Stalking – when devotion becomes a crime

Everyone has no doubt heard of stalking. Where does devotion end and stalking start? Stalkers pester their victims by following them everywhere. Their behaviour becomes annoying and threatening. The safety and privacy of the victim are affected to a considerable degree. Stalking takes many forms: from sending repeated letters or text messages, making incessant phone calls, or attempting to make repeated contact with a person in their personal space (at leisure facilities, their residence or workplace) to constantly following someone.

Possible consequences of stalking for the victim

The victims of stalking may suffer from disrupted sleep or even nightmares, find it difficult to concentrate, become more nervous or jumpy, and experience anxiety and panic attacks. This may impinge on a victim's private life and limit their personal contacts and freedom. It has a significant impact on a person's quality and zest for life.
In serious cases, stalkers may even perpetrate violent injuries or damage property. In worst case scenarios victims may even contemplate suicide, and may have no other option but to move to another location or workplace in order to escape the stalker.

Former partners or spouses are often the victims of stalkers. However, fleeting acquaintances or complete strangers may also fall prey to stalkers. We often hear of celebrities being stalked. For example, the actress Nicole Kidman or entertainer Robbie Williams were so plagued by fans that it significantly impinged on their life.

Since 31 March 2007, stalking is a criminal offence pursuant to section 238 of the German Criminal Code and can be penalised with a prison sentence of up to ten years.


Tips against stalking

Convey your disinterest

Tell the stalker only once but in no uncertain terms that you are not interested in him and that you do not wish any contact with him. Then you should just ignore him. Any further response from you, even one of rejection, encourages the stalker in his behaviour.

Stop telephone harassment

Install an answering machine. This allows you to listen to who is calling first, before answering the phone. If the stalker is calling, you should ignore him. Important: Use someone else’s voice on the answering machine and do not use your name. You can also ask your phone provider for an unlisted number and caller ID.

Do not accept any unexpected mail

Return packages and parcels that you have not ordered to the sender.

Tell your family, friends and colleagues

Let your family and friends know that you are being stalked and ask them for help. You should not hide the fact that you are being stalked from your colleagues. This makes it easier for them to take appropriate action if your stalker should come to your place of work.

Keep a log

Write down each time the stalker contacts you. Which means every call, every letter, every text, every visit, every gift etc. This can be used as evidence in the event of a court case.

Go to the police

Do not hesitate to involve the police. If your stalker follows you when you are out, go directly to the nearest police station. As a result, it may be possible for police to intervene directly.

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