Stalking is unwanted and/or repeated surveillance by an individual or group toward another person. Stalking behaviors are interrelated to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person or monitoring them. People characterized as stalkers may be accused of having a mistaken belief that another person loves them (erotomania), or that they need rescuing.
Stalkers often create imaginary scenarios in their head about your relationship together and are so off-kilter that they truly believe your relationship is much more serious than it really is. Every bit of attention, communication and online interaction you have with them only feeds the beast, so knock it off. Just make sure you’re always honest about what you want and upfront with them, and do your best to make a clean break.
Although stalking is illegal in most areas of the world, some of the actions that contribute to stalking may be legal, such as gathering information, calling someone on the phone, texting, sending gifts, emailing, or instant messaging. They become illegal when they breach the legal definition of harassment (e.g., an action such as sending a text is not usually illegal, but is illegal when frequently repeated to an unwilling recipient).
Here are some of the ways to know is someone is stalking you.
1. They’re like, uber-intense
Beware of the person who is over the top about absolutely everything in their life. They tell crazy stories, experience all the emotions within a 60-second commercial and go from happy to crazy mad over the littlest things. Stalkers often create imaginary scenarios and even relationships in their heads, and if they’re out of touch with reality, you’ll find yourself frequently wondering why the hell they’re acting like a crazy person half the time – it’s because they are.
2. They show up when they’re not wanted
The stalker likes to show up unannounced and uninvited to your house or work, and often when they know you’re busy doing something else. If you didn’t tell them about your other plans, they’re probably following your every move. They may show up when you’re on a date with someone else, have a work lunch scheduled or even a family dinner going on at your place. It’s all in an effort to glean attention from you, and hoping to meet your family or coworkers, or lay claim to something that isn’t theirs in front of another person.
3. They’re your number 1 social media follower
It’s quite common to follow and friend even the most casual acquaintances. But it might not be such a good thing when you’re dealing with a possible stalker. If they’re the first one to like everything you post and comment on every photo you post, unfriend and block that person right now. They are trouble and have nothing better to do than create virtual photo boards of your future home and children, plus they probably already has nursery furniture picked out and on layaway.
4. They send you unwanted and inappropriate gifts
If the person is sending you gifts “just because” and you aren’t in a relationship, run for the hills. Some stalkers will go so far as to send pornographic and other embarrassing gifts to your doorstep or workplace just to make it appear you have a physical relationship going on with the person behind it. They’re just flexing their power muscles and hopes that it will endear you to them, but you need to tell them to take a hike.
5. They conveniently “bumps into you” everywhere
Coincidentally running into them might happen once. Maximum twice. Anything more than that is absolutely, unequivocally planned by them. Unless, of course, you are in class with them or work in the same office. But if they’re prancing down the cereal aisle, and then again when you’re picking up your clothes from alterations at the mall… they’re absolutely following you.
6. They invade your personal space
Nobody likes a close talker. Same goes for over-hugging and being unable to carry on a conversation without touching you, like they’re one shot from falling on the floor into a puddle of “I can’t hold myself up anymore.” Being clingy is one thing, but if they take it up a notch and couples it with other warning signs we’re listing here, they’re probably stalker-ish.
7. They threaten to hurt you or themself
Ok, all joking aside… nevermind. This is just illegal and should set off every alarm in your brain that screams you should run. If they threaten you, call the police and file a report. If they threaten themself, call the police and file a report. Then tell that toddler to leave you alone and never come back again, because they’re not welcome on your playground anymore.
8. They play the hero
Stalkers just love to play the hero, and this can surface in a variety of ways. They might conveniently show up when you need a ride or they’ll happen to be available to dogsit while you’re away on business, even though you didn’t ask for their help. Because heroes shouldn’t need to be asked, so they will offer it unabashedly. If they aren’t wearing a cape and you’re pretty sure they can’t laser beam you to death with their eyeballs, get rid of them.
9. They know things they shouldn’t
If you just started talking to or dating the person and they know things about your past and family and friends that you haven’t personally discussed with them, you can be sure that they’re stalking you online. If they know how many siblings you have and who your best friend is, they also know how many drinks you had before you drove home last Friday night and how much your lunch bill was yesterday.
10. Your gut says something’s not quite right
Like everything else in life, listen to your gut. If you feel anxious when you’re around them, can’t wait to get off the phone with them, or you have more questions than answers and too many WTFs, you need to steer clear. Stalkers don’t take hints very well, either, so you’ll have to man up and just tell them you’re not into them and you don’t want any contact from them again. Then prepare yourself for the intense reaction and possible threats to follow.
Stalkers are often just that because they have a serious mental imbalance and the improper idea of what a relationship should look like. Whether they realize it or not, it’s really a power play that helps them feel in control of the situation and everything you do. If they’re not, they will try to manipulate the situation or create one that makes them feel like they’re the one in power.
It’s quite possible the stalking was started as a catfishing scheme by them, and once you get to know them in real life, they’re not what they seemed to be. This is another reason it’s ill-advised to take home the unknown from the bar on Friday night or hook up with anyone you just met online. Save the sleepover for a person you’re pretty sure won’t bring a moving van to the second date, and revise your screening process so you stop attracting the crazies.