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The purpose of this page is to help individuals recognize and understand stalking events and inappropriate romantic overtures, and to respond effectively.  A common problem is that many people do not know they are being stalked until it is too late.  Another problem is the stalking victim responds to the stalker in a fashion that often perpetuates the stalking.

Below are several fictional scenarios provided in script format followed by an in-depth analysis and suggested initial response(s).

Scene 1:

A married woman is approached by a man in who is obviously enamored with her.  Although they have worked in the same building for years, there has never been any formal introductions.  The extent of the "relationship" is a brief exchange of salutations as they pass in the hallway.

Jarred:    (He haltingly stutters as he works up his nerve) "W-would you wanna go out with me sometime, you know, like on a date?"

Jacquelyn:    (Flattered, but mindful not to hurt his feelings she attempts to "let him down easy")  "I'm sorry, but I can't because I'm married.  See ..." (she shows him her wedding ring).

The next day, the woman finds a bouquet of red roses and a box of chocolates on her desk.  A note accompanying the chocolates reads:  "To my love...From yours truly, Jarred."

Analysis:    Essentially, what this man understood was that if the woman was not married, then she would date him -- he has begun a campaign to win her heart.  There seems some evidence that the man lacks social skills; the man might feel entitled to a relationship with the woman. This is more of a concern with those stalkers falling into the incompetent stalker category (Mullen et al. 1999).  It should be noted , however, that misconstruing the depth of a relationship is not exclusive to the incompetent stalker; the intimacy-seeker may also misinterpret or "read into" such a response.

Research and articles suggest:  Be very clear, firm and concrete while still being respectful.  Don't leave any statement open to interpretation.  In some circumstances, it may be advisable to ask for confirmation of what you said. When in doubt always contact law enforcement for assistance and direction on what to do.

Scene 2:

Angry about being unable to have custody of or visitation rights to see his children, this resentful stalker makes several threatening calls to his ex-wife's home, workplace and the home of his ex-mother-in-law.

Ex-husband:    (Clearly agitated, sounding as if he had been drinking alcohol and speaking in sarcastic tones) "I swear to God, you're going to let me see those kids.  They're my kids too.  I can make your life a living hell if you don't cooperate!"

Ex-wife:    (Shaken, taken off-guard by the abrupt verbal assault) "I'm not going to go into this again with you.  The court papers made it clear that you weren't allowed to see the children.  Why won't you just leave us alone?"

Analysis:  This type of stalker may or may not want to settle prior or current conflicts.  It is clear that he makes a vague threat toward revenge.  Although the ex-wife made her point clear, she had already been through this material with her ex-husband on more than one occasion.  A behavioral approach describes that offering no response (i.e., no reinforcement) to unwanted and inappropriate behavior can, in many instances (if done consistently), extinguish these behaviors.  In the above script, the woman could simply hang up without having to say a word.  Instead, she reinforced her ex-husband's threats by responding.

Research and articles suggest:  If two or more threats have been made over a brief period of time, one should consider filling out a report with the police.  Take note of whether or not the pattern of conduct is escalating -- domestic violence situations can be quite volatile.  Caution!!!:  not responding to the stalker's attention-seeking tactics often leads to an initial escalation of these inappropriate behaviors.  It is best to work with a Threat Management Team in finding the best/safest way to deal with your specific situation. When in doubt, always contact law enforcement for assistance and direction on what to do.

Scene 3:

A slightly disheveled woman in her mid-thirties enters a corner book store for the third time that week.  Her interests in reading tended to be odd in their diversity:  Egyptian history, French cuisine, children's craft books, and religious literature (i.e., the occult and Christianity).  She asks about a male employee who just started work there a month ago.  

Woman:   (Stepping shyly up to the counter with an arm-load of books ranging from Vikings to cross-stitching)  "Is Peter here today?  He told me we would be going out to lunch."  (She proffered a giddy smile)  "It's our first date."

Store owner:   (Looking dubiously at the flighty woman)  "Really.  Well, he's not scheduled to work today and won't be back until Friday.  Who can I say stopped by to see him?"

Woman:   (Somewhat crestfallen, but filled with resolve she blurts out)  "I'm Cleopatra.  I need him to save me from the demon lords of the Huguenots.  He's the only one of the saints who can do it." (She continues without pause)  "Can you give me his address, I think I was supposed to meet him at his home."

Store owner:   (Stunned, she haltingly replies)  "Uh...Peter wouldn't want me to give out that information; anyways I think he already has a girlfriend at the University."

Analysis:  The customer above verbalized bizarre delusions (i.e., implausible and erroneous beliefs) -- she claimed to be Cleopatra and indicated that the object of her affection was Saint Peter sent to save her from "demon lords". It is very possible that the customer is expressing symptoms of schizophrenia or perhaps manic behaviors.  Note also the religious preoccupation this is sometimes seen with delusional thinking.  The stalking typologies that would be most appropriate here are the Love Obsessional or the intimacy-seeker.  The store owner, in her valiant attempt to discourage the customer from pursuing any relationship with Peter, may have supported the customers delusion that a relationship exists and inadvertently provided too much personal information about Peter despite withholding his address.

Research and articles suggest:  It is very difficult learning how best to respond to those with delusional ideas -- even for mental health professionals.  Attempts to challenge the delusion (or reason with the person) are often met with intense agitation and verbal (and sometimes physical) hostility.  Some sources say that it is best not to reason with them.  It is also important not to give the stalker any personal information.  Perhaps stating that you are unable to help them may be your only recourse. When in doubt, always contact law enforcement for assistance and direction on what to do.

The scripts, analyses and suggestions are clearly not exhaustive of the myriad of possible encounters with stalking behavior.  According to the research, responding as little as possible or not at all is best.  Also, don't forget that those who engage in intrusive proximity seeking behavior need to be treated with respect.  Failing this, they may feel righteous indignation and escalate their efforts. 

(More scripts and analyses will be included over time and your input is welcome.)