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.