Tips from a Victim of Stalking who successfully won a conviction.
Stalking is a complicated crime and what helped me the most was organizing all my documentation in a single binder. I always kept the incident log on top, where I could quickly and easily add to it. I had a tab where I would obtain copies of any police reports that were filed; a tab with any photographs I took of the incident or receipts from places I was at where the incident occurred; a tab with any communication received from the stalker (i.e. text message screenshots, e-mails and/or screenshots of phone calls); and, a tab with the letters from my attorney sternly requesting the stalker refrain from any contact with me and to stop any harassing and stalking behaviors. Each time I would go to the police to report an incident, I would also write down the officer’s name, station location, date, and time even if they would not take a report.
In my case, the incident log was not highly regarded by law enforcement. I was told varying things ranging from I could have made those instances up to I should appreciate a man is pursuing me so persistently. After having many instances logged and no police reports actually filed by law enforcement, I finally hired a private investigator to follow me and document the instances with video. A week after hiring the private investigator, a police report was filed and a warrant for stalking was issued.
This binder proved critical in my journey to justice. I carried this binder everywhere in case something happened while I was away from home and had to call the police.
Although contact is the last thing you want with an individual that is stalking you, it is important that you notify them their behavior is unwanted and you demand it to stop or you will seek law enforcement intervention. Often, a single warning is not enough. In my case, I hired an attorney to issue a “no contact” letter and, in this letter, he used my incident log to document instances of stalking behavior. It seemed my stalker took the letter as a challenge and the stalking escalated in frequency, resulting in another two letters being sent. You don’t have to hire an attorney and can send an e-mail or text message – but it is critical to your case that you keep a copy.
Many stalking resource websites offer “Incident Logs” that you can use to document each instance of stalking. However, very little guidance exists to explain what you might need to support your Incident Log to potentially increase your chance of law enforcement intervention.
Keep a copy of any warnings that you have given the stalker to quit their conduct.
If an incident occurs while you are away from home, keep any receipts to show the date, time, and location so law enforcement can attempt to obtain any video footage that may exist at the establishment. It might also show your stalker did not transact any business at the location which further supports the stalking claim.
Use your smartphone to send yourself an e-mail that will have the date and time stamp of the incident, which you can use to record in your Incident Log.
Take a photograph of the stalker and/or their vehicle. In one instance, the stalker had parked behind my vehicle while I was in the grocery store. This by itself is not a crime; however, once it was compiled in the binder along with the other incidents the pattern of behavior could no longer be regarded as a “coincidence” or “random” act unworthy of a stalking charge.
Witnesses are important but, in my case, most people did not want to “get involved” and refused to sign statements or even talk to the prosecutor. It is important that anyone who agrees to be a witness make a statement (even if it is something they write up themselves) as close to the event as possible. Memories fade. Witnesses become complacent about getting involved.
If you can, have a friend (or, in my case, I hired a private investigator) follow you and film any incident with the stalker with their smartphone. Make sure the video has a clear shot of your stalker’s face, any identifying marks/tattoos, and a license plate.
In the state I lived in, I was able to apply for a Civil Protective Order myself just by going to the courthouse and asking the person at the information desk if they had information on how I could obtain one. Once they directed me to the office I needed to go, I found the staff there helpful in walking me through the process. After filling out the paperwork, I was asked to wait and about half an hour later I was handed a Temporary Restraining Order signed by the judge.
It is the judge’s decision on whether a Temporary Restraining Order (some states refer to it as an Emergency Protective Order) will be issued. In my case, the judge solely relied on the documentation I included with my request for the Order and never spoke to me directly. I included my incident log and any receipts or photographs, copies of my statements to police reports that were never filed and was required to handwrite a new statement directly on the form requesting the Order. Fortunately, the staff was able to make copies from the documents in my binder, but you might bring copies with you.
Any request for an Order will be set for hearing after the individual you are requesting protection against has been served. If you are issued a Temporary Restraining Order, it is valid from the date of the judge’s signature until the hearing. Most states will prioritize hearings for Protective Orders so if you were not awarded a temporary order, do not let this deter you!
When filing any police report request a copy of your handwritten statement at the time you give it for several reasons:
If anything changes when the official report comes out, you have your original to compare. When I made the report which resulted in a warrant issued for stalking, my statement was seven pages in length. One page could have easily been misplaced and not filed with the official report.
This copy is useful when seeking a protective order before the official police report is available to you. When the warrant was issued in my case, it became a criminal matter and the official police report was not available to the public – even though I was the victim. The stalker in my case was convicted in 2020and at the time of this writing I still have not seen a copy of the official police report … BUT I have the copy of my statement the officer made at the time it was filed.
What you handwrote in your statement can be used against you if it conflicts with your other documentation. For me, the binder of evidence that I had been keeping was critical in assisting me with my handwritten statement. If you do not have your documentation with you when you make your statement, I urge you not to guess at any specifics and write down exactly what you know. It is acceptable to be generic in your handwritten statement where you can offer proof through documentation during the judicial proceedings.