ABUSE INSIGHT: Cornwall Community Hospital Assault and Sexual Abuse Program

Sarah Kaplan

Your daughter’s boyfriend is always texting her. After they broke up, he left her favorite coffee by her locker at school. Flowers came for her every few days. Messaging on Facebook and Twitter were non-stop. Is this love, remorse or could it be something much more dangerous like stalking?

The Criminal Code of Canada defines stalking as criminal harassment where behaviours include repeated contact (physical, visual, email, verbal or physical proximity) with a person who does not consent to such contact.

So in the above scenario, should we be worried? Absolutely! Stalking is a series of steps that escalate as the stalker isn’t getting his/her needs met. It usually starts with courtship as above but can quickly move through the stages of surveillance, communication, symbolic violence and physical violence.

There is a strong link between stalking and dating violence and/or domestic violence.

Teenagers are constantly messaging – so how do we discern between this form of communication and stalking. With stalking there is a desire to know everything about the movements and intention of the person being stalked. There is an underlying or overt controlling aspect motivating the contact of the stalker. One quick way to determine whether the contact is dangerous is to tell the person sending the messages/gifts etc to stop. Do they? What happens then – does the form of contact escalate? Does the content of the messaging escalate from something like “I want to be with you” to “you have to be with me – no one else can have you. If I can’t be with you I’ll kill myself.”

If this should happen to you or someone you know and you are not sure what to do, check it out on-line. See if the behaviours match definitions of stalking. If you receive anything that is clearly threatening, do not ignore this, call the police immediately. Keep copies of emails, take pictures of unwanted gifts, save scary texts; these can all be evidence.

Remember stalking is not the same as having a secret admirer. A secret admirer wants the best for you and is afraid to tell you. A stalker wants to own and control you and is not afraid to tell you.

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