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

DEAD

You know who I am. I’m the person no one likes. I’m the person no one wants to sit with at lunch. I’m the person who everyone knows is bad news. I’m the one person that you will always hate, even if you don’t know my name. I’m the freak, the loser, the weirdo. The one who’s different. I’m the one who no one will ever give a chance. The one who just can’t take it any more.

And you know what? I’m everywhere.

And you know me. Don’t pretend like you don’t. I’m the girl you tease because I still have braces. I’m the boy you shove in lockers just because I can’t fight back. I’m the girl you call a lesbian just because you don’t like me. I’m the boy you strip naked and tie to a goal post just because you want to have a little fun.

Because, really, we’re all just having a bit of fun. That boy you spit on for four years straight is having a real laugh with his therapist. That girl you teased until she took a blade to her wrist will smile proudly as she shows the scars from when she tried to take her own life. Its all just fun. Nothing serious, just a little joke.

That’s the problem with the world. Teenagers shouldn’t be taken seriously, as everyone knows. We don’t know anything. We’re just hormonal. There isn’t anything for us to be depressed about, we’re just kids. We can’t be so pressured to get into good schools and make good money that we have mild psychotic breaks, because our moms still cook us dinner every night. Our problems aren’t real, because we’re the children of middle class families. Our fears are simply foolish, because what we fear is nothing compared to the horrible reality of life. Our tears don’t matter, because a little name calling isn’t enough to knock the earth off it’s axis. Our love isn’t real, because we haven’t lived yet. We haven’t lived yet, and some of us won’t live at all.

5000.

That’s how many teenagers will kill themselves each year. But its not that bad, right? It could be worse, right? It could be 5500, or 6000, or 8000, right? There are billions of people in the world, so 5000 doesn’t matter, right? No one liked those 5000 kids anyways. They were just the kids who had bad hair and wore the wrong clothes and talked with a lisp and couldn’t play sports. They’re just the boy you make fun of and the girl you trip in the halls.

500000.

That’s a much bigger number, right? That’s the number of teens who try to kill themselves each year. Do you know how big a number that is? No? Think of Wyoming. The state. Look it up. See how big it is? About 500000 people live in Wyoming.

But its okay. No one really likes that state anyways. It’s nothing compared with California, Pennsylvania, or even Idaho. Wyoming is just a nothing little state. It’s unspectacular in every way. No one would even notice if everyone from Wyoming just died.

Excuses.

Would anyone notice if you died? Would the football team be able to find a new running back? Would the cheerleaders be able to complete their pyramid? Would your funeral be filled with crying friends and family? Would that girl that hates herself so much that she starves herself be missed? Or how about that boy who everyone is nice to, just nice, not friendly, because they all think he’s going to come to school with a gun?

Are you going to take teenagers seriously now?

I know I’m not. We’re just a bunch of whiners. I can’t think about killing myself without picturing someone saying how dramatic I was by jumping off the bridge. Or hanging from a tree. Or laying on the floor with an empty pill bottle in my hand.

Dead.

5001?

Isn’t it sad that down to my death I’m thinking only of what others think of me? I can only think about if maybe someone will talk to me or even smile at me or even wave at me just so that I could have a little hope. Shouldn’t I be able to go through life a strong, singular person?

No. I shouldn’t wait for friends or life or happiness. I should be that strong person and take matters into my own hands. I know how to stop the name calling. I know how to stop people from stepping on me. I know how to make just about every unpleasant thing in my life stop.

By stopping my life.

So here’s my plan. I’m not going to take anyone down with me. If someone else wants to stop their hurting, they’ll have to have the guts to do it themselves. No, what I’m going to do is make as many people hurt as possible. Not physical hurt, mind you. Just guilt. Remorse. Sadness.

I want you to feel as bad I do. I want everyone to read this. I want you to go to bed at night wishing that you could die too because it was you who killed me. You are the knife that cuts my wrist. You are the rope that stops my breath. You are the bullet that blasts through my brain.

Oh my. A gun. I wonder if I could get that into school.

So, will you take things seriously? I wouldn’t if I were you. I mean, 5000. That’s it. Today, I’ll be one of those 5000. You won’t see anyone at my funeral. You won’t see anyone asking me why I did it. You won’t see anyone missing me.

You’ll just see yourself in the mirror. Can you see yourself now? Look at that face. The face that everyone loves. That is the person who helped kill me. With your hate. With your actions. With your words.

Fat. Ugly. Freak. Faggot. Idiot. Spaz. Weirdo. Douchebag. Slut. Dumbass. Whore. Moron. Bastard. Twat. Skank. Dipshit. Asswipe. Asshole. Dult. Fatass. Bitch. Dork. Pussy. Jackass. Loser. Loser. Loser. Loser. Loser.

So after reading this, go to the empty classroom on the third floor. I’ll be there. I’ll be there and I’ll be waiting to burn the image of my dead body into the mind of all the students in the school. Has someone, a teacher perhaps, stopped people from going in? Push past them. Push into the classroom to see me dead. A real live dead person. Is there a lot of blood? And I a swinger? How did I do it? I don’t know yet. But you’ll know. You’ll know and you’ll remember it forever. Are the cops there yet? Did someone call the police? Did anyone scream? Faint? Puke? I bet you’ll faint if you haven’t seen me yet. You big chicken. Go look at me. I can’t hurt you. I’m dead as dead as dead. Someone trying to keep you out again? Tell them I sent you. I want you to look at me, no matter what! I want you to help everyone else get a look at me too. Step right up, folks, and see a real dead person! No gimmicks, no scams, and it’s only five dollars!

Just kidding. I won’t take your money. You can’t buy anything when you’re dead.


 

If you’re having suicidal thoughts please call 1 (800) 273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

This is a complete work of fiction. 

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/