What You Need to Know About Stalking
By Alix Rogers, Legal Aid Society
Hannah Viverett, known on TikTok as @hrviverettewent, went viral in November when she posted a video of her stalker breaking into her second-story apartment. Viverett was filming a video of herself dancing in her living room when her balcony door opened and a man walked inside.
She had seen the man several times before at her apartment complex. He had made her feel uncomfortable in the past, but she had not interacted with the man until he was standing in the doorway of her home. Viverett was able to safely escape the situation and her stalker was arrested. The video has since gained national attention from Buzzfeed and other online news outlets.
Stalking is a crime that affects millions of women and men across the country, including here in Middle Tennessee. As we observe Stalking Awareness Month throughout January, Legal Aid Society wants you to know what stalking is, why it’s so dangerous and how you can keep yourself safe.
What Stalking Is
Tennessee law defines stalking as “a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested.” T.C.A. 39-17-315(a)(4). Stalking happens when someone does something that the other person did not consent to on two or more occasions that makes the other person feel reasonably harassed.
It’s important to remember that stalking is a pattern of behavior. Sometimes, stalkers do things that, when looked at by themselves, would not seem that serious. But when you look at the stalker’s pattern of behavior, the abuse becomes clear. Common examples of stalking behavior include the stalker following their victim, showing up at the victim’s work or sending unwanted gifts. But stalking can take on many forms, especially in our digital age. Stalkers may also call or text their victim repeatedly, monitor their computer use or use GPS to track them. At its core, stalking is the same as any other type of domestic abuse — it’s about coercion and control.
According to data from the Metro Nashville Police Department, one in 12 women and one in 45 men are stalked in their lifetime. This number is likely higher, as research shows that less than half of stalking incidents are reported. Many times, a victim knows their stalker. For 59% of female victims and 30% of male victims, their stalker is an intimate partner. Usually, the stalker is male. No matter how it happens, stalking is never the victim’s fault.
If you are the victim of stalking, you can take several steps to help keep yourself safe.
- End contact with your stalker. Make it clear to the stalker one time that you do not want to be contacted by them. If you can, do this in writing or record yourself so there is proof. Then, cut off all contact.
- Document everything. Document each time your stalker contacts you or comes around you. Keep all texts, voicemails and phone logs that show your stalker contacting you. Make a log of each time your stalker drives by your house, shows up where you are or otherwise harasses you. If your stalker destroys your property or injures you or your pets, take pictures.
- Alert people you trust. Make sure your friends, family and coworkers know what is going on, so they can be on the lookout for suspicious behavior.
- Meet with an advocate. Advocates at the Legal Aid Society and other nonprofits can help you create a safety plan, tell you about the laws in Tennessee and connect you with other resources that may be helpful.
- Call 911. If you are in danger, call 911 for help. Stalking is a serious crime.
An Order of Protection May Help
In Tennessee, a victim of stalking may be able to get an Order of Protection. While stalking carries criminal penalties, victims of stalking and other domestic abuse can also get an Order of Protection through a hearing in civil court. An Order of Protection can be a powerful tool for abuse victims by ordering a stalker to stay away from the victim and end all contact with them. If a stalker violates an Order of Protection, they can be arrested.
If you are the victim of stalking or other domestic abuse and you think an Order of Protection may help keep you safe, call Legal Aid Society at 1-800-238-1443. Our family law practice group serves abuse victims in 48 counties across Middle Tennessee.
About Alix Rogers
Alix Rogers is an attorney in the Murfreesboro office of Legal Aid Society. Her practice focuses on helping survivors of domestic abuse gain safety and independence from their abuser.
About Legal Aid Society
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands advocates for fairness and justice under the law. The nonprofit law firm offers free civil legal representation and educational programs to help people in its region receive justice, protect their well-being and support opportunities to overcome poverty. It serves 48 counties from offices in Clarksville, Columbia, Cookeville, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Oak Ridge and Tullahoma. Legal Aid Society is funded in part by United Way. Learn more at www.las.org or by following the firm on Facebook.