Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Stalking

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It just so happens that I’m currently working on a presentation for stalking for school, so I figured I could share some knowledge with all of you. I will cite my sources the best I can and put them at the bottom, but know that they are journal articles so unless you’re affiliated with a university it’s likely that you won’t be able to access them for free.

Temporary note: Dr. Marshall, if you find this when checking my ABs for plagiarism this is me, I promise.

What is stalking?

Until fairly recently, stalking wasn’t a recognized crime, but it existed well before that. Personally, I know that my aunt was stalked before I was born and while she got a restraining order for harassment, the police didn’t do anything to put an end to her stalker’s pursuit of her. It wasn’t until she got married that he finally left her alone. The stalking went on for years.

In 1994 in California stalking was officially deemed a crime. In England and Wales, it was the Harassment Act introduced in 1997 that provided protection for stalking victims but wasn’t until 2012 that the word “stalking” was actually put in legislation to further protect victims (Scott, Nixon, & Sheridan, 2013). Stalking is defined as “repeated pursuit and harassment of another causing fear or bodily harm” (Menard & Pincus, 2012, p. 2184).

Because it is so new, there are some problems with its definition. For one, stalking is a gender-biased crime. Women are more likely than men to fear their stalker (Owens, 2015), and without the fear element stalking is simply considered harassment. These victims go through the same experiences, but when a women would fear a man showing up at her workplace a man might simply be annoyed if a girl who had been staking him showed up at his favorite bar. While stalking victims are typically women and stalking perpetrators are typically men (Menard & Pincus, 2012), any combination of gender or sexuality is possible. I had a very unlucky roommate who was stalked by a lesbian and a straight male within a single year.

Why care about stalking?

Estimates vary wildly for how prevalent stalking is in the United States. Some estimates guess that 2% of men and 8% of women will be stalked in their lifetime (Reyns & Englebrecht, 2012) to 7% of men and 16% of women (Kraaij, Arensman, Garenfski, & Kremers, 2007). Chances are that you know someone who has been stalked or has stalked someone.

Stalking isn’t just about someone calling you repeatedly and constantly checking up on your Facebook. It isn’t annoying or humorous, like some girls seem to think when they utter the phrase, “Ugh, he remembered my birthday, what a total stalker.” Men and women have been killed by their stalker or sustained other serious injuries. Women can suffer PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

In addition, stalking can affect women’s employment. Stalking has been associated with absenteeism from work, reduced productivity, and increased likelihood of losing their job. The victim’s place of work may be the easiest way to target her, so her performance at work may suffer. One study interviewed stalking victims and found that women reported on-the-job harassment, being disrupted at work, and job performance problems. One women described how during her shifts at an emergency room her stalker would call every five minutes asking to talk to her, disrupting her work and creating friction between herself and her coworkers. One woman reported that she was afraid to go out and look for jobs because she knew as soon as she hit the street her stalker would be there waiting for her (Logan, Shannon, Cole, & Swanberg, 2007).

Who is at risk for stalking?

The common misconception is that most stalkers are strangers who see you across a crowded bar and follow you home, but that simply isn’t true. Stalking is like rape in that a very small percentage of cases happen between total strangers, and when it does in 50% of cases it doesn’t last longer than two weeks. Stalkers usually know their victims and may be an ex-lover or even a current partner (Weller, Hope, & Sheridan, 2013).

One study randomly assigned laypersons and police officers to three conditions. They were told that the victim and the perpetrator were either coworkers, ex-partners, or strangers. Participants were then asked to rate items on a Likert scale describing the extent of the stalking (if any) and the severity of the situation. Even the police were more likely to believe that the case of the stranger stalking the victim was the most severe, but almost all studies in stalking violence say that the opposite is true (Weller, et al., 2013).

Another study looked at cases where abusive relationships turned into stalking relationships. Over half of participants experienced jealousy, isolation, and criticism during their relationships, while only 22.3% experienced sexual violence and only 11.4% experienced property damage. The significant predictors of violence were found to be threats of violence during stalking, if the stalker abused drugs, and jealousy of the former partner (Roberts, 2005).

Was she asking for it?

Like with any crime, don’t blame the victim. This might seem obvious, but in the study I mentioned where laypersons were asked about their perceptions of the different stalking behaviors many indicated that the victim had some level of blame. She had to have led the guy on, right? She was being flirty. She was texting him back at first!

No.

Just like any other crime, stalking happens because the perpetrator has bad intentions. It has nothing to do with the victim. Some studies suggest that stalkers stalk people to regain control in their lives when there an imbalance of control already evident (Nobles & Fox, 2013) while others find that child abuse and unhealthy attachment styles were most predictive of stalking behaviors (Menard & Pincus, 2012).

How can you help?

If a friend comes forward talking about something that sounds like stalking (repeated unwanted behaviors) urge them to talk to the authorities about it. Here is a database of places to call in the United States if you’d like to talk to someone anonymously and here is the UK stalking hotline (0808 802 0300). You can also go to your local women’s shelter (yes, men can go there too!).

If you are being stalked or harassed, you don’t have to live with the fear. Make a plan and contact someone who can help, whether that be the authorities or a family member. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Sources:

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My Bookshelf: Tales of The Madman Underground

madman

Title: Tales of The Madman Underground

Author: John Barnes

Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction

Amazon Summary:

“September 1973: The beginning of Karl Shoemaker’s senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl’s been part of “the Madman Underground”- kids forced to attend group therapy during school. Karl has decided that he is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act-and be-Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has two after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.”

Jeers (possible spoilers):

  • I did not want Darla and Karl to end up together. I don’t know if that’s even what happened, but Darla is fucked up and I didn’t like her.
  • There were a lot of people and I sometimes got confused on who some of the less central characters were.

Cheers:

  • Literally everything else.
  • The writing was good. The characterization was good. The plot was good.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes. I loved this book so much that I let a friend borrow it. She then kept it in her trunk for 4 months and it ruined it. It was a signed copy. I didn’t read it since then because it’s in shit condition, but I finally did and I’m glad I did because I forgot how much I loved it. (But if anyone wants to know why I have trust issues and won’t let people borrow my books, this is why.)

Amazon link:

 http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Madman-Underground-John-Barnes/dp/0142417025

All is Black – Friday Fiction

The voices are back. Never left, in fact. They’re always there, always whispering in my ear. Telling me nasty things. Telling me to hurt, telling me to die. They’re screaming now, screaming that I’m worthless. I cover my ears, but their voices only grow. I scream, and someone grabs me. Someone real, more solid than my voices. I find the world to be fading, and the voices go with them.

All is black.

New voices, different from the others. Talking about the weather, about their medication. These voices don’t bother me, not like the others do. These voices are connected to bodies, to people. People not unlike me. They sometimes talk about their own voices, during the times when we sit in a circle and talk about our feelings. But I never hear their voices, only the voices in my head.

A voice has asked me to move over, and so I do. My lunch tray slides across the table. Not paying attention, my tray knocks over another patient’s water.

USELESS! PATHETIC! WORTHLESS! YOU CAN’T GET ANYTHING RIGHT! YOU CAN’T EVEN EAT WITHOUT MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF, YET YOU EXPECT TO LEAVE HERE ONE DAY? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? PATHETIC! YOU’LL NEVER BE A NORMAL PERSON!

The other voices try to calm me, try to stop my tears. They tell me that everything’s alright, but I don’t believe them. I can barely hear them over my voices. I grab at my head again to get them to stop, I’d do anything to get them to stop, and my food falls to the floor.

NOW LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE! ALWAYS MAKING MESSES, ALWAYS INCONVENIENCING PEOPLE! WHY DO YOU STILL LIVE? YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A BURDEN! PATHETIC! PATHETIC!

Voices in uniform grab me, tell me to calm. I listen as their drugs enter through their needle, that ever-present needle. Calm. So calm. The voices go away, the world goes away.

All is black.

Lots of voices now, none of them my own. They’re steady voices, gentle voices. Happy voices, some of them. There are artificial voices coming out of a box, laughing voices surrounding them. I’m on my own, sitting in the corner. Every once in a while a uniformed voice comes to check on me, make sure I’m okay, as if I’ve ever been okay.

The voices leave me alone, for I’m always alone, alone except my voices. My voices never leave me.

We’re the only one you’ve got. You’re alone. No one wants you. PATHETIC!Give up, why don’t you? Look at you, sitting in a corner, talking to yourself. No one will ever love you. You’re nothing but a burden. PATHETIC! Your family hates you, everyone hates you, you’re a blight on the world.

I curl up in my chair, wishing the voices away. No one notices me. I look around and spot a table. An old, breaking table. Metal runs around the edges. Solid metal, sharp metal.

Look at that. Look at that! There’s your chance. No one’s looking. Come on, get up. See that bit? You can use it. Use it to end things. You want me to stop, don’t you? You’ll do anything to end the voices. I’ll never leave you if you don’t take it. Never! You’ll always have me, you’ll always be pathetic. PATHETIC!

Up I go, slowly, shuffling to the table. No one takes notice, I’m never noticed. I lean on the table, pretending to study the picture hanging on the wall behind it. My hand goes to the metal edge, the metal edge that slowly peals off and drops into my hand. It’s thin, but sturdy. Twice as wide as my finger. I look around, but no one sees. I slip it into my underwear.

I turn to go back to my seat, to wait to be alone, but someone is behind me. An old voice. I don’t stop in time, and I hit her. She falls down, her voice is all pain.

LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE! YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT! PATHETIC! YOU’LL BE BETTER OFF DEAD! THE WHOLE WORLD WILL BE BETTER OFF WITH YOU DEAD!

I fold into myself and whimper, my real voice crying out. Uniformed voices grab me, but I twist away. I don’t want them to take my secret weapon, my way out.

CAN’T YOU CONTROL YOURSELF? YOU’VE MESSED EVERYTHING UP! DO YOU THINK YOUR LIFE IS WORTH LIVING? NO ONE WANTS YOU HERE! PATHETIC! Pathetic! Pathetic…

All is black.

Alone in my room, I wake slowly. It’s night. Real darkness. I feel something in my underwear, the piece of metal. The voices start again, but they’re quiet. They’re edging me on, not forcing me. Not yet.

You know you want to… Come on… Do it!… You know you want to…

I feel around the metal, finding the jagged edge where it broke away. It lightly touches the tender skin of my wrist. Pressing, not cutting. I stare at it.

Do it! Do it now! Before you’re caught! Before you mess up again! What are you waiting for? This is what you want! This is what you need! You have to die! If you don’t die, you’ll never be free of me!

I hesitate, studying the veins of my arm.

PATHETIC! CAN’T YOU DO ANYTHING RIGHT? YOU’RE WORTHLESS! NO WONDER YOUR PARENTS NEVER LOVED YOU! YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT! PATHETIC!

I press harder, the metal cuts into my skin like it’s not there. But it is there. I feel it splitting, feel the metal sinking in. I hiss and close my eyes.

Good! Keep going! You’re so close! DO IT! END IT! NOW! NOW!

I drag the metal along. Suddenly, I’m soaking. Blood everywhere. Pain everywhere. My arm hurts. It hurts so much. I hurt so much.

Almost there, keep going! You’re so close! Almost!

The other wrist now, this one more difficult. Both arms cut open, the metal falls to the floor. Tears mix with blood. I’m getting dizzy now, getting tired. But I’ve always been tired. So tired, so weary.

Good… good… It won’t be long now… You’ve done good…

My eyes close, the world fades in and out. Distantly, so far away, I hear panicked voices. Lots of them. I don’t care. They aren’t my voices.

Almost there…

I slip further away. I hear nothing, I see nothing, I am nothing. No pain, no voices; nothing. Nothing. Sweet nothing.

All is black.

 For the Friday Fiction link up from http://nikkiyoungwrites.com/