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tools_for_sex_workers: stalkers

How to handle stalkers

Stalkers are one of the professional hazards of being a sex worker. In this guide, I'll cover steps you can take to avoid being stalked, and some suggestions for what to do if you are stalked.

Keep in mind cops have no duty to protect you. Many people have been killed by attackers with restraining orders against them. You should assume that you're wholly responsible for your own self-defense.

Note that you shouldn't necessarily do all of these things. Rather, they are intended to illustrate steps you could take. However, whether they are appropriate to your situation depends on a number of factors, such as how aggressive the stalker is, what resources are at your disposal, and your temperament.

How to avoid stalkers
  • Screen carefully. Try to get the client's real name, phone number, email, and work address. Check to make sure that they are not on any of the blacklists.

  • Require new clients to leave a voice message with their screening information. If they fail to do so, or if you don't like the sound of their voice, ignore/block them. People can easily change phone numbers and emails, but it's hard to change one's voice.

  • Set and enforce boundaries early. For example, you may have clients who start to ask for your time off the clock. They may offer you a ride, ask you out for dinner, or want you to engage in conversation with them. Here's how to decline such invitations without bruising egos too much.

    “I appreciate the offer for dinner/smoke/ride but I like to keep boundaries strong because I don’t like to lead people on”

    “I have great visits with you and always enjoy myself unfortunately I can’t blur the lines of professional and personal for safety reasons, I’ve been stalked by clients before”

    “I love seeing you but I like to keep things how they are and just to our sessions, thank you for the offer”

    “I’m sorry I can’t keep in touch between appointments, unfortunately if I did that with everyone I’d never have time to myself, thanks for understanding I really appreciate that”

  • Listen to your gut. Your brain processes information at a subconscious level, and can pick up cues that your conscious mind may miss. Cues like voice inflection, eye movement, lip movement, body positioning, etc. If a client is giving you the creeps, listen! Remove yourself from the person's presence as quickly as you can. It's better to get a bad review or unwittingly annoy someone who is innocent than to be injured or killed by someone suffering from a mental disorder. The book The Gift of Fear goes into this in much more detail.

  • Online services, such Facebook and Google, often require a phone number to verify your account. Instead of giving them your real number, use a SMS verification service.

  • Use a burner phone or burner app. Always keep your work numbers separate from your real identity. I recommend two phones, one for your business (paid for with cash), and one for your personal life.

    I recommend that you get at least three phone numbers:

    1. Your "public" number for your websites and ads.
    2. Your "regulars" number. This is the one that you only give to regulars that you have met and plan on seeing again. That way, if a call comes on this number, you can prioritize them, and you know anyone who contacts you on that number is likley to be safe.
    3. Your "personal" number. This is the one you give to close friends and family.

    Use different area codes to make them more distinguished from one another. Keep them on at the same time by using two different apps.

How to handle a stalker

Despite your best efforts, you may still come to the attention of a stalker. Here are some strategies for discouraging them from continuing to pursue you further, and ways to protect yourself if they refuse to back off.

  • Tell the person firmly and clearly in writing that a) you do not want any further contact with them whatsoever c) that you will be filing a police report if they contact you further. Do not try to argue with them, insult them, or otherwise try to engage with them. Your goal is to communicate quickly and clearly that you don't want further contact. Don't be brusque from the start. Be polite, but be direct. For example, here's a series of messages you might send to a persistent would-be client:

    First message

    "John Smith,

    Thanks for taking the time explore the possibility of hiring my services. Based on our interactions thus far, I don't think I can provide the quality of experience to you that I set as my standard. Therefore, I must respectfully decline your request to meet with me. I wish you all the best in finding a provider who can be a good fit for you.

    With warm regards, [insert name]

    Second message:

    "John Smith,

    As I stated in my last email, I do not wish to provide service for you. Any further contact from you is unwelcome. Please do not contact me again by any method."

    Third message

    "Contact from you is unwelcome. Do not attempt to contact me again by any method. If you should continue to try to contact me again, I will submit a report to the police, along with any supporting documentation."

  • If they continue to contact you despite your requests, don't respond any further. Stalkers often get off on the idea that they are making you feel fear. By refusing to communicate with them, you cut off that source of pleasure for them, and hopefully, they will get bored and go away.

    However, keep a diary of every encounter. Save the stalker's messages, voicemail, letters. Likewise, tell people you trust what is going on. Ask them to keep a diary. You want to establish a paper trail and witnesses, so that if you ever need to defend yourself against the stalker, you aren't the one who gets convicted of assault.

  • If they remain polite, just ignore them. However, if they become aggressive and start threatening you, contact the police and make a report. Don't mention that you met them through sex work, but don't lie either. Just say the stalker contacted you through a social networking site. Sometimes stalkers will stop if they get a visit from police. Also, it's useful to establish an official record of his harassment, so that if you have to injure/kill him in the course of defending yourself, you aren't the one charged with assault/murder.

  • Submit the stalker's name and contact info to the blacklists at Safe Office, uglymugs, and ourlist.nl. This won't really help you defend against him, but it may be satisfying to know that you're helping to prevent him from doing the same to someone else.

  • Team up with some other sex workers in your area. Install the Cell 411 app, so you can alert each other if a client goes nuts on you.

  • Befriend your neighbors. Invite them over for a dinner party or two. If you're attacked, you want to be able to escape to a friendly place.

  • Consider taking a model mugging class, where you can practice-- with full force--what to do if you are attacked.

  • If you ever see him in public, start screaming at the top of your lungs "Help me! Help me! This man is going to attack me! Help me!" while pointing your fingers at him. Set off a personal alarm. This will draw attention to him, which will hopefully embarrass him and cause him to leave the scene.

  • Walk through your daily routine, and identify places where you would be vulnerable to attack: public garages, unlighted streets, subway. Plan out what you would do in each location. Which shops are nearby? What are their hours? Where you can you hide? Where dead-ends/traps to avoid?

  • Stop by the shops in your neighborhood, and show them a picture of the guy (if you have one). Tell them that he's been stalking you and ask them to let you know if they see him in the shop.

  • Seek out your local SWOP chapter and befriend other sex workers. Social support from people who understand what you're going through will help boost your mood, and reduce your anxiety.

  • Ask a friend to stay with you until this blows over.

  • Consider going on tour. If you have friends and relatives in other cities, ask them if you can stay with them until he gives up.

  • Get a roommate. Get multiple roommates.

  • If you have few ties to your current city, consider moving to another city.

  • Get an intimidating dog, like a German Shephard or Rottweiler.

  • Move to an apartment with a doorman and a gated entry.

  • Hire a driver to take you to appointments. Avoid public transit--take Uber or Lyft instead.

  • Start a program of weight training. Build up your muscle and strength. Not only will this increase your ability to defend itself, it will boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and keep you fit.

  • Keep a tactical flashlight in your car, your purse, bed, and door. Use it to blind a would-be assailant. Practice using it as a baton to strike an assailant.

  • Carry a baseball bat/defensive cane in your car. Practice swinging it with full force against a would-be assailant.

  • Carry bear spray. Buy several cans, and practice using them.

  • If you live in a state where you can do so, get a concealed carry permit and a handgun, and learn how to use it.

  • Beef up the frame, lock, and strike plate on your door, so it can't be easily bashed in. Install bars/security screens on your windows.

  • Install a visual doorbell, so you can see who is at your door, before answering, or getting close to the door.

  • Install security cameras around your house / apartment. Install motion sensors.

  • Hire a detective to create a dossier on him. Find out where he lives and works. Find out his vehicle license plate number. Find out if he has children, a wife, a mother. Have a heavily tattooed, tall, burly guy deliver the dossier to him at his office, and ask him ever so kindly not to contact you again.