Am I being stalked?
Definitions vary by jurisdiction, but the general definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
Incidents can occur on a regular basis (every day/week/month) or infrequently. Regardless, if the action(s) make you feel unsafe, it could be stalking.
Each year 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked in the U.S. In addition, 77 percent of female victims and 64 percent of male victims know their stalker. However, whether being stalked by someone close to you or someone you barely know, you should take it seriously and report it as soon as possible.
Stalking can and often does escalate and can be lethal. A study in 1999 found that 76 percent of female homicide victims murdered by their intimate partner had also been stalked by that partner. Therefore, it is important to tell someone about the stalking in order to keep you safe.
Legal Definition of stalking in Wisconsin
This information was taken from the Wisconsin State Statutes and is not in its entirety. The statute in full can be found at Wisconsin Statute 940.32
- Two or more acts carried out over time, however short or long, that show a continuity of purpose, including any of the following:
- Maintaining a visual or physical proximity to the victim.
- Approaching or confronting the victim.
- Appearing at the victim's workplace or contacting the victim's employer or coworkers.
- Appearing at the victim's home or contacting the victim's neighbors.
- Entering property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim.
- Contacting the victim by telephone or causing the victim's telephone or any other person's telephone to ring repeatedly or continuously, regardless of whether a conversation ensues.
- Sending material by any means to the victim or for the purpose of obtaining by the victim.
- Delivering an object to a member of the victim's family or household or an employer, coworker, or friend of the victim or placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by such a person with the intent that the object be delivered to the victim.
- Causing a person to engage in any of the acts described in subds. 7 to 9.
- Whoever meets all of the following criteria is guilty of a Class I felony:
- The actor intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person under the same circumstances to fear bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household.
- The actor intends that at least one of the acts that constitute the course of conduct will place the specific person in reasonable fear of bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household.
- The actor's acts induce fear in the specific person of bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household.
Examples of Stalking:
Following someone, watching them from afar, continuous phone calls or text messages, delivering unwanted items/gifts to a person's residence, place of work, using other people to make contact. Stalking can also be done via technology, such as constant emails, through chat rooms, instant & text messaging, cell phones and pagers, and/or GPS tracking systems secretly installed on your vehicle.
What to do if you are being stalked
Remember, if you are in immediate danger, contact campus security (785-9191) or local law enforcement (911).
Stalking is series of actions that cause a person to feel fear, so keep a log of all unwanted contact (calls, emails, gifts, messages, following, watching, property damage, contact through others). If the action, event, contact scared you, write it down. Also, contact campus or local law enforcement for each incident. By reporting each incident, evidence builds that the person is stalking you. Important evidence to include are:
- Date and time of each incident
- Description of what it was (email, gift, contact from another person, damage to property, following you, etc.)
- Witnesses, if any.
- How you felt, what you did (told someone besides police, checked out areas of your home/work, etc.)
- If you reported it to police, write down date and time of report, officer's name, and report number. Ask for a copy of police report.
- Contact any of the resources listed on Where to Get Help (on-and off-campus) for information and help, like developing a safety plan or obtaining a court order to keep the stalker away.
Develop a safety plan. This includes things like:
- Varying routes to and from work and/or school
- Find people to call or stay with you when don't feel safe
- Changing phone numbers, where you live, or changing class schedules.
- A plan for what to do if the stalker comes to your home, dorm or work
- Try to go places with other people you know and trust who will look out for you. When out alone, avoid places where there are few people
- Campus security is always available to escort students to their dorms, apartments, cars, anywhere around campus. Call 608-785-9191.
- It's true what they say about safety in numbers, so tell people around you (friends, co-workers, etc.) about the stalking and how they can help, like not giving out your phone number/address/work schedule/class schedule to anyone without your permission.
- DO NOT communicate with the stalker or respond to any attempts to contact you.
How to help someone experiencing stalking
Listen. Show support. Don't blame them for what is happening to them. Tell them you are worried about them and ask how you can help.
Encourage them to seek help, and help them obtain information about resources on campus and off.
Don't tell the person what they "should" do and be patient. Support their decisions on what to do.
Avoid confronting the stalker. It could be dangerous not just for you but for the person being stalked.
Western students are encouraged to report stalking and seek help from any of the individuals listed below. However, contacting any of the resources below does not mean you must make a formal report.
- Violence Prevention Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-785-9468, located in Academic Resource Center, Room 232B (in the Multicultural Center), 400 7th Street North
- Maria Strong, Counselor, email@example.com or 608-789-4729, located in the Welcome Center, 400 7th Street North
- Counseling Services, 608-785-9553, located in the Welcome Center
- Leah Durnin Hoover, Student Life Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-785-9446, located in the Residence Hall, 820 La Crosse Street
- Shelley McNeely, Dean of Students, email@example.com or 608-785-9880, located in the Kumm Center, Room 100
Students may also report the stalking to any Western faculty or staff, including Resident Assistants, whom you trust.
The individual being stalked may request that the Student Life Coordinator or Dean of Students work with other campus staff members to explore alternatives to adjust academic schedules and living arrangements in order to avoid contact with the stalker.
Contact campus security if you fear for your immediate safety, 608-785-9191.
Refer to Where to Get Help to see a list of off-campus resources to get help.
You can contact the police department to report the stalking and to help keep yourself safe. The number for the La Crosse Police Department is 911 or 608-785-5962. Any of the on or off-campus resources can assist in finding information about legal options such as filing a protective/harassment order.
IMPORTANT: If a student or employee discloses that they were sexually assaulted on campus, you are required to contact the Student Life Coordinator or Dean of Students about the situation. You will not be required to disclose any identifying information nor will the person assaulted have to make any report. Contacting the Student Life Coordinator or Dean of Students about such incidents is important for keeping Cleary Act statistics which ultimately help to promote a safer campus.
Consequences for Offender
When reported to on-campus officials AND the person being stalked chooses to have disciplinary action taken:
When determining the severity of consequences for those found to be stalking another student, the circumstances of each incidence are considered by the administration. Students who are found to be engaging in stalking behavior have not only committed a state and federal crime, but have also violated the Code of Student Conduct outlined in the student handbook. The university may impose sanctions for violations of the Code of Student Conduct up to and including expulsion from the university.
When reported to off-campus officials AND the person being stalked chooses to press charges:
If convicted, stalking is a Class I felony (fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment of up to three and a half years, or both). However, in some circumstances, the penalties are greater than they are for a Class I felony. The following describes some of these circumstances:
- If the stalker had previously been convicted of certain violent acts against the same victim, stalking against the victim, certain acts of criminal harassment, or any crime against the same victim in the last seven years, stalking is a Class H felony (fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment of up to six years, or both).
- If the stalker “gained access or caused another person to gain access to a record in electronic format that contains personally identifiable information regarding the victim,” stalking is a Class H felony.
- If the victim was under 18 years of age at the time of the violation, stalking is a Class H felony. If the stalking resulted in bodily harm to the victim, the victim's family, or a member of the victim's household, stalking is a Class F felony (fine of up to $25,000, or imprisonment of up to 12-1/2 years, or both).
- If the stalker used a dangerous weapon to stalk the victim, stalking is a Class F felony.
- If the stalker was convicted for domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking, certain criminal harassment crimes, or certain violent crimes in the seven year period before the current stalking act, stalking is a Class F felony.