A stalker is a person who maintains careful awareness and takes excessive interest in another individual. This close attentiveness may potentially cause a person to become fearful or intimidated. Stalking is illegal and can possibly be associated with threats and bullying. There are several different categories of stalkers, including those who seek reconciliation or revenge from an ex-partner, those who pursue “true love”, those who are socially awkward, and those who are mentally ill and dangerous. These categories are obviously representative of different motives, agendas, and levels of threat. The Graduate is a movie that exemplifies both a person seeking reconciliation along with one pursuing true love. After rejection from Elaine, Ben follows her to her college campus, rents a nearby apartment, and proceeds to break up her wedding. Much to Mrs. Robinson’s dismay, Ben’s perseverance pays off with a happy ending.
Whatever the category, individuals should be vigilant in identifying potential stalkers. A stalker can be recognized by their constant and relentless need to make contact. This person may use various methods of communication that may include calling, emailing, texting, or using social media. If the amount of contact feels overwhelming and makes a person feel uncomfortable, it may be a sign of stalking.
Another way to identify stalkers is by spotting someone who is too possessive or clingy. They may be adamant in knowing what another person is doing or where they are going at all times. They may insist on being invited to certain events or may try isolating a person from family, friends, and loved ones. They may inflict guilt trips, show distress, become aggressive if a person tries to maintain independence, or randomly show up when unexpected. If they proceed to pop up when unannounced, it can be an indication that they do not respect independence, privacy, or boundaries. If an individual is consumed with knowing the exact whereabouts of another person, it is likely linked to some type of stalking behavior.
Another sign of a stalker is when they know more than they have been told. If a person has more information than has been divulged to them previously, they may have conducted their own research. A person may seek information in regards to where a person lives, works, attends school, or socializes. They may learn as much as they can about family members and friends in addition to understanding and scrutinizing routines, schedules, and patterns of behavior.
A more obvious indicator of stalking can be when another person damages or defaces property, sends threats, letters, or pictures through mail, or when a place of work or residence is closely monitored. This person uses threats, intimidation, and coercion to instigate fear. This individual may be paranoid or show other signs of mental illness or of a personality disorder.
A less obvious sign of stalking can occur through harmless, but unacceptable forms of social behavior. A person who is socially awkward or unaware of what is socially acceptable may try to pursue a relationship or friendship with another person in ways that are inappropriate. This is a person who is not threatening and does not show obsession, but rather has few relationships, low self-esteem, and poor social skills.
Once a stalker is identified, a person should respond by taking careful measures to maintain their safety. Depending on the type of stalking, a person should be assertive, increase security, and alter usual patterns. In instances of dangerous or threatening stalking, a person should notify law enforcement immediately and refrain from being alone whenever possible. Elaine in The Graduate was oblivious and unaware of Ben’s presence until he made himself visible. Interestingly enough, most of us would probably categorize Ben’s actions as a series of romantic gestures; however, in reality, it is really creepy stalking at its finest.
Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.