Doctor’s Note: today’s column talks about stalkers and stalking behavior.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A friend of mine is being stalked by a man some thirty years her senior that she met though a college social organization. He has gone so far as to find where she is studying abroad and show up at her apartment.
She is taking the proper steps with authorities both in this country and the one where she resides, but there is little they can do at this point. She occasionally reaches out to the people in the student organization for information on his whereabouts and online activity as she has blocked him in every way possible and thus does not have access to his pages either.
However, recently some members have attempted to tell her to “just ignore him” and that she’ll be “a lot less stressed” if she just stops paying attention to him. They also asked “doesn’t she have a boyfriend?” and “it sounds like what she needs is a strong man”.
I just- I can’t. How- ARGH.
Can you please help me with my words? How can I articulate how NON-TRIVIAL an issue this is?
Friend In Deed
DEAR FRIEND IN DEED: Letters like this are not good for my rage. I’ve had people close to me who have been victims of stalking, and the number of folks who refuse to treat their VERY REAL concerns seriously makes me want to set them on fire with my brain.
You (the general audience, not you, Friend In Deed) want to know why women are on the look out for creeper behavior? You want to know why I don’t have much sympathy for people who complain that women over-use “creepy” to describe men and how unfair it is that men have to approach women and still worry about being called “creepy”? You want to know why I have no tolerance for the bullshit “Creepy behavior is anything an ‘ugly’ guy does” argument?
This is why.
Numbers time, Stalking Edition!
According to the CDC:
1,006,970 women are stalked in the US annually.
1 in 6 women have been stalked in their lifetime.
87% of stalkers are men
Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases.
76% of female murder victims had been stalked.
Stalkers frequently vandalize property, threaten family members, kill family pets, and have assaulted, raped and murdered their victims. Even when the stalker doesn’t attack his victims physically, they suffer emotionally and financially as well. Over a quarter of stalking victims have lost time from work or even lost their jobs because of their stalker and a third require psychological counseling because of their ordeal.
This is why I have no patience for people who try to dismiss women’s concerns as “overblown” or “overreacting” and they should relax. This is why I don’t have any regard for those who complain about creep-shaming and that they need to be more considerate to someone who may be socially awkward for fear of offending their feelings.
Guess what folks? Your feelings being hurt doesn’t rank as important as not wanting to be stalked or assaulted.
Case in point: FID’s friend who had a stalker follow her out of the goddamned country.
FID, your friend is doing everything right. If she hasn’t already, I would recommend that she look into getting a protective order or whatever the equivalent of a restraining order would be in the country where she’s staying. The United States Embassy should have resources to help her navigate the legal system as someone who’s there under a student visa.
I would also HIGHLY recommend getting a restraining order against him back in the states, including prohibitions against contacting her in any way. It would make the difference between the cops saying “Well, he’s done nothing wrong” and having them haul his ass away for violating an RO when he decides to “surprise” her on campus.
And again, assuming that she hasn’t already, she should make sure to inform her university that she’s being stalked. Campus security, faculty and staff should be alerted to her stalker’s behavior; it would hardly be the first time that a stalker tried to get information from staffers who didn’t realize the seriousness of the threat.
And speaking of seriousness:
The student organization is doing your friend a massive disservice by dismissing her concerns. Telling her she should “ignore” him and suggesting that “she needs a strong man” is telling her not to worry her pretty little head because she’s “overreacting“; they’re patronizing her for having a very real fear for her safety for her safety from someone who is continuing to present a real and present danger to her. This isn’t about a bad break-up, this is about someone who is legitimately afraid for her life.
You might want to point out to the student organization that the fact that her stalker tracked her down and showed up on her doorstep in ANOTHER GODDAMN COUNTRY is a sign that his behavior is escalating to dangerous levels. Hit them with numbers. Point out just how many times stalkers have threatened to hurt their victims (over 45% of cases) and how many stalkers violated restraining orders (80%).
And, assuming your friend has retained a lawyer (and I strongly suggest that she does), then I would suggest that she have him make some very pointed suggestions about the potential liability to the university and the student organization in particular if she would be hurt -or worse – by a member of their group. Quite frankly, if it takes making veiled legal threats to get them to quit treating this as a joke and actually help keep your friend apprised of her stalker’s whereabouts, I’m all in favor of it.
Good luck, and please keep us updated.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org