Sometimes it's hard to judge. If the stalker is someone we've had a previous relationship with, then we may make allowances for stalker behavior based on guilt or compassion or any number of feelings. Stalkers rely on this, and they use the relationship as justification for their behavior. You need to ask yourself some questions. Does this person make me feel uncomfortable or scared? Does this person disrespect my boundaries when I say no or put limits on things? If the answer to either of those questions is "yes" then you are aren't wrong for feeling scared.
First read this little Am I A Stalker list. (Just for fun, I've bolded the issues I am currently dealing with)
- Surveillance (I think hacking a child's email counts as surveillance).
- Following/Pursuit (e.g., by car, on foot)
- Culturally inappropriate courtship behaviors (e.g., bluntly asking for sex)
- Sending unwanted letters
- Cyberstalking (e.g., unwanted and harassing e-mail, or instant messaging)
- Sending unwanted gifts/items (e.g., romantic, bizarre, sinister, or perverted)
- Attempts to “save” or “rescue” (e.g., from an "immoral life" or an unpleasant
- Spreading false rumors about the alleged victim of stalking
- Threats to harm the alleged victim, others, or oneself
- Property damage
So let's break down some of those bullet points. Most are fairly obvious. Dozens of unwanted telephone calls, emails, etc require you to invest time and energy, even if it's just in deleting voicemails and emails (and blog comments). Save yourself some grief and set up an email filter so that all those emails go to either the trash or (if you are saving them for evidence) a folder you never have to look at. Your stalker is getting some level of satisfaction knowing that you have to hear them (or read them) even if you don't respond. They are hoping that they will just wear you down until you respond, even if it's in anger. And sometimes they do wear you down. We're all human, it happens. It's better for your own sanity and safety to not let them into your headspace at all. If your are worried that by ignoring emails and voicemails you will miss a real threat (and you can't afford a service like Gavin de Beckers that monitors these for you) then find a trusted friend and ask if they will monitor it for you. You can set the email filter to automatically forward the emails to your friend and they can let you know if a threat of violence has been made.
The sending of unwanted gifts is meant as a way to force obligation on you. We've all been taught to be polite and grateful. Stalkers take this social conditioning as use it to wedge themselves into situations where they are not wanted. In The Gift of Fear, de Becker talks about the guys who push you into letting them carry your groceries for you in order to gain access. The gift thing is just another version of that. Sending the gift back doesn't help either. It gives the stalker one more chance at access. Better to either trash it, pawn it, or sell it on ebay. I have gotten MAJOR satisfaction from taking a hammer to particularly fragile "gifts" in the past.
Wanting to "save or rescue" you is one of the ways stalkers justify their behaviors. It also usually involves elaborate fantasies that have nothing to do with who you are. Stalkers are delusional by nature. They are trying to create attachment where none exists. If someone calls them on their fantasy, they will lash out. Like conservative Christians, the facts don't matter if they interfere with the person's vision of who they are and who you are to them.
Spreading false rumors is one more way to harass and cause damage, hopefully leading to the stalker getting more access. If you confront them about their lies, they will make things worse. I know, the desire to defend oneself from bullshit is immense. You can do some damage control with the people who hear the rumors, but confronting the stalker head on about will not work. Ever. They will never see the light. You may get momentary satisfaction from standing up for yourself, but it will just add fuel to their delusions. There is no way you can get them to see reality. Period.
There comes a time where you have to choose between being right and being safe. (And by posting this right now- I am, for this second, choosing to be right. I will pay for this with another round of emails, voicemails, threats and lies, etc). But I thought it was important to write anyways. Your best bet is usually ignore, ignore, ignore****. When the justified rage at the infringement on your life becomes too much, yell into a pillow and ignore, ignore, ignore. The longer you can go without responding, the more likely the stalker will move on to a new target or give up. But every time you respond, you feed their obsession and the cycle starts over again. (I broke nearly 8 years of ignore, ignore, ignore. So the next round of stalking will last at least 8 more years. Fun)
****** I haven't made much mention of legal or police remedies for stalking. The truth is these often cause more problems than they solve. You have to decide if legal measures will provide you with more safety or less.