What To Do / What Not To Do
Caution: The information provided here should be used only under the direction of a trained expert in victim assistance, and should typically involve law enforcement. Please read the NCVC article on "Rethinking Our Advice to Stalking Victims."
1. The first thing one should do is to tell the unrequited person that no further contact of any kind is allowed.
a. As early as possible, tell him/her that the relationship is over.
b. Be as firm/assertive and direct as possible.
c. Avoid using tones or phrases that could be misconstrued as implying a second chance or playing hard to get. Oftentimes, when the victim tries to "be nice" and to "spare the feelings" of the person being rejected, the unrequited lover sometimes perceives mixed messages.
d. Be respectful
2. Discipline yourself to avoid contact with the stalker: This includes ANY and ALL contact (calling to ask for someone else's phone number, counter-harassing, sending letters back) which could easily be misinterpreted by the stalker.
3. Documentation is one of the most important aspects of stalking threat management. For a copy of a documentation form, click on the following hyperlink to view the Logbook.
4. Several preventative measures have been listed at various websites (see Resource page)
5. Several interventions have also been listed at various websites (see Resource page)
A Behavioral Approach:
B. F. Skinner's laboratory experiments on operant conditioning lent understanding into the frequency of behaviors contingent on external reinforcement. In essence, if a particular behavior is rewarded, there is an increased chance that that behavior will be repeated. Conversely, if there is no reward, the behavior decreases in frequency or is extinguished.
Sometimes, when the reinforcement is provided intermittently (in a variable-ratio schedule), the behavior is more resistant to extinction. This is because one has learned that a reward could occur at any time and that persistence pays off. A good example of this situation is seen at the slot machines found in gambling casinos. The winnings occur randomly (intermittently) offering just enough reward to keep one pulling the lever for hours on end.
Consider the stalker. When the stalker calls the victim several times in one evening until the victim either "gives in" (e.g., tries to reason with the stalker) or offers the stalker some attention (an affective response, such as fear, anger, or shock), these responses serve as reinforcement for the stalking behavior.
Ending the behavior: Behaviors that are not reinforced tend to decrease or extinguish all together. But will this apply to stalking behaviors? There are examples in the literature suggesting that it can (Westrup, 1998). Harassing phone calls (i.e., threatening calls, "hang-ups", etc.) are very common stalking behaviors and will serve as a good example. As noted above, any response to the caller can be reinforcing. Resisting the urge to reason with or respond affectively is difficult, but important. However, withholding such reinforcements produce what has been described as a behavioral "spike". In other words, much like the child who is ignored and responds with a louder tantrum, the stalker may "step up" his or her behaviors. This makes it difficult persevering against the unwanted onslaught of attentions.
Cautions: Before implementing any interventions, it is very important to have an experienced threat management team perform a risk assessment. Each stalking situation is different. It should be noted that sometimes, when a stalker is met with resistance, he or she may actually escalate the stalking behaviors.
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