Stalking is Not Funny, Yet is Treated as a Joke

I recently heard something on television that talked about stalking in a lighthearted manner. But this is not the first time I’ve heard stalking talked about in a lighthearted manner. For example, I’ve frequently heard people say in a lighthearted manner that they “Facebook stalked” someone.

These jokes, this lightheartedness, about stalking need to stop.

Stalking is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the act or crime of willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death especially because of express or implied threats; broadly: a crime of engaging in a course of conduct directed at a person that serves no legitimate purpose and seriously alarms, annoys, or intimidates that person.” Clearly, this is not a lighthearted matter. To the contrary, it is something that harms others.

And to think that many of us treat such harmful actions as a joke? I hope we stop doing that, as individuals and as a society. This casualness with which we talk about stalking is destructive in two ways.

First, it gives a wrongful impression of what stalking is and what damage can be caused by stalking. By making casual, even joking, remarks about stalking, we make it seem like it is no big deal when in reality it is a very big deal, such a big deal that it hurts the victims (at least emotionally or psychologically) in all cases and results in criminal charges for the perpetrator in some cases.

Second, it belittles the experiences of past stalking victims. The status quo is reducing the experience of stalking to a set of jokes and lighthearted remarks. These experiences should not be belittled, but instead listened to.

I acknowledge that I may be criticized here for “not taking a joke.” While I understand the criticism, I must also say that “jokes” about actions that harm people, such as “rape jokes” and “stalking jokes,” are really not funny.

But if it’s not funny, what should our attitudes be on stalking?

First, we should educate ourselves on what stalking is. Second, we should also educate others, as appropriate. Third, if you know someone who is a victim of stalking, please encourage the person to call 911 (if you live in the United States) or the equivalent emergency number in your country if there is immediate danger. Furthermore, if you know someone who needs support because of stalking, encourage your family member/friend to consider actions such as calling a crisis hotline, telling security staff at your job/school, developing a safety plan, and more.[1] Finally, if you know of resources for stalking specific to countries outside the United States, it would be great if you provide those resources in the comments section below.[2]

Stalking is a problem, not a joke. But if we take the problem seriously, maybe we can also take steps as a society to treat it—and talk about it—seriously.


[1] The Stalking Resource Center provides a variety of ideas, tips, and resources for stalking victims. Follow this link to see some of those ideas, tips, and resources

[2] While this post brings attention to how stalking is not taken seriously, I hope that it can also be a resource for those who take stalking seriously.

14 Replies to “Stalking is Not Funny, Yet is Treated as a Joke”

      1. Brendan, I have a second blog that was opened in July 2015 for the distinct purpose of reporting the cyberstalking that I experienced. After I exposed the culprits, they stopped. In fact, several have apologized for their actions. However, a person worst that the originals began cyberstalking me in Nov. 2015. I’ve written posts about his course of conduct on both blogs. As well, I report on arrests made for cyberstalking, harassment and swatting.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow. Honestly, I don’t know what else to say about what you experienced. Just…wow.

        And I haven’t noticed/haven’t thought about how extensively you’ve written on stalking until now! Thank you for your advocacy on this issue, Xena. Really, thank you feels inadequate to say. We need more voices on this issue, and I really appreciate that you’re one of those voices.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for this very important post. I agree with you absolutely and yet see the comments about cyberstalking as well. There is a balance there. Part of the creation of fear in some cyberstalking is that it will become a physical danger through stalking as we know it or through manipulating self-harm. There is another post — in general — about the mental violence of joking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Maren. I see the comments about cyberstalking, but also about stalking more generally. But regardless of that, stalking in any form results in fear that should not be belittled.

      That’s a really good idea for a post (a post on the mental violence of joking). It’s an idea I will definitely consider for the future. Stalking jokes, as well as jokes related to many other traumas, do connect to that theme of how joking can be mentally violent. (And let me know if I am, or am not, thinking along the lines of what you are thinking, because that is an important topic.)

      Like

  2. If you know someone who is experiencing stalking, it is important to believe them! That is always the first step.

    Then, ask them what they need. It might feel like you need to immediately take steps such as call the authorities, but being in a situation like this takes the sense of control from the person involved and we don’t walk to make that worse. Try your best to put the sense of control back in their hands!

    Great post! Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very very true. When we talk about subjects like stalking or often seems like a person is too serious but in reality a lot of people have died by stalking mostly by a former partner or ex lover! People get trafficked too and it really isn’t a joke.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a great post and thank you for bringing awareness to the issue. Online stalking does contain the possibility of turning into something dangerous but I do agree there is a fine line between stalking and sadly how easily accessible information is regarding people online, and I feel Mark Zuckerberg breached that because stalking encroaches on an individuals right to privacy and still many companies require that we give consent if we wish to use their website and these are often websites we need to use.

    I think something that I find really worrying is that I recall once walking down a secluded street which in appearance looked like a safer alley because of its spaciousness, however, it remains secluded. Some man kept following me and luckily there were police officers who were at the street at the time and I approached them to let them know. They told him to back off and stop following but they also informed that unless harm happens I cannot do anything about it even though the guy had been following me for a good couple of minutes. We shouldn’t have to feel like a burden and it shouldn’t only be reported once the harm is done, reporting it should be an acceptable preventative measure. I was left feeling both relieved and disappointed. On the whole stalking front in a law enforcement sense, it doesn’t get treated seriously unless the victim is a celebrity which is frustrating as if the rest of us are not valuable or worthy enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You raise some really good points.

      Ultimately, the problem is that stalking is not taken seriously. Not online stalking, not the physical stalking you experienced. Whether it is jokes about Facebook stalking or physical stalking not being enforced in certain ways with law enforcement, it just doesn’t seem to be taken seriously. Instead, it is still treated as the subject of one-line jokes and is not treated seriously like it should.

      Liked by 1 person

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