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​How to Stay Safe and Ward Off Stalking

  In the past, society considered stalking as more of a misdemeanor rather than an actual crime worthy of prosecution, with no mention of the act being found in the Criminal Code; in fact, before 2021, the only existing stalking-related regulations could only be found hidden inside obscure articles of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. However, recent tragedies induced by stalking, such as the 2020 CJCU Student Murder and the 2021 Shopkeeper Kidnapping and Killing cases have pushed lawmakers to strive for definitive change in the status quo; thus, the Legislative Yuan passed the new “     Stalking and Harassment Prevention Act” in November 2021, empowering law enforcement to take action against stalkers and prevent future misfortunes with the greatest alacrity.
  What constitutes acts of stalking and harassment? According to article 3 of the “Stalking and Harassment Prevention Act”, stalking and harassment can be roughly defined as “any behavior that, through methods such as the use of persons, vehicles or the Internet, seeks to repeatedly or continuously exert sexual or gender-related discomfort against a specific person against his/her will, to the effect of intimidating the victim and sufficiently affecting his/her daily life or social activities”. These behaviors include but are not limited to: stalking, following, discriminating, disrupting communications, serenading, sending unwanted gifts, displaying tarnishing messages online and misusing personal information. Those charged with violating the new bill will be subjected to a maximum 5 years in prison.
But how can one ward off stalkers? Civilians will do well to remember the 3Ps against Stalking:
  1. Prevention: Eliminate Potential Risks and Environmental Factors.
Stalking and harassment are the harbingers of potential violence. Upon discovering oneself to be the target of a stalker, besides assessing if the stalker’s actions could continue or escalate, it is also important to take additional steps to safeguard one’s personal information and privacy. For example, it is strongly advised to change passwords used on internet platforms on a regular basis, turn off GPS and internet tracking, enhance security in the form of surveillance cameras, or carry tools of self-defense while on the road.
  1. Calling the Police: Discern Danger Signals and Contact Law Enforcement.
It is key to trust in one’s instincts in the face of danger. If the potential stalker could do immediate harm, one must seek out crowded areas for help from others or the police. Aside from calling the 110 hotline to contact the authorities, the NPA has pioneered the “110 Video Reporting App”, which enables citizens to call the police with the press of a button. The App also actively records the conversation and pinpoints the exact location of the incoming report so that law enforcement can descend upon the scene immediately to safeguard personal and public safety. Last but not least, it also comes with a message or hand-typed reporting function for emergency circumstances where the reporter must remain quiet and hidden.
  1. Self-Preservation:  Gather Evidence and Take Steps to Enhance Personal Safety.
If met with stalking or harassment from unscrupulous individuals, it is paramount to record details such as the time, duration and location of the crime. If necessary, it would be prudent to replace household locks or change one’s contact number, mode of transport and even jobs and housing.
  In the field of inter-personal relationships, spending time and energy doesn’t guarantee success. A person’s zealous courtship could just as easily seem like stalking and harassment to another. Thus, romantic suitors ought to prepare their minds to accept refusal and respect the free will of the pursued. The TCPD would like to assure those who insist to enforce their one-sided ‘romancing efforts’ on the unwilling, that as mandated by the “Stalking and Harassment Prevention Act”, the long arm of the law shall brook them no quarter.