Stalking: Are you/have you?

January 13, 2009

images-11The Associated Press is reporting today that some 3.4 million Americans identified themselves as victims of stalking last year:

About half of the victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week from a stalker, and 11 percent had been stalked for five or more years, according to the report by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics… The most commonly reported types of stalking were unwanted phone calls (66 percent), unsolicited letters or e-mail (31 percent), or having rumors spread about the victim (36 percent).

The article also details the cost of stalking, from lost time at work (to hide out or submit restraining orders), lost jobs, fear, relocation and a host of other problems.

I’ve had only a few minor brushes with this scary phenomenon, which has gotten a lot of press in recent years. There was a guy in one of my college classes who reacted surprisingly aggressively when I wouldn’t go out with him, calling me to talk about his sexual relationships with other women (rather graphicly, but I was too inexperienced and polite to know to hang up on the creep) and following me around for a few days until he dropped the class and disappeared, much to my relief. That FELT like stalking.

But someone, for the past year or so, has been leaving little innocuous holiday gifts on my doorstep, with a note that says “Love, Joy.” I have wracked my brain and I can’t come up with who it might be. The gifts are small and harmless, and I haven’t paid much attention to them or worried when they showed up. But the giver is clearly unwilling to identify him/herself. Is that stalking? Do fear and intimidation have to be involved?

According to the researchers in the AP story, stalking is “a course of conduct, directed at a specific person on at least two separate occasions, that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” But a recently single midlife friend of mine has, since her divorce, attracted several sad-sack, underachieving older men who call her regularly but for whom she has expressed no interest. She calls them, in a kindly way, her “stalkers.” She doesn’t fear them, although she admits that they can get annoying. (No surprise, her underachieving ex-husband also calls her regularly to lament his life, so maybe she needs to set up some firmer boundaries…)

The crime channels are full of programs about women who were terrified and in many cases killed by men who were stalking them, and law enforcement appeared in many cases ham-strung by weak or non-existent laws against that kind of threatening behavior. But does unwanted attention have to be that extreme or go that far to be considered stalking?

The article also made me wonder if I’ve been guilty of stalking as well. I clearly remember, also back in college, when the-only-boyfriend-I-was-EVER-going-have-in-my-entire-life broke up with me. I admittedly went a little mad, daily driving by his apartment, hiding outside his classes to see him when he came in and out, pestering mutual friends about what he was doing and who he was seeing. I never did the call-and-hang-up thing, praise Allah, but I remember being pretty obsessed over him for several months until the passion burned out and I got my pride back. (What was I thinking? He was a DOPE.) Was I on some level a stalker?

One lesson I’ve learned over my 50+ years is that we humanoids, male or female, are intensely social and emotional creatures, a fact which often leads to some pretty irrational behavior. (That image of my college-age self, waiting in my unheated car in freezing rain outside Former Boyfriend’s apartment, still makes me CRINGE.) Add those too-human traits to a mind that is already unhinged in some way, and you have a disaster ready to happen.

Does this all stir any memories? Is stalking part of the human experience, some sort of Darwinian throwback? Can we not help ourselves?

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Stalking: Are you/have you?”

  1. byjane Says:

    MLB is starting up again this week…how do you feel about my posting this?

  2. msmeta Says:

    Of course. Edit at will!


  3. I have never been stalked but my daughter has. She has an old boyfriend who can’t grasp the idea that she broke up with him. It’s been over two years and he recently moved to the city where she attends college. It’s very unnerving, frustrating and down-right frightening. And as much as you hear about restraining orders, they are not as easy to obtain as one might think.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: