In 1996 Congress passed an anti-stalking law as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Under this law it is a federal felony to cross state lines to stalk or harass an individual if the conduct causes fear of serious bodily injury or death to the stalking victim or to the victim's immediate family members. It is a federal felony to stalk or harass on military or U.S. territorial lands, including Indian country (18 U.S.C. § 2261A). It is also a federal crime to cross state lines or enter or leave Indian country in violation of a qualifying Protection Order (18 U.S.C. § 2262).
For a description of other Violence Against Women Act Statutes see Federal Domestic Violence Laws brochure available from your local United States Attorney.
A state law has been enacted in California to deal with the crime of stalking (Penal Code § 646.9).This law specifically prohibits a person from willfully, maliciously and repeatedly following or harassing another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place a person or his or her immediate family, in reasonable fear for his or her safety.
A person who commits the crime of stalking when there is a temporary restraining order, injunction orother court order prohibiting such conduct, or commits the same offense after having been convicted of a prior stalking conviction shall be subject to enhanced penalties.
A sentencing court may also require a person convicted of a stalking felony to register as a sex offender. A sentencing court shall also consider issuing a restraining order prohibiting victim contact that may be valid for up to 10 years. Both federal and California state laws prohibit a person subject to a qualifying protective order from possessing a firearm.
If You Are In Danger, Find A Safe Place To Go Such As:
Homes of friends or relatives preferably unknown to the stalker
Family crisis shelters
Crowded public buildings or places
After You Are Safe, Notify Appropriate Police Agencies
Give an accurate description of the stalker, his or her vehicle, address (if known) and a recent photograph if you have one.
Notify security personnel in apartments and/or appropriate personnel at your work place, or children's school, and other places that are a part of your normal routine. Ask law enforcement about security measures they can initiate. Some agencies have alarms available for stalking victims or "panic button" alarms can be rented from private security agencies.
As well as helping to protect you, by reporting a crime of stalking, police can keep an independent record of the incidents, which can assist them in developing a threat assessment of the stalker.
Police reports may also help you get a protection order from a court or demonstrate that an existing order has been violated.
Stop All Contact With A Stalker- Now And For Good
Consult with a victim servicesprovider about creating a personal safety plan...and follow it.
If you believe the stalker truly poses a threat, consider obtaining a restraining order, but be aware that service of the order to the stalker may provoke a response.
Document Stalking Behavior
It is important to keep a record of incidents which may support a criminal prosecution.
Record dates, times of day and places of contact with the individual who is stalking you.
Log any telephone calls and save answering machine messages.
Save any correspondence from stalker, including the envelope.
Document threats in detail.
Provide names and addresses of witnesses to any incidents to law enforcement or a prosecutor.
Other Illegal Acts
If the stalker has assaulted you physically or sexually, has entered your home without permission, or has damaged or stolen your property, report it to police. They should also photograph injuries to your person or damage to your property. These are separate crimeswhich can be prosecuted.
Ways To Increase Your Home and Personal Safety
Telling a stalker that you don't want to talk to him is still talking to him or her. Stop all contact.
Treat any threat as legitimate and call police immediately.Install dead bolts. If you lose the key, change the locks.
If possible, install outside lights activated by a motion detector.
Maintain an unlisted phone number. If harassing calls persist, contact telephone company security and they can assist you with options to trace the origin of such calls.
Use a telephone message machine to screen calls. This documents contact by a stalker, for police.
Vary the routes you take and limit the time you spend walking.
Keep children and pets indoors and always under supervision. If you have children in common, arrange through the court for the exchange of custody or visitation through a third party.
Tell trusted relatives, friends, a landlord and neighbors about the situation.
Provide family, friends, neighbors and your employer with a photo or description of the stalker and the car he or she drives.
Advise your employer and co-workers of the problem and provide a picture of the stalker if available. If the stalker shows up at work, have someone contact the police, and avoid any personal contact.
Don't park in secluded areas.
Help Is Available
If you are a victim of a stalking crime it is normal to sometimes feel frightened and vulnerable. The following agencies exist to help victims of crime. Seek their help.
If you feel you are in danger, first contact your local Police or Sheriff Department.
Victims of Crime Resource Center 800-VICTIMS
For information on County Victim Assistance centers, victim compensation, local domestic violence shelters, and filing restraining orders.
Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Hotline 800-978-3600
Federal Bureau of Investigation: To report interstate stalking crimes 310-996-2000 (FBI Complaint Line)
Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE
National Center for Victims of Crime: 800-FYI-CALL or 703-276-2880
National Organization for Victim Assistance: 800-TRY-NOVA
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 303-839-1852
(Much of the information in this brochure was derived from Helpful Guide For Victims of Stalking: Published by The National Victim Center--1993) This Brochure may be Reproduced.