When you think of stalkers, your thoughts likely turn to high-profile celebrities. However, ordinary people like you and I are also vulnerable to stalking. In fact, according to the US Department of Justice, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States are stalked every year. Over the last decade, the prevalence of stalking has increased by 50%! It is believed that this alarming increase is partly due to the rise in technology making stalking much easier. For example, social media has given stalkers a new avenue to gain access to their targets. Let’s take a closer look at stalking, how to protect yourself, and how a private investigator in Knoxville can assist if you are being targeted.
What is Stalking?
Stalking is the repeated behavior of following, contacting, or monitoring another person without their consent. This can include phone calls, emails, social media messages, showing up at your place of work or your home, and any other type of surveillance or harassment that causes fear and distress. It is a criminal offense, and in Tennessee, it is a Class A misdemeanor. However, if the stalker is a repeat offender or a weapon is used, it can be considered Aggravated Stalking and be raised to a Felony charge. Cyberstalking is conducted entirely online but is also covered by the same laws and carries the same penalties.
Why People Engage in Stalking
There are various different types of stalkers, each with their own motivation and with varying degrees of relationships with their victim. Depending on what type of stalker you are dealing with, the threat level may change. A private investigator in Knoxville can help you to identify your stalker and dig into the reasons behind their behavior. Some of the most common types of stalkers include the following:
- A simple low-level stalker is someone that is personally known to you. In many cases, this is a friend or an intimate partner from your past who cannot let go of the relationship even many years after it has ended.
- A private stranger stalker is an individual you likely cross paths with often in daily life. They then develop an obsession with you, romantically or otherwise, even if you have never given any indication of interest. For example, it could be someone who rides the same train to work each morning with you or who frequents the same coffee shop.
- Acquaintance stalkers are people you know. Good examples are classmates, neighbors, or coworkers. In 50% of acquaintance stalking cases, the stalker becomes violent, so this is one type of stalker that needs to be handled with caution.
- The most dangerous type of stalker is one that is born of an abusive relationship. Abusers can quickly turn into stalkers, especially if the relationship is ended, and they almost always lead to violent assault.
Protecting Yourself Against Stalkers
If you believe that someone is stalking you, the most important thing is protecting yourself. While some stalkers can be relatively harmless, simply presenting themselves as a nuisance, many have darker motives and can quickly turn violent. Ignoring a stalker in the hope that they will get bored and move on rarely works and can often escalate their behavior as they feel the need to be more aggressive to get your attention. Here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself from a stalker.
- Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings - It is important that you stay alert. Look around your neighborhood for any vehicles that seem out of place or strangers that pass by a little bit too often. When you are out alone, do not wear earphones or play around with your phone - keep your eyes and ears open. You can also be more aware of your online presence. Conceal your personal information on social media and don’t share details of where you are in real-time, as it makes you easier to track.
- Do Not Interact With Your Stalker - While we have stated that you cannot ignore your stalker, that does not mean you should interact with them. The key factor in stalking is that the perpetrator believes they have a relationship with their victim. Any time you communicate with them directly can give validation to that delusion. It is best to save all communications as evidence but not respond to messages or answer their calls.
- Seek Support From Those Close to You - When a stalker is violating your privacy and making you feel uneasy, it can be very overwhelming. Do not be ashamed to reach out to friends, family, coworkers, and others you can trust for support. Not only will this give you someone to talk to about your feelings regarding the situation, but it can serve as an additional pair of eyes and ears looking out for signs of your stalker. For example, if you inform the doorman of your offices, they can ensure the stalker is not granted access to the building.
- Call Law Enforcement - Circling back to our point about not ignoring a stalker, you must report this behavior to law enforcement, even if it is non-violent. Stalking is a pattern of behavior, and there must be at least two separate incidents documented in order to press charges. Document and report all instances of stalking to build evidence of a pattern.
- File a Restraining Order - It is possible to file a restraining order against your stalking which means that they are legally required to stay away from you and not contact you. A private investigator in Knoxville can help you gather the evidence required to get one. However, it is worth noting that in particularly violent stalkers, a restraining order may escalate violence. Discuss your options with law enforcement if this is a concern. Some victims prefer to relocate instead.
How Can a Private Investigator Help?
If you are experiencing stalking, it can be helpful to work with a private investigator in Knoxville. If you seek to press charges against your stalker, gathering evidence is one of the most important steps. A private investigator in Knoxville will be able to conduct a detailed background check on your stalker, documenting their personal, financial, and, most importantly, criminal history. Remember, if a convicted stalker reoffends, the charge can be escalated to a felony, so knowing if they have previous charges is very beneficial. Any evidence your PI can gather will help if you need to pursue a restraining order against your stalker.
A private investigator in Knoxville may also be able to identify a stalker if you are not yet aware of who is behind the harassment. Even if you already know their name, your PI can work on locating them and putting them under surveillance to monitor their movements - allowing you to avoid them! It may seem strange to hire someone to carry out surveillance on a person who is essentially doing the same thing to you, but it is important to note that a private investigator will be doing so legally and not in a way that intimidates someone!
Uncover the truth!
Ken Shull served as a Special Agent with the FBI for almost 25 years and was head of the FBI Polygraph program until his retirement in 2001. At that time he set up the Kendall Investigations practice as a private investigator in Knoxville, TN offering Polygraph services, private investigations, and security guards. Ken is a member of the American Polygraph Association and The American Association of Police Polygraphists.
The Truth is Still the Truth Even if No One Believes it, A Lie is Still a Lie Even if Everyone Believes it.