A disturbing number of women I know are being harassed and threatened by men who won't take no for an answer. Although circumstances vary, and I'm by no means an expert on the subject, here's what I would do if I were in a similar situation:
1. Learn. AWARE (Arming Women Against Rape or Endangerment) has a very useful list of resources . AWARE's book, Safety for Stalking Victims: How to Save Your Privacy, Your Sanity, and Your Life may be a good place to start.
2. Buy a gun and learn how to use it. Take the following NRA Basic Firearm Training Classes: "Basic Pistol", "Personal Protection", and "Home Firearm Safety". Consider applying for a concealed weapons permit.
3. Document. Keep a journal. Note the time, location, people present, and behavior of any interactions between you and attacker. Save e-mails, letters, gifts, phone messages. Take pictures of any injuries or property damage. Tape your phone calls. Contact your attorney to find out how to best set up the recording apparatus to maximize it's effectiveness as legal evidence.
4. Surround yourself with friends/family. Avoid dark, poorly lit pathways. If you live alone, consider getting a roommate. Consider also getting a large dog, such as a mastiff, rottweiler, or german shepherd.
5. Talk. Tell your families and friends what is happening. Establish routine contact with family or friends so that they will know if you're missing. Tell friends where you will be, and when you expect to be back. Carry a cell phone with you at all times.
6. Avoid. Don't respond in any way to the stalker's attempts to maintain contact. If possible, avoid places where you are likely to meet the attacker. If you can afford it, get a second unlisted phone number. (You can use the original number to document the stalker's phone behavior). Set up a separate e-mail account that you only give out to friends and family.
7. Consider taking a IMPACT/Model Mugging class. From the course description: "... In an emotionally supportive environment, you will practice both verbal and physical skills with our fully padded mock assailant. With this unique physical training method you can deliver full force, full contact, knock out blows to vulnerable areas on the padded assailant's body in dynamic, interactive fights. Training also includes verbal self defense strategies practiced in role playing scenarios in a wide variety of contexts - dealing with strangers as well as people you know..."
8. Wait. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAW) (as cited by this site: ):
"...In the United States of America, about two-thirds of all stalking cases last a year or less, about a quarter last 2-5 years, and about a tenth last more than 5 years.
On average, stalking cases last 1.8 years. (21 months)
However, stalking cases involving current or former intimate partners last, on average, significantly longer than stalking cases involving nonintimate partners (2.2 years and 1.1 years, respectively)..."
From the same site, stalking stops because:
The victim moved 19%
The stalker got a new love interest 18%
Police warned stalker 15%
Victim talked to stalker 10%
Stalker was arrested 9%
Stalker moved 7%
Stalker got help 6%
Victim got a new love interest 4%
The stalker died 4%
Unexplained - it just stopped 1%
Stalker was convicted of a crime 1%
What other steps do you readers recommend?
(Image courtesy of the inimitable Oleg Volk. )