Exploring The Grey Areas of Stalking
Stalking is often assumed to be an obvious or violent act including threats, assault or major crimes carried out by a crazed stranger. Unfortunately, it can also include behaviours that are much harder to prove in court like: trying to get private information about someone without their permission, sending someone things – even nice gifts – that they don’t want, or repeated and annoying phone calls. The majority of stalkers are also not strangers but people the victims know; current or former partners, neighbours, relatives, co-workers etc.
In a world where women are raised to be polite and cordial no matter the circumstances, these problematic behaviours are often tolerated by the victims no matter how uncomfortable they are, which can be seen by the stalker as encouragement. The result is often isolation and gaslighting of the target, and eventual escalation by the stalker. We need to normalize talking about these more subtle forms of stalking to educate people about just how traumatic they can be. These acts are not flattering, sweet, or signs of dedication. They are a form of abuse because they are used to scare, threaten and control the victim 1.
These more subtle forms of stalking are largely unreported since they are hard to prove, hard to get a conviction for, and any punishments for this type of behaviour are hard to enforce. Most people don’t want to rock the boat because they are scared of how their stalker will respond. What I do know is that almost every woman I spoke to about this project, and even a few men, had their own stalker story to share. It is so pervasive, and yet while it is happening, you feel so alone.
1 Information from a METRAC booklet called “What you need to know about Stalking: A Guide for Service Providers”