Stalking is when a person repeatedly contacts, harasses or spies on you, and it causes you fear or distress. Stalkers may also threaten and harass your family members, pets, friends or workmates. If they are unable to harass you, stalkers may enlist their friends or family to do so on their behalf.

Stalking is a crime in all Australian states and territories. In Victoria, the law now states that a stalker is someone who acts with the intention and/or awareness of:

You can be stalked physically as well as through technology (cyber stalking), such as

What to do if you’re being stalked

It is important that you seek help and support to manage the stalking and its impact on your life. Family and friends can also be adversely affected, particularly children, and should be encouraged to seek help if needed.

At the earliest stage give your stalker a single clear message that you don’t want any of their attention or contact.

You can take action:

1. Avoid contact with the stalker

2. Increase your personal safety

Increasing your safety will help you to feel stronger and give you some control of the situation. If possible, try to improve your home and work security.Free and confidential home security checks can be arranged through most police stations. The Safer Community Program can also assist you.

Keep you and your children safe at home, work and school.

Vary your routine to school, work, shops and other places; use different shops, bank branches or ATM machines and always try to stay in public areas.

3. Inform close family and friends

Make good use of your support networks. Tell trusted friends, family members, workmates, security guards, your children’s school and, if appropriate, neighbours that you are being stalked. If they are unaware of what’s going on they may accidentally give your information to the stalker.

Trusted family and friends can support you and help you to collect evidence of the stalking. It may also help to provide these people with a photograph or description of the stalker and their vehicle.

4. Collect evidence

Stalkers often leave physical or electronic evidence, for example, voice or text messages, emails, letters, cards or unwanted gifts, internet posts or comments. Do not delete, discard or return these items; they are needed for the purposes of investigation and prosecution.

5. Contact the police

Call your local police station and make an appointment to see a police officer as soon as possible, especially if the stalking has persisted for more than two weeks. You may request to meet with an officer experienced in stalking or harassment cases. Bring along any evidence as it will help establish your case. You can also bring a close friend or family member to the meeting for support.

Police may not be able to act immediately if there is a lack of evidence. An officer should be assigned to your case so that you can contact them directly and report each new incident. Obtain copies of any ‘incident reports’ you make and keep them in a secure place.

6. Consider applying for an intervention order

You can take legal action by applying for an intervention order. The magistrate makes a court order that forbids the stalker from contacting you or coming within a set distance of you, your home, your work and other places you go to regularly, or getting other people to harass you. If the stalker breaches the order they have committed a criminal offence and the police can arrest and charge them. These orders may serve to deter the stalker and thus protect you, but this is not always the case.

In Victoria, when you apply for an intervention order, you may be asked to first participate in mediation, especially if your stalker is a neighbour or an acquaintance. However if there is a history of violence or threats, the mediation may not have to take place.

It is important to have a safety plan in place when you apply for an intervention order. The Safer Community Program can assist you with this.

Information taken from Women’s Information Referral Exchange Inc. For more information, click here.