Dr. Butch Losey
Author of Managing the Aftermath of Infidelity
It is bad enough that the affair has rocked your relationship. Now you have to manage a threatening intrusion of the affair partner's spouse (or the affair partner, or both). Along with all the dangerous and distressful aspects of harassment by a stalker, there is also the relational setbacks each time the affair partner's spouse calls, leaves a voicemail, email, or worse, shows up in your neighborhood. Each intrusion can lead to an emotional setback in your recovery and it may feel like you are back to square one.
It may have been suggested to you that you should send a communication by email, letter, or text, requesting the affair partner and their spouse to stop contacting you. This is helpful advice as an immediate action with the initial contact of the stalker, but then what?
Let's take a moment to consider why this person would contact one or both of you. It is common for the the affair partner's spouse to contact you to seek information about the affair from the betrayed partner, to give information about the affair to the betrayed partner, or to damage your relationship through threats or by inserting information in to your relationship. This information could be true or untrue. My belief is that the neither the affair partner or their spouse is a good source of information. Too many unclear motives to trust the message. Resist responding or contacting them for information.
There can be a mental health component to stalking. While many stalkers do not suffer from a mental illness, there is a high correlation between stalking and mental health issues. Some research shows that 50% of stalkers that are imprisoned have a mental health diagnosis.
Being a victim of stalking has its own mental health concerns. Stalking victims report a host of psychological and physical health effects, including depression, post traumatic stress, hopelessness, mood and panic disorders, substance use, and chronic health effects. Researchers have found that 78% of female intimate partner stalking victims reported clinically significant post traumatic stress symptoms while another study found 37% of victims met diagnostic criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Four golden rules
According to stalkingriskprofile.com there are four golden rules to follow if you are a victim of stalking. These are 1) have no contact with the stalker, 2) tell others, 3) increase personal protection, and 4) collect evidence.
Do not have contact with the stalker
After you have told the stalker to stop all contact, you, your family and friends should have no further contact with the stalker. The police should be the only ones to confront the stalker. If you happen to have accidental contact with the stalker, you should leave the location immediately. Do not confront the stalker.
Stalking victims may be reluctant to share with others that they are being stalked. Having others know can create safety and can help in providing witness to the behaviors of the stalker. Tell friends, family and coworkers what the person looks like, get a picture to them if you have one, describe the car they drive and give the license number if you know it. Posting this information in places can also be helpful.
Increase personal protection
Stalkers learn your routines and put themselves in places where they have a high likelihood of observing you or engaging with you. You will need to increase your own observation of your surrounding and make sure to mix up your routines.
Get your phone number unlisted and get help from coworkers to screen your calls and visitors. Change your social media presence by closing apps such as FaceBook or Instagram. Carry your cell phone with you at all times. Never walk alone and have people escort you to and from your car.
As soon as possible, begin documentation by creating a Stalking Incident Log to serve as a means for evidence preservation, which can help you in building a stalking case. Having a stalking incident log can also be presented to the police when you call them so that they can see the totality of the behavior. They are more likely to take action when they arrive on the scene of an incident. Stalking incident logs will also be very helpful in court.
Include everything in the log that you can remember. Document dates, times, and witnesses to the encounters. Include all encounters, no matter how small. A recent couple that I worked with hired a private investigator to observe their stalker's behavior and learned that the stalker had traveled past their home 90 times in a two-week period. The investigator determined that on 50 of those occasion, there was no need for the stalker to drive past their home, and only a very small probability that the stalker needed to do so on the other 40 occasions. This would be good evidence for the court.
Make sure to document telephone calls, places and times where the stalker is present and should not be, items left or sent, and keep emails electronically and in hard copy. Save telephone and text messages. Have a friend record your voicemail message to discourage the stalker from calling you to hear your voice.
Use your phone to take pictures of items in the locations that they were found. iPhones now have time stamps, so this will be helpful in establishing timelines. If photographing the stalker, use extreme caution, try not to be obvious and under no circumstances compromise safety.
Call the police and record your interaction with the police. Know who the officer was that responded. Present your stalking incident log so that the police can see that the stalker's behavior is one in a series of events. Only give them a copy of your log, not the original. Include copies of previous court orders related to the stalking situation. Ask to be kept informed of any contact the police have with the stalker so that you can be prepared for the possibility of retaliation.
Consider if you want to seek a protection order. Though in some cases protection orders can be an effective way to end stalking, it should not be regarded an automatic response to stalking. Challenges with protection orders include 1) they can create a false sense of security, 2) they can escalate the stalker's harassment, 3) they are not effective with people who have delusional beliefs, and 4) they can be less effective with individuals who are "ex-intimate partners". If used, a protection order should be considered one of a number of interventions to manage staking.
Hope this helps.
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Boehnlein, T., Kretschmar, J., Regoeczi, W. et al. Responding to Stalking Victims: Perceptions, Barriers, and Directions for Future Research. J Fam Viol 35, 755–768 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-020-00147-3
Dreke, R.J., Johnson, L. & Landhuis, J. Challenges with and Recommendations for Intimate Partner Stalking Policy and Practice: a Practitioner Perspective. J Fam Viol 35, 769–779 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-020-00164-2
Nichols, A.J. Advocacy Responses to Intimate Partner Stalking: Micro, Mezzo, and Macro Level Practices. J Fam Viol 35, 741–753 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-019-00125-4
StalkingRiskProfile.com (2022). General advice for victims.