Written by Writer’s Corps member Carrie Manner
People joke about “google stalking” their potential partners all the time but stalking is no laughing matter. Stalking is a pattern of behavior that makes you feel nervous and susceptible to attack. Each scenario with a stalker may differ (from repeated contact to unwanted gifts), but the goal remains the same, to make you feel vulnerable.
Stalking affects 6.6 million people in the U.S. each year and 3 out of 10 of those people report experiencing emotional and psychological harm as a result. In 1999, the Stalking Resource Center published a handbook about stalking with fascinating facts that uncover what motivates someone to harass another person. The following information was gathered from that handbook to provide a captivating glance into the mind of a stalker.
What Motivates a Stalker
Stalkers may begin their harassment by repeatedly calling or contacting their target via email and social media but it doesn’t always end there. If these methods of contact are ineffective “the individual may escalate to more intrusive behaviors such as spying on, and unexpectedly confronting their victims,” said Robert T. Muller in his article, Mind of a Stalker. In many cases, stalking begins at the end of a relationship, however, there is no perfect science to determine who will or won’t become a stalker. But, thanks to researchers we now know motivating factors that drive some people to stalk. These factors include:
Whether the rejection is real or merely perceived by the stalker it comes as a critical blow. Stalkers see themselves as the victims of being led on or toyed with. Their fear of abandonment doesn’t allow them to reason, so it’s impossible to let them down easy.
Stalkers are often obsessive in multiple areas of their life including their romantic inclinations. They usually have repetitive thought patterns that play like a broken record, so they gradually become so preoccupied with their target, they’re unable to sleep, forget to eat, and let their jobs go to the wayside.
Stalkers blur the lines between fact and fiction. They harbor a sense of entitlement that their targets belong to them which feeds the fantasy that they’re destined to be together. Some become so convinced, they’ll invent details in their head about a romantic relationship that doesn’t exist, and they’ll be so sure of it, they’re able to convince others.
Stalkers are unable to recognize or respect the feelings or boundaries of others. They also lack healthy coping skills to deal with rejection, embarrassment, shame, or loss. This becomes especially problematic if you previously had a romantic relationship as they may justify their actions with “If I’m suffering, so should you” logic or the “If I can’t have you, no one can.”
How Stalkers Use Manipulation to Feed Their Obsession
Manipulation is one of a stalker’s greatest tool, particularity with an ex. Below are some common ways a stalker will try to lure you back in.
- They’ll guilt you or invent emergencies to elicit sympathy. Example: “Why are you doing this to me? Don’t you care about me?”
- They make empty promises to prolong contact. Example: “This is the last time, I swear. I just need closure.”
- They’ll resort to blackmail, no matter how far of a stretch. Example: “I’ll tell your boss about the time you called in sick.”
- They play on your insecurities and make unfounded accusations. Example: “You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”
- They’ll twist your words to suit their agenda. Example: “I know that you really do love me and that your friends are just trying to brainwash you against me.”
- They’ll give expensive or elaborate gifts with strings attached. Example: “After all I’ve done for you…”
Common Characteristics of a
It’s important to note that stalkers aren’t monsters that hide under your bed. In fact, there are no rules on how to spot a one. Common misconceptions about stalkers include ideas about stalkers being lonely, socially awkward and generally undesirable people. But experts say that many stalkers are charming and seemingly “average” people that you would never guess have an unhealthy obsession with their ex, their neighbor or a complete stranger. That said, there are certain characteristics that many stalkers share and are important to know. Taken directly from the stalking handbook, below is an interesting list of personality traits that most stalkers possess. If you noticed these traits in someone pursuing a relationship with you, you might want to think twice.
- Needs to have control over others
- Socially awkward or uncomfortable
- Views self as victim of society, family, and others
- Unable to take “no” for an answer
- Often switches between rage and “love”
- Difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality
- Sense of entitlement (“You owe me…”)
- Unable to cope with rejection
- Dependent on others for sense of “self”
- Views his or her problems as someone else’s fault
So What Can You Do?
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable or afraid, that’s your gut sending up the bat signal that something is wrong. Trust it. Sometimes we sense something’s wrong before we can see proof. Dealing with a stalker can be uncomfortable, but there are ways to protect yourself early on:
- Be firm and let the person making you uncomfortable know you’re unwilling to continue contact. Do this at the first sign of intrusive behavior and stick to it. Once you say no to contact, you must quit responding to avoid encouraging them.
- Don’t worry if you’re hurting their feelings when you end contact since it was their unwelcome behavior that created this situation. You’re simply setting boundaries to keep yourself safe.
- Be mindful of what kind of personal information you’re posting online and what you let your friends tag you in.
- Don’t allow apps to show your location.
- Keep your car and home locked.
- Alternate the driving routes you use. Don’t maintain a predictable pattern.
- Don’t say you’re going to contact the police unless you plan to do it. Not following through with what you say you will do signals to your stalker that you do not mean what you say.
- Keep cool, stay firm, and remain calm so you avoid feeding into your stalkers need to create an emotional response from you.
As scary as it may seem, we can put stalking to an end. The key is to be alert, educate yourself, and to find help. The earlier you do this, the more successful you’ll be. Never forget: no one can take your power away from you. So hold onto to it, and remember you’re in control. For more tips on dealing with a stalker, call 800-FYI-CALL (800-394-2255) Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST., or visit the Stalking Resource Center. Also, don’t forget to check out our post with our top 5 picks for resources on stalking.
Disclaimer: Please note, this is not an exhaustive list of the characteristics of a stalker. If someone you know makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you suspect you are being stalked, have a conversation with someone you trust and reach out to an advocate to determine your next steps.