Q. What is criminal harassment?
Criminal harassment is more commonly known as stalking. It involves a pattern of behaviour that is intended to harass, annoy, or frighten. The stalker is obsessed with the victim, and cannot accept or cope with being rejected. After a breakup, a stalker generally feels angry at the rejection and wants to "take revenge" on the person who is blame for causing these feelings. Typical stalking activities include:
- persistently following someone
- spending extended periods of times watching someone's home and/or place of work or study
- making repeated contact by telephone, fax or email to someone and/or their friends or through letters or gifts by mail
- making contact with someone's neighbors or colleagues
- contacting and possibly threatening someone's partner
- vandalism or the victim's car or other possessions, and physical encounters
Stalking can be a particular problem for women who leave abusive relationships. The majority or stalkers are former intimate partners or dating partners.
Removed from the context of a violent relationship or breakup, the actions of a stalker might constitute legal behaviour. For example, sending flowers and waiting for someone outside her classes are actions that, on their own, are not criminal. Coupled with an intent to threaten or instill fear or injury, however, such actions may constitute a pattern of behaviour that is illegal.
Although every stalking case is different, a stalker's behaviour typically grows more threatening and violent over time. The stalking activity generally escalates from what initially may be bothersome and annoying but legal behaviour, into obsessive, dangerous and violent acts.
Q. What does the law say about stalking?
Stalking, or criminal harassment, is a form of harassment that is considered a criminal offence.
Q. What should I do if I am being stalked?
You should know that this kind of behaviour usually escalates; a series of harassing telephone calls may lead to direct threats and then to violence. Because you cannot predict the outcome, you should consider any stalker dangerous and avoid any contact or discussion with such a person. Get away from the person as soon as possible and notify the police of any incident of stakling. Because it is a criminal offence, the person will be charged by the police.
Q. What if a person is repeatedly contacting me over the email or the internet?
Using new technologies does not exempt a person from the law. The computer is simply one form of communication. The same laws apply and if it is threatening or repeated, it is still a criminal offence. If the message is anonymous, the sender can often be traced. Contact the police, or look under the Resources section for strategies to address this type of harassment at Queen's. Note that it is important to save any messages you may have received so that the sender may be traced, and as a record of the incidents.