January is Stalking Awareness Month: How Can You SPOT a Stalker?
After a long week, you decide to spend Friday night journaling at your favorite café while sipping earl grey. The cupcakes look decadent so you bend down to select the one in the back with the sprinkles. Cupcake in hand, you rise and turn and bump into the guy behind you. You apologize for your clumsiness, give a half smile, pay the barista, and make your way back to the table.
A few days later, you go to your usual Wednesday morning spin class. The 5 am time slot is mostly filled with the same die-hard early birds, but this time, there’s a guy already warming up on your favorite bike. You’re somewhat annoyed because that’s your spot, but slide on to the one next to him so you can still get the same view. After class, you look over to catch a glimpse at the seat-stealer. Hmmm. Why does he look familiar? You shake it off and hurry home to get ready for work.
Your Sunday isn’t a Sunday unless you spend an hour at Trader Joes after brunch. How else would you be able to post a picture of your #groceryhaul on Insta? Walking through the aisles in search of the newest finds, and your trusty staples, you see a crowd standing in front of the sampling station. You just want to reach around, grab the mini cheese wedge and go, but there’s a guy in your way. As you slide to your right, he slides to his left, and turns around almost hitting your cart. Is that Mr. Seat-Stealer? And come to think of it, he looks like the same guy from the café. You start to think he’s following you, but second guess it. That’d be crazy; it’s all in your imagination—it’s a coincidence…right?
Coincidences are just coincidences, until they’re not.
Stalking is serious and it’s a crime. In fact, a month is dedicated to it–January is Stalking Awareness Month. If you’ve ever been stalked, or know someone who has been, you know it’s not about love or to be romanticized like it is on the Netflix series You. Stalking is about control and power—taking yours and strengthening theirs.
But how do you know you’re being stalked? It’s possible to have a situation like the above, but what if it’s not so obvious? What if you have no idea someone is stalking you? Begin to take action now. Nothing is foolproof, but you can begin doing these four things to try to help prevent a scary, or potentially deadly, situation in the future. To help yourself remember, think of it as SPOT.
Surroundings – Be aware of your surroundings. Notice the people around you. Put the phone down. Turn your earphone’s volume to a lower level.
Posting Locations – When you tag your locations so your friends can find you, chances are someone who is intent on stalking you can, too. Resist the urge to tag your every move, especially if you stick to a routine.
Oversharing – Commenting on social media. Watch what you say on your own social sites, but on the sites and pages where you comment. A simple comment of, “Oh, I love Frick Park. I go there every Tuesday afternoon,” tells a potential stalker where to find you just as easily as tagging your location does.
Trail – Keep a paper trail. If you begin to notice seeing the same individual no matter where you are, write it down. The time, the day, the location, what they were wearing, etc. Should you ever need it for documentation purposes with the authorities, you’ll have it.
Be safe out there and stay alert. If something doesn’t feel right or is causing you to question “coincidences,” by all means, trust your gut. SPOT the stalker.