10 Intriguing Facts About Stalking
Stalking is one of the most frightening crimes that can be inflicted on someone. Only those who have actually been subjected to the torture of a stalker can speak about the terror that is created by someone following their every move and abusing their privacy.
Despite the damaging effects that stalking can have on someone’s life, it is still a severely misunderstood crime. Whether driven by obsession, resentment, or a combination of factors, the results are always the same—hurt and pain for everyone involved.
10 Male And Female Juries Perceive Stalking Differently
In about 74 percent of stalking cases, a woman is the victim. So it stands to reason that female juries would be more willing to convict male stalkers in court. In a study, two hypothetical cases were presented to male and female jurors, and the results of the study are quite telling.
In the first case, the male defendant approached the female victim five times. (Legally, there must be at least two incidents for a situation to qualify as stalking.) Both male and female jurors made mostly equal judgments: 38 percent of women and 40 percent of men chose to convict.
However, there was a larger gap between the two groups in the second case. This time, the defendant approached his victim 30 times rather than five. Only 37 percent of the male jurors chose to convict, but a whopping 75 percent of female jurors found the defendant guilty.
The female jurors cited “fear” and “concern” when asked which words they would use to explain their guilty verdict. But the male jurors who chose not to convict explained their decision with words like “lovesick,” “no violence,” and “no harm.”
According to the researchers, the more you identify with the victim, the more likely you are to find a defendant guilty. As most females identified with the victims, they chose guilty. The opposite was true of the men who chose to free the male defendants.
9 There Are Five Types Of Stalkers
Stalkers have many motivations, including hatred, obsession, and a desire for intimacy. According to most experts, there are five types of stalkers, all with differing behaviors and motivations.
The first type is the rejected stalker, who begins to harass a victim after the unsatisfactory end of a romantic or perceived romantic relationship. A rejected stalker engages in stalking to continue to have influence over his or her victim.
The second type seeks intimacy even though the victim is unaware of the stalker’s feelings. The stalker believes that his or her actions will ultimately provide that intimacy with the victim.
The third type is the incompetent stalker, who is often socially awkward and tries not to approach the victim directly. Like the intimacy seeker, this person prefers stalking over actually attempting a normal relationship.
The fourth type is the resentful stalker, who feels that he or she has been humiliated by the victim after ending a relationship with that person. Resentful stalkers are more dangerous than the previous three types.
The final type of stalker, though, is the most dangerous. The predatory stalker doesn’t want intimacy or a romantic relationship. He or she wants power and control over the victim and will use fear and violence to instill a sense of helplessness in that person.
8 Stalkers Commit More Violence Than Most Other Individuals
Stalkers do more than psychologically abuse their victims. Studies have shown that some stalkers tend to be extremely violent in many situations. In comparison to most other criminals, including members of gangs and other organized crime groups, stalkers are far more likely to commit acts of violence toward their victims. However, the odds of extreme violence by stalkers are still much lower than many believe.
In most studies on violence, about 30 percent of criminals commit violent acts. For stalkers, it’s over 50 percent. The number is highest for sexually intimate stalkers like ex-husbands or ex-partners. Approximately 59 percent of these acts are committed by rejected stalkers who are angry about being spurned by former lovers. Predatory stalkers who want to control their victims engage in violence toward their victims about 50 percent of the time.
These types of stalkers are not above physically and sexually assaulting former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends. They commonly frighten or harm their victims with actions such as banging on a car hood, choking, kicking, or lunging with weapons.
With rejected stalkers, violence is often highly emotional and impulsive. Predatory stalkers are unemotional. Their violence is planned in advance to achieve the maximum level of fear.
7 Many Stalkers Don’t Feel They’re Doing Anything Wrong
While predatory stalkers deliberately commit horrible acts against their victims, many stalkers do not perceive themselves as harming their objects of affection. These stalkers are obsessive and feel that they are simply being “romantic” by constantly imposing themselves into their victims’ lives. Some even claim that they are protecting their victims. For example, an ex-husband who stalks his former wife may say that he is simply trying to see if his children are safe.
One stalker even wrote an extensive post on his blog about his motivations and actions. The post goes into detail about why he chose his victim and why he was obsessed with her. Then he tries to get sympathy by portraying himself as a victim of love.
The post, written by a man named Richard Brittain, is entitled “The Benevolent Stalker.” He compares his unrequited love to that of Romeo and Juliet and goes on to claim that modern society “drools over depictions of this intense, obsessional love, but only when it is mutual. When it comes from just one side, it is suddenly deemed a terrible thing.”
His obsession even led him to write a fantasy novel, The World Rose, with his object of affection as one of the main characters. After receiving treatment for his behavior, Brittain said that his obsession was delusional and wrong. But he apparently didn’t see anything wrong with attacking a female reviewer who panned his book.
6 Stalking Is Poorly Portrayed In The Media
There are many films and TV shows which portray stalking as humorous or romantic. These portrayals have created stereotypes which lead to misunderstandings with the public. Some of the stereotypes include the mentally deranged stalker who will do anything to be near his victim and the obsessively romantic stalker whose actions are portrayed as “love.” As Richard Brittain mentioned in the previous entry, modern society approves of obsessive romantics in fiction but not in real life.
Stalking is often seen as a type of “pursuit.” Despite a victim saying that he or she has no interest in a relationship, a stalker must continue, which brings to mind the popular saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Often, the portrayals of stalkers in films are sensational, with many movies overrepresenting violence and mental illness. To juice interest in these films, stalkers are shown to commit far more horrifying acts than may be true in real life. Also, the death of either the stalker or the victim occurs in 75 percent of on-screen relationships, even though this happens in less than 1 percent of real-life cases.
It is well-known that young audiences are easily influenced. As a result, stereotypical portrayals of stalkers might cause young people to believe that this kind of behavior is normal, especially with obsessive love. Like Brittain, they may believe that stalking will win the love of their “pursuit.”
5 Stalking Harms Every Part Of A Victim’s Life
The effects of stalking extend into just about every area of a victim’s life. Often, victims will have serious health and stress problems that are related to their situation. They have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. They also struggle with the loss of peace of mind. In addition, victims may suffer economic and social loss.
Many victims miss work, lose their jobs, drop out of school, move constantly, and cut off relationships because of their stalkers. Constantly missing work causes loss of pay, which may affect the financial well-being of the victim. Many victims also cut off relationships with friends and relatives because of their lack of trust. All of this combines to tear the victim apart.
Victims may also experience migraines, excessive fatigue, appetite changes, and other stress-related symptoms. Even if the stalking has ended, the terror for the victim isn’t over. Many report suffering from PTSD due to stalkers who harmed them in the past. All of this plays into the desires of the stalker, who wishes to control the victim. In short, the destructive influence of a stalker on a victim’s life goes beyond the emotional consequences to include physical, social, economic, and mental harm.
4 Stalkers Can Be Treated
When stalkers are finally caught and punished, it is often with jail time instead of rehabilitation. This has begun to change as more doctors develop treatments for stalkers so that they will see the error of their ways, stop their destructive behavior, and move on to become good citizens.
Frank Farnham, a forensic psychiatrist, has started treating dangerous stalkers. Although he admits that they have committed despicable acts, he says that the key to treating stalkers is to refrain from judging them. Many stalkers appear to be grandiose and narcissistic, but that is nothing more than a cover-up for low self-esteem.
Once the stalkers realize that their actions hurt themselves and others, they can begin to recover. Many stalkers also suffer from substance abuse, depression, or other mental illnesses, so psychiatric treatment can be quite effective. At Farnham’s treatment center, it generally takes eight to nine months. As of late 2015, 80 people have been admitted, and 25 have been released as rehabilitated.
3 Celebrity Stalkers Are Different
Celebrity stalkers are often more delusional than other stalkers and suffer from completely different conditions, especially erotomania and celebrity worship syndrome. Among other celebrities, Madonna, John Lennon, and David Letterman have all had stalkers. In the case of John Lennon, the stalker proved to be lethal.
Erotomania is a mental disorder in which a person believes that someone in a higher position in life—for example, a celebrity, politician, or even a boss—is in love with him or her. These types of stalkers delude themselves into thinking that meaningless gestures and actions are proof of affection.
Unlike stalkers who have previous relationships with their victims, stalkers suffering from erotomania have no real basis for their ideas. David Letterman’s case is a perfect example of erotomania. Margaret Mary Ray harassed Letterman and frequently trespassed on his property. She even stole his cars.
Although she seemed to be cured after spending 10 months in prison and another 14 months in a mental hospital, she later began to stalk former astronaut Story Musgrave. She eventually committed suicide in 1998.
Erotomania is just one of the many conditions that fall under celebrity worship syndrome. It is characterized by obsession, disassociation, and fantasy-prone ideation. Those who worship celebrities on a personal level, rather than those who enjoy celebrities for their work, are likely to be suffering from celebrity worship syndrome. There appears to be a high correlation between celebrity stalkers and addictive personalities, social awkwardness, and depression.
2 Stalking Is Vastly Underreported And Law Enforcement Is Often Ineffective
Despite the horrors that many stalking victims endure, only 37 percent of male victims and 41 percent of female victims report stalking incidents to law enforcement. Victims are terrified, frustrated, and often believe that law enforcement can’t do anything to help. Physical harm is a real possibility for these people, but many don’t take action to defend themselves.
However, the belief that law enforcement can’t help is partially true. Although it’s always a good idea to get the police involved in stalking cases, they are bound by laws and restrictions that often limit them to enforcing restraining orders only. As a result, nearly 20 percent of victims report that the police were ineffective in protecting them.
There are many other reasons why stalking is underreported. For example, many victims feel that these situations are a personal matter. Others believe that their cases are unimportant or that they lack evidence. Even if actions have been taken by law enforcement, 60 percent of stalkers continue their behavior.
Also, the law requires multiple episodes of harassment for a case to be considered stalking. However, law enforcement has begun to increase their response to stalking by working as a team with victims, mental health professionals, prosecutors, and community corrections officers.
1 Cyberstalking Allows Stalkers To Be More Efficient
Much of our lives can now be seen publicly in minute detail on social media. As a result, privacy has become a rare commodity. Cyberstalkers have learned to take advantage of this. The Internet and social media allow stalkers to gather information about their victims and harass them more easily than in the past. We are woefully unequipped to handle this new development effectively.
With the aid of electronic communication, stalkers can now track their victims’ every move, send them threatening messages, and even blackmail them. Some stalkers have tried to harm their victims by committing identity theft and publicizing private information.
One stalking victim, referred to as Anna, said that her stalker sent her 10 emails a day as well as photographs of her and her family. He engaged in aggressive and harmful verbal attacks toward her and started a Myspace page to smear her. She had to cancel plans, her relationships deteriorated, and she suffered from severe emotional problems.
For most stalkers, this is as far as they will go to control their victims. But some cases of cyberstalking can become lethal. After optometrist David Matusiewicz and his wife, Laura Belford, divorced, Matusiewicz began to send her threatening messages, followed her, posted slanderous messages about her on social media, and publicly accused her of sexually abusing their children.
None of this was true, and it took a huge toll on Belford. Apparently, Matusiewicz’s entire family was involved in this smear campaign. In 2013, Matusiewicz’s father gunned down Belford while she was walking to the courthouse for a child support hearing. He committed suicide at the scene.
However, David Matusiewicz, his mother, and his sister were all tried later as part of the murder plot. In 2015, they were all convicted in the first cyberstalking case that ended in the murder of a victim. Their convictions may result in life sentences.
Gordon Gora is a struggling author who is desperately trying to make it. He is working on several projects, but until he finishes one, he will write for Listverse for his bread and butter. You can write him at [email protected].