You’re alone at night when you hear a noise in your house. Your heart is racing as you go to check it out. You go to check your room. And there’s someone looking right through your window. Who was that person? And why do they know where you live?

A stalker is a person who pursues someone aggressively and obsessively to the point of harassing them. And unlike what you’ve seen in movies, it doesn’t just happen to celebrities. And all stalkers are not serial killers. Unfortunately, a stalker could be anyone. It could be a stranger on the street, an acquaintance, a coworker, or someone you are, or were, in an intimate relationship with.

According to the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime, 7.5 million people are stalked each year in the United States. Being stalked might make you feel unsafe, vulnerable, depressed and unsure about who to trust. You could also have trouble sleeping, concentrating or remembering things. And it can be frustrating when other people don’t understand why you’re afraid.

How can you tell if someone is stalking you? Which people are more likely to be stalked? Why is confronting a stalker a bad idea?

Young adults aged 18-24 experience the highest rates of stalking. And women are twice as likely to be stalked as men. But it can happen to anyone, so follow these steps if it happens to you.

Step 1. Recognize the Signs

Sometimes you might wonder if you’re being paranoid or doubt yourself, but coincidences can only go so far. So look for these signs of a potential stalker. You might see someone repeatedly following you from place to place. It does not have to happen over a long time. And it may occur more than once during the same day.

A stalker might repeatedly try to communicate with you by telephone, texting you, in person, or by sending unwanted gifts or letters. Or a stalker might contact people you know and ask them to send messages to you, or or they may keep asking about you.If someone is persistently close to you or watching your home, work, or any place you visit frequently, they could be stalking you.

Step 2. Don’t confront the stalker

Unfortunately, the most common type of stalker is the intimate stalker, like a former or current romantic partner. The risk of violence from an intimate stalker is about 74 percent. This could lead to pushing, shoving, or a more serious assault. And many domestic violence deaths included stalking, so avoid your stalker at any cost. And do not agree to have contact with a person if you think they might be stalking you, especially if you’re alone. If you feel you’re in danger, call 911 immediately.

Step 3. Improve your security

Enhance the security measures in your life, such as door locks, alarms and security cameras. And pay special attention to your online persona. It is crucial to keep your personal information confidential as much as possible. Do not post your address, phone number, financial information and other intimate details of your life on social media.

Do not use the location feature on your posts or stories. And don’t post about a future trip or a festival you’re planning to attend. If you have a car, make sure to check the vehicle every time before you drive it. Look for any new GPS equipment that you didn’t add to the vehicle. And check for tampering of the brakes or engine before you drive.

Step 4. Tell people

Even if you are not completely sure about being stalked, talk to key people in your life about a potential threat. Give them as much information as you can about the stalker. This should include a general description of the stalker, their vehicle, and the times and places they tend to show up. This will help you feel less alone, and it can be used in the investigation if something happens to you.

Step 5. Gather evidence

Document and save all messages, texts, voicemails, letters, and cards from a potential stalker. Photograph things like a door forced open, a damaged lock or a suspicious car repeatedly parking next to your home. If you have to talk to the authorities, keep a detailed log of the stalker’s conduct. Dates, times, places, actions and threats are easier to explain and remember when you write them down.

Step 6. Change your routine

When you go out for walks, shopping and other activities, try to change your route often. Have a safe place other than your home where you can go in case of an emergency. This could be a public park, a police station, a shelter, a place of worship, or a friend’s house.
Stalking can affect anyone at any point in their lives. It can be a frightening and life-altering experience. So it’s important to stay vigilant, ask for help, and stay close to people who think they might be in danger.

You don’t want the stalking to escalate to something worse, like kidnapping. But don’t worry, if that does happen we’ve got just the video to help you get out alive.

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