Generally, yes. Stalking is more than just annoying. It can be quite serious in itself and may predict future violence. In Arizona, stalking is among the things that may justify a domestic violence order of protection or an injunction against harassment.
Stalking is essentially defined as persistent, unwanted pursuit. It can involve following you, making harassing phone calls, leaving unwanted messages or even vandalizing your property. It means engaging in a course of conduct that would cause the victim to suffer emotional distress or reasonably fear injury or property damage. This course of conduct can be done physically or electronically.
According to Psychology Today, about 3.4 million people, both men and women, are stalked each year in the United States.
About a third of the time, stalking eventually escalates into physical violence. In another 10% of cases, it leads to sexual assault. Even when it does not lead to additional violence, it can cause victims to experience anxiety, fearfulness, irritability, feelings of isolation, sleep disturbances and guilt. In some cases, victims report PTSD.
Your legal options after being stalked
Many people don’t know there are legal options to prevent and respond to stalking. Here in Arizona, stalking is considered domestic violence when the people involved are or were once intimate partners or family members. As long as you are in (or were in) an intimate or close family relationship with the person stalking you, you can petition for an order or protection. This can be done on an emergency basis when the courts are closed.
If your stalker is more distantly related, such as a coworker or acquaintance, you cannot get domestic violence order of protection. However, you can still apply for an injunction against harassment or injunction against workplace harassment, which provides many of the same protections.
A domestic violence order of protection is a court order meant to prevent the defendant (your ex) from contacting you, threatening you, stalking you or abusing you. It can also order the defendant out of your home, protect your children and pets and, if necessary, order the police to confiscate the defendant’s firearms.
Once the order of protection has been served, it goes into effect for a year. If your ex violates the order, he or she could face criminal charges.
If you are under threat of immediate violence, call 911. The police can help you apply for an emergency order of protection that lasts until you have the opportunity to file for a full order of protection.
If you are interested in getting a domestic violence order of protection, talk to an experienced family law attorney.