Stalking refers to repeated contact at any time of the day or night by post, email, phone, text message or instant messaging, or ambushing, observing and following at home or place of work or other locations, questions and contact via third parties, and threats.
What is stalking?
Stalking means lying in wait for somebody or sneaking up on somebody. It refers to repeated, intentional and systematic threatening, harassing and following of another person, which trigger a sense of fear in the person targeted and make them feel threatened or compromised on a psychological, physical and/or social level.
Stalking-related behaviour usually occurs in conjunction with other behaviour, including:
- repeated contact at any time of day or night (by post, email, phone, text message or instant messaging)
- ambushing, observing and following at their home, place of work or other locations
- questioning and contact through a third party
- breaking into the victim’s home to spy on them
- insults, slander and false accusations
- damage to reputation via social media or at work
- intimidation and threats (e.g. of violence or suicide)
- extortion, kidnapping, physical or sexual violence
Cyberstalking is a specific type of stalking where electronic communication devices and technology are used (social media, email, apps, GPS systems, etc.).
Is stalking punishable by law?
Switzerland does not define stalking as a separate criminal offence, but many of the actions covered by the term stalking usually constitute other criminal offences. The most common include:
- Assault (Art. 122, 123 und 125 StGB) or acts of aggression (Art. 126 StGB)
- Theft (Art. 139 StGB) or criminal damage (Art. 144 StGB)
- Threatening behaviour, coercion and extortion (Art. 156, 180 und 181 StGB)
- Offence against personal honour (Art. 173–177 StGB)
- Misuse of a telecommunications installation (Art. 179septies StGB)
- Unlawful entry (Art. 186 StGB)
You can contact a victim counselling centre for a precise assessment of your legal situation. It offers free advice and can also refer you to a lawyer if necessary. Additional information about the legal situation can be found here.
What to do in case of stalking?
If you are being stalked
- If you feel threatened or are in acute danger, call the police (tel. 117). It’s the police’s job to provide assistance and offer protection.
- Find professional support:
- Contact a women’s shelter in your region if you need protection, a place to stay and counselling. Click here for a list of all women’s shelters.
- Contact a victim counselling centre in your region or a specialist office at the cantonal police if you need counselling. Click here for a list of all victim counselling centres.
- Inform people in your social circle that you are being stalked. At best, they might be able to serve as a witness and it also helps to prevent them from unintentionally disclosing information about you.
- Set boundaries: Cut off all contact with the stalker by telling them once and very clearly (preferably in front of witnesses and/or in writing) that you do not want to have any further contact. After that, refuse any further contact attempts.
- Collect evidence, including messages, photos and medical certificates, and document all acts of stalking in a stalking journal. Include the date, time, location, any witnesses, how you felt and the consequences of the act. This is helpful in the event of criminal and/or civil proceedings.
If someone you know is being stalked
- If they are in acute danger, notify the police (tel. 117).
- Offer the victim support without pressuring them to accept it: since stalking frequently causes victims to feel helpless and withdraw from their social network, it’s important that you offer a sympathetic ear, help them go about their recreational and work-related activities and offer additional help (for example, accompany them to a victim counselling centre or the police).
- Contact a specialist support centre to find out what kind of support services are available. They have specialists with the information you need and who can take some of the burden off you. Click here for a list of all victim counselling centres.
- Refer the victim to the services offered by the victim counselling centres and women’s shelters. Click here for a list of all victim counselling centres by canton and here for a list of all women’s shelters.
- Tell the victim that several different acts of stalking are illegal in Switzerland. Laws are in place that protect victims.
- Protect the victim and yourself by trying not to leave any traces or indications of your whereabouts (addresses, phone numbers, etc.).