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What actions are considered to be stalking?

Stalking in New York and across the nation can be a dangerous behavior that is not limited to ex-spouses or former boyfriends and girlfriends. However, the behavior does not always seem dangerous. You may intend to be sweet or romantic by continuing to send gifts or letters to an ex-partner; however, these actions can get you into trouble.

New York’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence explains that stalking includes unwelcome interest from someone. The saving grace may be that you do not intend to threaten or harass your ex, which must be part of the formula in determining whether your actions fall under the heading of stalking. You should realize, however, that your ex may find your continued interest creepy, to say the least.

The state’s stalking law, enacted in 1999, considers the victim’s state of mind, not the pursuer’s intentions, and whether the behavior can cause a “reasonable fear” in the victim. Whether or not you intended to scare or harass your ex, and whether or not he/she is actually afraid, if your actions are enough to cause fear, then you may be committing a crime under the stalking law.

Stalkers are typically males who target female victims, and a prior relationship is not a prerequisite for one’s behavior to qualify as stalking. If you are trying to get the attention of a new colleague and go overboard by repeatedly calling, emailing and otherwise pursing this colleague, your behavior may fall under the definition of stalking.

Victims may experience any number of symptoms in reaction to being stalked, including extreme fear, rage, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. These feelings may cause them to withdraw from others, move, change jobs and keep them on edge throughout the day and night. Because of the ongoing stalking, victims may also begin to mistrust police and the court system.

Because stalking can be a terrifying experience for victims, the stalker law covers a broad range of behaviors, from repeated phone calls and unwelcome advances to following, kidnapping, assault and homicide/suicide. Stalking does not have to be a physical action, however. Cyberstalking is also possible, meaning that emails and other tech mediums, such as Pinterest or Instagram, can be used to harass and intimidate victims.

While you may think you are showing interest in someone new or want to rekindle a prior romance, remember that your actions may not be interpreted in the way you expect. The easiest way to gauge whether another person welcomes the attention is to just ask them. Then, respect their answer.

This general information is provided for your education, and should not be taken as legal advice.

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