What is stalking?
Stalking can happen to anyone. Stalking often happens when someone is trying to leave a relationship.
Stalking involves following someone in a way that causes the victim to feel fearful or emotionally distressed. Here are some examples of stalking behavior:
Following someone on foot or by car
Watching someone at work or at home
Sending unwanted letters or emails
Making unwanted telephone calls
Leaving unwanted cards, flowers or gifts
Many stalking victims think they did something to deserve the stalking behavior. However, this is not the case: statistics show that stalking frequently occurs when someone tries to leave an abusive relationship.
59% of female stalking victims are stalked by their intimate partner
30% of male stalking victims are stalked by their intimate partner
Is stalking a crime in Pennsylvania?
Stalking is a crime in Pennsylvania. There are two basic elements to the crime:
The sta l ker must complete at least two acts of unwanted behavior,no matter how close or far apart in time they are, and
The victim must experiencereasonable fear of serious bodily injury or substantial emotional distress.
The County District Attorney makes the final decision to file criminal charges in criminal cases, including stalking charges.
How can filing a criminal complaint help keep me safer?
If you are being stalked and a criminal complaint is filed, you may be eligible for a victim/witness protective order. This is a type of order that prosecutors may request for victims and witnesses in any criminal case, including stalking cases. A victim/witness protective order will allow police to arrest the stalker more quickly. The court may order the stalker to stay away from your home, work, school or even your neighborhood altogether.
The requirements for a criminal victim/witness protective order are:
A criminal complaint must be filed;
The district attorney must request the protection from the court; and
The court must find there is substantial evidence that the victim/witness has been or is likely to be intimidated.
Stalking victims should know that victim/witness protective orders are sometimes hard to get and the protection they give the victim only lasts until the criminal case is decided. If criminal charges are not filed or if the prosecutor doesnt ask the court to issue a victim/witness protective order, you still have other options:
A Protection From Abuse order; and
A Defiant Trespass Letter
How can a Protection From Abuse order help me?
A Protection From Abuse (PFA) order is an important tool for any stalking victim because it allows the police to arrest the stalker, even if the police did not see the stalking behavior.
The process for getting a PFA differs in every county, but the law requires the court to accept your petition without paying a filing fee.
You will need to prove the following two things in order to get a PFA:
You are either related to the stalker, married or previously married to the stalker, you have a child(ren) with the stalker, or you have an intimate relationship with the stalker (either sexual or dating); and
You were followed or contacted by the stalker for no lawful reason and you fear that the stalker will cause you serious bodily injury. (There are other ways to prove abuse that do not involve stalking. Speak to a domestic violence advocate to find out more about PFAs.)
Once you get a PFA, you can ask the court to order that the stalker have no contact with you at home, work or school, as well as many other protections.
What is a defiant trespass letter and how can it help?
Sending a stalker a letter telling them that you do not want them near your home, work or school and that you do not want contact with them can be a powerful tool. This kind of letter is most effective if you can prove the stalker received it and the police get a copy.
While this strategy may work in some cases, be careful not to reveal more information to the stalker than is necessary. Contact an attorney or discuss this option with your local domestic violence advocate if you have more questions.
How do I change my identity or keep my address confidential?
Relocating or changing your identity sometimes are necessary steps, in order to stay safe.
Pennsylvania has a program to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking hide a new home, work or school address from their perpetrators.
For information about:
The Pennsylvania Address Confidentiality Program (ACP), contact ACP at (800) 563-6399
The legal process for identity change, contact your local domestic violence program for Cumberland County - (800) 852-2102 or (717) 258-4249 or Franklin County - (800) 621-6660 or (717) 264-4444
Who can I talk to about stalking?
If you are a victim of domestic violence and stalking, you can discuss it confidentially with a domestic violence advocate. See the list on the back cover of this brochure for county domestic violence resources or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.