75 percent of women have been followed by a stranger

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. 3.4 million people over age 18 are stalked each year – a huge number! Most people are stalked by someone they know and about 10 percent are stalked by a stranger. One form of street harassment is being followed by a stranger, but being followed once by a person does not seem to characterize stalking, otherwise I think the stranger stalking statistic would be much higher.

In fall 2008, when I informally surveyed over 900 people in 45 states and 23 countries about their experiences in public spaces, 75 percent of the 811 women said they had been followed by an unknown person at least once. Anecdotally, I’ve received numerous story submissions for this blog from women who had a strange man follow them.

Being stalked or being followed once by someone can be characterized as romantic or flattering to the target, mainly if they are of the opposite sex. Both behaviors are not. In one of my survey questions where people could say how different behaviors they were the target of made them feel, most women said being followed made them fearful. Being followed was second only to being assaulted for how much it upset them. My scariest experiences have been when unknown men have followed me, too. You don’t know what they want or what they intend to do.

Have you been stalked? Followed once by a stranger? What happened? How did it make you feel?


2 Responses to 75 percent of women have been followed by a stranger

  1. sarah says:

    The first incident was while i was walking home..this man in a pickup truck slowed down on the side of me but kept driving, turned around and drove by me a second time, then continued to do this until i ran down a side street. He began to come up the street on my left so i hid in a dark space in a doorway of this building. He actually drove by, stopped and then backed up a little before speeding off. Iran home as fast as i could and locked the doors.The second incident was a year later {this past summer} i was walking again to the store and a guy in a pickup truck drove by me several times slowing down as he passed and then pulled in front of me and asked me to get in. I couldnt see his face because the truck was so tall.then when i ignored him and kept walking he peeled off, so i picked up the pace, then i saw him turning around in a parking lot, so i went into the nearest store and asked them to use there phone. I know now that i should have reported it to the police but i was so scared at the time i didnt know what to do.

  2. Sarah (not the same one as above) says:

    When I first got my labrador retriever I took her for a walk one evening, it was about 6 pm but as it was winter it was already dark. A man was walking behind me and gave me the creeps. I sped up, he sped up, I slowed down, he slowed down. I stopped he stopped. I was getting really jittery, other than him I was alone on the street. I heard him closing in on me and when he was about 2 feet away from me my lab suddenly growled and went for him, hackles up. She didn’t bite him but he ran for the hills. I’d hate to think what he might have done to me if I hadn’t had her with me. I may have wound up on the front page of the local paper! The fact that he didn’t yell at me to control my dog makes me think he was up to something. An innocent man wouldn’t tolerate something like that.

    I also had a neighbour who used to wait for me to come home from work (I lived in an apartment and I’d see him looking out the window for my car). He’d meet me at the door and follow me up the stairs to my apartment (I refused to take the elevator when he was there so I wouldn’t be trapped with him). Most nights he’d just say good night at my door but one day he stuck his foot in my door as i was trying to close it on him. He said that I was a beautiful girl and that he would love to take pictures of me (yuck!). I finally managed to push him out of the way and close my door. I called the police and they basically told me that although that’s typical behaviour of a stalker (no shit sherlock!) not to let it bother me. He was later arrested for sexually assaulting another woman in the building in the laundry room. If the police had taken me seriously perhaps she would have been safe. Oh yes, they also found several pairs of women’s underwear in his apartment (probably stolen from the laundry room) and I was not the only woman to suspect he was using his master key (he was the maintenance man as well) to go into our apartments when we were at work.

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