6 Ways To Safely Handle
A Local Stalker/Fan (Stan)
6 Ways To Safely Handle
A Local Stalker/Fan
I’ll never forget the first time I was legitimately scared of a fan.
I was a 23-year-old reporter in my first market. I had only been on the job a few months, and had never experienced anything strange. Then, the email came.
It was from a man who said he loved watching me on the news. So far, nothing sketchy. Then, things got weird…
He told me I should come over to his house on my way home from work, and also said a lot of vulgar things to me. Then he gave me directions from my apartment to his house. HE KNEW WHERE I LIVED.
I started shaking. He didn’t live far from me, but there was no way he would know where I lived unless he followed me at some point.
I immediately told my boss, and a photographer brought me to the police department. An officer went to the address the man listed in the email, and whoever answered the door told them he didn’t send the email.
That was it. Case closed.
The police said there was nothing they could do because it’s not illegal to send an email.
I couldn’t prove that he had been watching me, and even though he described, in detail, some disgusting things he wanted to do to me—he still had not done anything illegal.
Plus, we couldn’t prove who sent the email. I was so scared. I was always looking around my surroundings, and making sure no one was following me home.
A month later, I moved into a new apartment with a roommate, and I never heard from that viewer again.
I have received letters from inmates who have written that if I wear blue on Tuesday it means I want him to come see me when he gets out of jail. I also met a woman who told me she had pictures of me all around her house, and would tell people I was her daughter. CREEPY.
A coworker had someone threaten to come to the station and kill her because she never responded to his requests for a date. Vickie Newton, a popular news anchor in St. Louis, was forced to quit her job and move back home after being aggressively cyber-stalked for more than 5 years.
Everyone in TV news, especially women, will receive some sort of “fan mail” in their career. Some of it is flattering and kind, while some is scary and could be a threat to you.
So here are a few tips on how to deal with stalkers and/or aggressive “fans” (stans).
1. If you are scared, tell someone.
If you receive an unsettling email, phone call, letter, text message or have a strange interaction with someone—tell a coworker. Better yet, tell a manager.
You need to have things documented so that everyone knows what’s going on. Sometimes a “fan” will try to get to you through your coworkers.
I’ve had people ask a coworker questions about me, and the coworker thought I knew the person—I didn’t. So make sure people know not to give anyone information about you.
If you feel like your safety is at risk, call the police. Never feel stupid about calling the police to report a threatening interaction.
There are stalking laws. Stalking can be charged as a federal or state crime.
2. Pay attention to who is around you.
If you’re leaving the station at night, have someone walk out to your car with you.
If you’re shooting a story by yourself, let a coworker know where you are, and if you don’t feel comfortable leave. Make sure no one is following you home from work, and if you feel like someone is following you drive to the police station immediately.
3. Don’t share too much on social media.
I know that personal information and selfies get a ton of interaction on social media, but be careful. Stalkers will pay close attention to where you are and what you’re doing.
They’ll use that information to try and trick you into thinking you’ve met them before. They could show up where you are, and try to meet you that way.
If your bosses have a problem with you not sharing personal information, explain to them your reasoning. Any boss who doesn’t understand that, is not a good leader.
4. Have protection.
A lot of women I know in the business carry pepper spray, or even a small taser, with them in their pocket so it’s easy to grab in case of an emergency.
Some companies do not allow this—so check on that first. I’ve heard hornet spray works well, too.
5. Don’t communicate with them.
You’re going to be tempted to respond to the letters, emails, or social media posts. Do not do that.
By responding, you could be sending this person mixed signals, which could ultimately make things much worse. Remember, stalkers are mentally unstable people, so even trying to tell them to leave you alone may not work the way you think it will.
6. Have a safety plan.
What will you do if someone shows up at your house? What if they show up at work? Have a plan on what you will do. Also, make sure you have a place you can stay that’s not your home.
Tell a friend what you’ll do if something bad happens. Maybe you can text them a quick and unique message that means you’re afraid for your safety. Maybe you could even tell your friend you will call and ask a strange question to let them know you need help.
Just make sure to let people know how they can help you. If you’re in immediate danger call 911.
If you’d like to talk with someone at the National Center for Victims of Crime, call: 1-855-484-2846.
Just slip out the back, Jack
These are all good tips, but let me add that you should document everything. Keep a log on interactions (visits, phone calls, etc.) and keep hard copies of correspondences. This can be important if you are in a position to get a restraining order or file charges.