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Victim of Stalking? Know Your Legal Options

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Stalking is very scary for the person being stalked, but it's not always easy to know what to do to make it stop.

The term stalking is somewhat overused, especially when it refers to "Facebook stalking," which generally involves behavior that's not illegal. Under most states' laws, stalking is defined as a pattern of harassing or threating someone.

Once you know that what's happening to you is legally considered stalking -- i.e., it happens repeatedly and makes you feel unsafe -- then you have several legal options.

Stalking is a crime, so you can report it to the police. If prosecutors charge the stalker, then there will be a criminal case against that person. Some victims feel that is empowering enough, but others want personal justice.

Stalking and harassment can also take the form of harmful actions against people and property, which can be the subject of a personal injury lawsuit. For victims who want to hold their stalkers accountable, a civil suit could provide some monetary compensation for the physical and emotional harm done.

A lawsuit takes time, and the process can be too much for some victims. Even if you don't sue your stalker, the law will still provide you with protection.

A restraining order is one tool available to keep violent or harmful people away from you and your loved ones. While restraining orders are generally used to protect against physical violence, they can also order an alleged harasser to stay away from a victim altogether.

A restraining order isn't always enough to keep a stalker away, but violating a restraining order is a crime. Police can arrest someone for that even if they don't have enough information to make an arrest for stalking.

A restraining order violation can also be used against your stalker if criminal charges are brought.

Stalking, like other kinds of violence, can make a victim feel powerless. But the law is designed to help in those situations. If you're in that situation, it may be a good idea to find a lawyer who can help.

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