What to Do if Your Teen Is Being Stalked

upset teen girl

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In the United States, 7.5 million people are stalked each year; and teens and young adults are particularly vulnerable. In fact, one study found that 48 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 18 who had been in a relationship had been stalked or harassed by a partner. Meanwhile, 42 percent of those teens also reported stalking a partner.

If your teen is being stalked, they are likely feeling anxious, alone, vulnerable, and stressed. They also may have trouble concentrating at school and difficulty sleeping at night. Because stalking has the potential to become violent in some way, it's important that you understand the complexities of the issue as well as what you can do to protect your teen.

What Is Stalking?

Stalking is a pattern of behavior that makes teens feel nervous, afraid, harassed, or in danger. According to the United States Justice Department, stalking is a crime that occurs when someone does something that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress.

Typically, stalking occurs when someone repeatedly contacts your teen, follows them, sends them things, or threatens them. Although anyone could potentially stalk your teen, stalking often occurs either as part of an abusive dating relationship or after the relationship has ended.

It also might be accompanied by digital dating abuse, cyberbullying, and cyberstalking. Here are some examples of stalking behavior:

  • Knows your teen's schedule
  • Shows up at the same places or events as your teen
  • Follows your teen or lurks near your home
  • Watches your teen from a distance
  • Drives by your home or your teen's workplace repeatedly
  • Photographs your teen without permission
  • Calls or texts them repeatedly
  • Sends them unwanted emails or photos
  • Writes them letters or leaves them notes
  • Steals things that belong to them
  • Damages their property
  • Threatens them or attempts to control their behavior
  • Spreads rumors or false information about them
  • Harasses them online through social media

How to Protect Your Teen

If your teen is being stalked, it's important that you take precautions to ensure their safety. Unfortunately, stalking behavior has the potential to escalate into physical violence and can even result in sexual assault. Be as vigilant as you can and never hesitate to contact the police if your teen is in danger. Here are your legal options as well as some safety strategies you can implement.

Legal Options and Strategies

It's important to remember that stalking is a crime in all 50 states. As a result, if your teen is being stalked, it's important to notify the police. Here's an overview of some of the things you can do to protect your teen using the legal system.

  • File an official complaint. Make sure you let police know about any stalking your teen has experienced as well as any threats that have been made. You also should let them about any damage to your teen's property. Even if there's nothing they can do initially, you will at least have a complaint on file should the stalking escalate or continue.
  • Request a restraining order or an order of protection. Although the laws vary from state to state, most people who have been stalked more than two times can get some type of protection order, which would require the person stalking your teen to stay away from them. If they violate the protection order, they can be held accountable by the police. However, keep in mind that many people who stalk others violate these orders, so don't assume that this order ensures your teen will be safe. You still need to take safety precautions.
  • Create a stalking log. Anytime your teen is contacted or stalked in some way, you need to add it to your log. Keep track of the date, time, location, and witnesses. This information is useful for the police as well as for an attorney in case you decide to hire one.
  • Save evidence of stalking. If the person stalking your teen leaves notes, sends photos, write letters, or sends emails, make sure you saving evidence of these things. All of this information can be useful for police who are trying to build a case against the person stalking your teen.

Basic Safety Strategies

When it comes to stalking or any unwanted attention, there are some things you can do to make your teen's life somewhat safer. Aside from insisting that they go out in groups, teaching them to be aware of their surroundings, talking about safe dating, and staying informed of their whereabouts, here are some other safety strategies that you can implement to help them deal with the stalking they are experiencing.

  • Identify safe spots in your community. If your teen is being followed, it's important that they know where they can go to stay safe. Also, if they drive, make sure they know where your local police station is and how to get there. You also should stress that they never delay in calling 911 if they feel they are in danger.
  • Practice cell phone safety. Encourage your teen to carry their cell phone with them at all times and to ensure that it's always charged. If someone is following them or if they feel unsafe, they need to be able to call for help and they cannot do that if they don't have their phone or the battery is dead.
  • Help your teen vary their routines. Your teen needs to understand that walking the dog or going for a run at the same time every day makes it easier for the person stalking your teen to know where they will be and when. Likewise, the person will know your teen's favorite hangouts, coffee shops, and even where their friends live. As a result, it's important that you help your teen change things up so that the person stalking them won't know where to find them.
  • Request that they go out in groups. Being alone, especially at night, is very risky for someone who is being stalked. For this reason, your teen should always plan to go in groups when they go out. Even shopping, running errands, and studying at the library should be done with a partner. There is just too great of a risk that comes from being alone.
  • Teach them to be cautious online. Posting about where they are or what they are doing gives the person stalking them way too much information. Even if the person stalking them has been blocked from their accounts, they can still find out the information from friends or acquaintances.
  • Help your teen create a safety plan. A safety plan can help your teen strategize about ways in which they can stay safe. Plus, putting together a plan can help them feel empowered and more in control.
  • Remind your teen not to respond to messages. It's never a good idea to respond to someone who is stalking, cyberbullying, or harassing your teen. Even just telling the person to stop could be enough attention to keep the person stalking them engaged.
  • Ask them to keep you informed. While your teen may balk at this request, it's important that they keep you informed of their whereabouts at all times. This way, if something happens, you will know approximately where they were and who they were with should you need to find them.
  • Talk to them about trusting their gut. Most teens tend to downplay things or assume that they are overreacting even when their gut is telling them otherwise. Talk to your teen about the importance of listening to themselves and trusting their instincts. If they feel like something is wrong, it likely is. Usually, this reaction is the first warning your teen will have that they are in danger.
  • Consider driving your teen or having them ride with someone. Usually, people that stalk other people are looking for opportunities to get the victim alone. If you, or someone else, is regularly with your teen, including driving them to and from school, then you are giving the person stalking your teen very little opportunity to interact with or harm your teen.

Safety Strategies for School and Work

If your teen goes to school with or works with the person stalking them, this can create a challenging situation that will need to be addressed by your local police and the school's administration. Make sure you talk about your teen's options and how they plan to keep them safe. Here are some additional tips for addressing safety issues in these situations.

  • Let employers and school officials know about the stalking. Even though being stalked may be embarrassing for your teen, it's important that other people know what they are experiencing. By letting them know, they can be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary and alert the police if they feel your teen is in danger.
  • Ask the school what they can do. If the person stalking your teen attends their school, it's important to work out a safety plan with the school administrators and resource officer if they have one. Sometimes, they can change your teen's schedule or locker. They also can be sure your teen has a student escort or buddy with them in the halls as well as appoint teachers to keep a watch on your teen. Don't hesitate to involve them in your safety planning even if the person stalking your teen doesn't go to the same school.
  • Help your teen identify escape routes. Your teen needs to know how to get out of unsafe situations should they occur at work or at school. Remind them not to go in dark stairwells or hallways alone and make sure they know different ways to get out of the places they do go. You also may be able to request that your teen be permitted to use the office bathroom instead of the public restrooms in the school where the person stalking them could follow them in.
  • Consider helping your teen find a different job. If the person stalking your teen works with them, you might want to consider helping them find another place of employment. Being forced to work alongside someone who is threatening them or scaring them with their behavior is not healthy for your teen.
  • Stress that your teen park in well-populated areas. If your teen drives to work, be sure they know to park in a well-lit and well-populated area. It also might be wise to make sure they have someone who can walk them to their car. Or, you could even consider driving them and picking them up from work.
  • Encourage your teen to use the buddy system. Whether at school or at work, help your teen identify trustworthy people that they can walk with or work alongside. Having someone else with them can give them a sense of peace when dealing with someone who stalks them on a regular basis.
  • Remind your teen to lock their doors. Whether it's their car door as soon as they get in, or the door to your home, it's important that your teen keep doors and windows locked to ensure their safety. People who stalk others are unpredictable and even if your teen thinks they would never hurt them, they still don't need to take any chances.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to stalking, most teens try to ignore the behavior or refuse to talk about it. But stalking is a serious issue that not only puts them at risk but also can have a significant impact their mental health.

For this reason, you should consider getting the help of a mental health professional. It's not uncommon for teens who are being stalked to experience anxiety, depression, and even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A trained professional can help your teen process their feelings. And, if your teen is in danger, do not hesitate to call 911.

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Article Sources
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  1. Nationwide Children's Hospital. Stalking and harassment: what to do if your child is being threatened.

  2. Rothman EF, Bahrami E, Okeke N, Mumford E. Prevalence of and risk markers for dating abuse-related stalking and harassment victimization and perpetration in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescentsYouth & Society. doi:10.1177/0044118X20921631

  3. U.S. Department of Justice. Stalking.