Being stalked by someone can sometimes become a harrowing experience, which, can lead to a number of psychological issues if it is not dealt with correctly.
Despite common belief, there are almost as many men stalked than there are women. There are of course a considerable number of reasons as to why a person is being stalked, sometimes, there is no malicious or vindictive motives involved, it could be obsession, as is often the case with celebrities or people who receive media attention. Stalkers are often considered “loners”, individuals who have an unseen desire to know what their victim is doing as often as they can, the stalker will have an obsession to know everything about their victims life, from simple things, such as, what they eat, where they shop, what there hobbies and interests are.
Fortunately, the majority of stalkers can be harmless, they simply want to become a part of your life but realise they wouldn’t be accepted so therefore take radical measures to ensure they know everything the victim is doing, wearing, watching, eating and so on.
However, as a victim of being stalked, it can often be frightening, annoying or pose as a threat. None of us want someone knowing everything about us, where we live, who are friends and family are or details about our personal life without knowing anything about them. Paparazzi are often misinterpreted as stalkers due to their insatiable desire to capture an image that will sell to the highest bidder, always on the look out for that “money shot” of a celebrity dressed in nothing but jeans and t-shirt on their way to the shop to get some milk! Sad as it is, it is the society we live in. People, in particular, fans of celebrities and pop artists, love gossip and news about their idols and anything that discredits them is also great news for Joe Public.
There are several things you can do to prevent or limit being stalked.
Do everything you can to avoid all contact with your stalker
Inform those close to you (family, friends, co-workers) about what is going on
Obtain a restraining order (Contact a solicitor)
Make sure you have quick access to critical telephone numbers and transportation
Arrange a safe alternative place to go if needed
Keep your doors locked at all times (house and vehicle)
Park your vehicle in well-lit areas, and do not go out to the parking lot alone
Change your routine (such as travelling a different route to work each day) in order to avoid any activities that may be predictable to your stalker
Report all incidents of stalking to your local police
As the police require evidence in order to charge an offender with stalking, be diligent in keeping all physical evidence you have received (such as letters, gifts, voice mails, and emails), and keep a written log of the intangibles (such as dates, times, and locations where you saw your stalker following or watching you, and the names/numbers of other witnesses)
The most important thing you can do to help yourself, or your loved ones, in stalking situations is to be informed, and make sure that those around you are also informed. You do not have control over a stalker’s behaviour, and it is nearly impossible to predict who may become a target of stalking. But if you know the symptoms to watch for, and are aware of the law, then your chances of resolving the issue early on will be that much greater.
There are three main types of stalkers: Erotomaniacs, Love Obsessional Stalkers, and Simple Obsessional Stalkers (also known as Ex Intimate Partner Stalkers). What they have in common is an unhealthy fixation on their targeted victims. What separates them is their motivation in pursuing those victims.
Some commonalities to watch for in stalkers are as follows:
They often abuse alcohol and/or drugs
They generally have a low self-esteem coupled with an obsessive personality
They have had few personal relationships
They have a desire for power and control over their victims
They will most likely deny that they have a problem, or that they are doing anything wrong, and will try to minimize the reactions their victims have to their behavior
They will rationalize their behavior by blaming their victims, or anyone else who tries to intervene
They will often reject arguments by their victims, or others, to cease their stalking behaviors and seek psychological help from a medical professional
Stalking Is Illegal:
Subsection 264 of the Criminal Code states:
(1) No person shall, without lawful authority, and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in the conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.
(2) The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of (a) repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them; (b) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them; (c) besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them resides, works, carries on business, or happens to be; or (d) engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.
In plain English, below are some examples that better describe the Stalking/Criminal Harassment behaviors referred to in subsection 264 of the Criminal Code:
repeated, unwanted contact by telephone calls/hang-ups, letters, cards, faxes
repeated, unwanted contact over the Internet in chat rooms, newsgroups, or through email (also known as “cyber stalking”)
sending unwanted gifts of any kind (pleasant gifts such as flowers, candy, toys, books, jewelry, pictures, et cetera; or, strange gifts such as bullet casings, lockets of hair, bloody clothing, et cetera)
showing up uninvited wherever you happen to be
stealing/opening your personal mail to find out more about you
ordering/canceling goods or services on your behalf
following you, watching you, maintaining surveillance on you
threatening to harm you, your family, friends or pets
harassing your family, friends, colleagues, or your employer
convincing his/her friends to spy on you, or harass you (sometimes referred to as “stalking by proxy”)
filing multiple frivolous court claims against you in order to harass or simply keep in touch with you
vandalizing your property
breaking into your home/office
kidnapping you, holding you hostage
If convicted of this offense, men/women can face up to five years in prison. However, in order for their conduct to be considered Stalking/Criminal Harassment in a court of law, it must first meet the following five key elements:
The offender engaged in the conduct described in subsection 264(2):
One overtly threatening attack can justify a charge of Criminal Harassment, such as verbally or physically threatening another person’s physical safety or life. However, statistics have shown that stalking behavior need not be overtly threatening in order to be potentially dangerous later on; therefore, repeated contact that poses an implicit threat to the victim is also grounds for a charge by police. When using the word “repeated,” this means that the offender carried out any of the above-mentioned behaviors more than once or twice.
The offender did not have lawful authority to engage in the prohibited conduct:
Sorry – but you can’t charge creditors with stalking, even if you fear their repeated phone calls! Unfortunately, they have lawful authority to collect on any debt if your payments are in arrears.
On a more serious note: unlike the creditor, a past union or marriage between the offender and his/her victim does not constitute lawful authority. This means that an estranged husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, brother/sister, et cetera, does not have the right to continually contact you if you have asked to be left alone. Everyone has the right to end a consensual relationship if and when they choose to end it; so, if your ex won’t leave you alone and this frightens you, you have the right to protection under this law.
The offender knew that the victim was harassed, or was reckless/willfully blind as to whether the victim was harassed:
A lack of intent to harass or cause fear is not a defense. The issue is the effect the stalking had on the victim.
When prosecuting Stalking/Criminal Harassment cases, the Crown does not have to prove that the offender knew the victim feared for his/her safety, or that the offender was warned the behavior in question was a criminal offense. The victim does not even have to be forceful in rebuffing the defendant’s attention. In other words, it is expected that the offender should have known that repeatedly bothering his/her victim would, reasonably, have the affect of making him/her feel harassed.
To be safe, victims of stalking should contact the police early on, file a formal complaint with them, and request that an officer contact the offender with a warning. If this does not put a stop to the offender’s behavior altogether, it will at least tell the stalker that his/her victim has a protective barrier in place, and it will also help the Crown Prosecutor’s case in convicting the offender later on.
The conduct causes the victim to fear for his/her safety or the safety of someone known to them:
Fear for safety is not restricted to a victim’s fear for his/her life or physical safety. If a victim fears for his/her mental, psychological, and/or emotional safety, this is enough to warrant a charge of Stalking/Criminal Harassment.
The victim’s fear must be reasonable in all the circumstances:
Determining reasonableness of fear requires that a subjective test be done to learn the effects the offender’s harassment had on the victim: What is the entire history between the victim and the accused? What was the sequence of events that led up to the victim’s present state of distress? Has the victim provided physical evidence and/or a detailed log of these events? Does the victim appear to be a credible witness who is telling the truth, or someone who is lying to police in order to avenge the accused?
In cases where there is one or more overtly threatening assault on the victim, reasonableness of fear can be more easily determined; however, history tells us that escalation of any of the above behavioral patterns is cause for concern. The very fact that the accused engaged in the repeated, unwanted pursuit of his/her victim is a strong indicator that something is very wrong. Another sign is the victim’s current state of health in comparison to where they started.
The Health Effects of Stalking on Victims:
In the beginning of this article, we discussed some of the universal emotions victims of stalking report feeling. The sad truth is that the potential health consequences don’t stop there – not by a long shot. Not only can this type of harassment affect an individual’s mental and emotional wellbeing, but many also experience serious physiological reactions as indicated below:
Potential Effects of Stalking on a Victim’s Mental and Emotional Health:
Denial and self-doubt Self-blame
Insecurity Shame and embarrassment
Frustration Low self-esteem
Self-consciousness Shock and confusion
Emotional numbness Isolation/disconnection from other people
Being easily startled A loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
Feeling suicidal A loss of trust in others and in one’s own perception
Potential Effects of Stalking on a Victim’s Physiological Health:
Sleep disturbances Nightmares/flashbacks
Problems with intimacy/sex Low concentration levels
Lethargy Phobias and panic attacks
Digestive problems Fluctuations in weight
Dermatological breakouts Headaches
Dizziness Shortness of breath
Self-medication with alcohol/drugs Heart palpitations and sweating
After suffering from prolonged stalking, or one severe/threatening incident of Criminal Harassment, a victim’s symptoms may even be triggered by other people, objects, or situations that remind them – either consciously or unconsciously – of the trauma they experienced. This is a sign that they may be suffering from Acute/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that they require immediate medical care through psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two.
As we are about to learn, when discussing the typologies of stalkers, another real “health concern” for victims of stalking is the possibility of sexual/physical assault or murder. This threat is very real. It should never be taken lightly and escalates the importance of reporting any stalking incidents to police right away.