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Stalking

Stalking, formally called criminal harassment in Canada, is a form of sexual violence and is illegal.

What is Criminal Harassment?

Criminal harassment is an offence in the Criminal Code of Canada that includes stalking. Criminal harassment is a persistent pattern of unwanted behaviour by someone that makes another feel fearful for their safety1.

It includes behaviours like following or watching someone, repeated calling, vandalizing someone’s property, sending unwanted “gifts” and threatening someone’s family/roommates. It can also include cyberstalking, like tracking someone’s location through GPS, sending harassing messages through social media or email, using spyware to track website visits or encouraging others to harass the person1.

Like other forms of sexual violence, stalking is a gendered phenomenon: in Canada, 8 out of 10 stalking victims are women, and 9 out of 10 stalkers are men2. At the same time, it can happen to or by anyone of any gender, and all victims of stalkers deserve support.

Women aged 15-24 and Indigenous people are overrepresented among victims of stalking2.

Types of Stalking

Many classification systems of stalking exist. One system commonly used in North America divides stalkers into the following types:

Simple Obsessional

“Simple obsessional” stalkers typically have a previous intimate relationship with the person they are stalking and can be motivated by revenge or the idea of coercing the victim back into a relationship3. This is the most common type of stalking in Canada4.

Eroromantic

“Erotomanic” stalkers believe their victim loves them, usually stalking someone of a higher status than them like a celebrity or supervisor1.

Love Obsessional

“Love obsessional” stalkers don’t have a previous intimate relationship with the person they are stalking but believe the person they are stalking is meant to be with them2.

Outside of the Shadows

Created by Ottawa-based activist Julie S. Lalonde and animated by Montreal-based artist Ambivalently Yours, this video project describes Lalonde’s experience of stalking.

Impacts of Being Stalked

Being stalked can have serious adverse impacts on someone’s physical, mental and emotional health, including:

  • Sense of shame
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Flashbacks
  • Constant fear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eating disorders2

These impacts may cause victims of stalking to lose or leave their job or school, leading to more adverse impacts on their well-being, such as loss of income or community.

if You’re Being Stalked

Firstly, know that if you are being stalked, it is not your fault.

Collect as much evidence as possible, including written records of each contact (date, time, place, what happened), pictures of notes and gifts, and screen captures of electronic communication. If you want to record feelings, keep this in a separate journal so it does not have to be submitted as evidence along with the records of contact. Let family, friends and roommates know what is happening and ask them to keep records of any contact.

In Ontario, you can legally end a rental agreement with less notice if you are fleeing violence. For a step-by-step guide on how to do this, visit the Ontario Women’s Justice Network.

For support if you are being stalked, contact the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office at svpro@mcmaster.ca, call your local police service or—if you are in immediate danger—call your local emergency number (911 in Canada).

1Department of Justice. (2017, January 9). A handbook for police and crown prosecutors on criminal harassment. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/fv-vf/har/part1.html

2METRAC. (n.d.). What you need to know about stalking: A guide for service providers. www.metrac.org/wp-content/uploads/woocommerce_uploads/2014/07/what.you_.need_.to_.know_.about_.stalking.pdf

3Government of Canada. (2009, April 9). Criminal harassment: Stalking. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/stop-family-violence/publications/criminal-harassment-stalking.html

4Department of Justice. (2003). Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/fv-vf/stalk-harc/pdf/har_e-har_a.pdf