so that when the stalker approaches them for information about you, they will be alerted not to divulge anything and will let you know he's been around. One young widow moved to escape her stalker, a stranger she had never really met. Yet, after finding out where she moved, he was also able to pinpoint her exact location by showing her helpful neighbors pictures he had surreptitiously taken of her and her children, telling them that he was her estranged husband and she had kidnapped the kids.

20. Join one of the stalking victims' support groups that are springing up all over the country. They can be invaluable resources for information in your community (such as how local law enforcement handle these cases) as well as provide essential support. If there is no group in your area, start one. It only takes two people to form a group. Tragically, it is certain that you are not the only person being stalked in your area, Orion says.