This post is serious. It is about your safety and just how aware of it you need to be. Especially so, for women in the public eye, unless you are at the level of being able to afford your own personal security detail, you are easily accessible.
Stalking – don’t try it at home. I have a stalker, yes a real one, who is about to become “bona fide” if he steps up to my front door again to leave gifts valued under $10. How did I manage to get myself into this situation? Well, I had recently relocated back to my home turf and was going to dinner with a couple of friends, when we discovered that the restaurant we were going to didn’t exist anymore. A brief stop to get wine and ask a local where might be good, led to a chance encounter with a “now you’re just somebody that I used to know” – (yep, I just quoted Gotye) – who recommended a great place. After dinner, when I went to pay the bill, it had already been paid for over the phone, by “now you’re just somebody that I used to know”. Ooooooh that’s a bit romantic, but ultimately also the first manipulative action designed to get a response by an un-well individual. Of course, we had to go back to the shop where he worked and thank him, it would be rude not to, which also led to let’s catch up and my giving “now you’re just somebody that I used to know”, my phone number.
So let’s fast track this a little…I hadn’t seen this person for around twelve years and a lot can happen to a person in that time. He is no longer “now you’re just somebody that I used to know”, he is a stalker. A scary legitimate stalker, not just someone who checks out your facebook page or twitter because they had a crush on you in the eighth grade. We throw the term stalker around very flippantly these days, making it something to have a laugh about and not something to be taken seriously. The real deal, however, is a very unnerving experience. Stalking behavior might be following a person, hanging around (loitering) near where they live/work, repeatedly contacting or intimidating and harassing them and can include threatening or committing acts of violence against somebody. In the State of Australia that I live in, it can carry up to a five year jail term or up to seven if physical violence is involved and is a criminal offense.
Fortunately so far, for me violence hasn’t been a part of it as I write this. It has consisted of repeatedly calling me after I had expressly on several occasions asked my Stalker not to contact me. On one occasion over thirty missed calls on my cell in one evening. No means NO. It has been over four months since I have answered a call from him. Around a month ago I decided to change my phone number. So without having that access to me last weekend, he was outside my home and left a bunch of flowers and a chiffon scarf (that I wouldn’t be seen dead in, but that’s not the point). The point is that it’s the same manipulative behaviour pattern that began with the first encounter of paying for dinner. It expects or is designed to get a response. That is something that advice tells you not to do. Do not give a response, do not return the gifts. There are two reasons why you shouldn’t return them. The first is that it is giving a response and the second is that they will become evidence if the situation escalates or you decide to do something about it and take action. You can read more about that along with the who and why of stalkers here: http://www.wire.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Stalking-Info-Sheet1.pdf
Evidence is important, without it, the police can do very little. When I reported it after this most recent event, I was asked “but you didn’t SEE him leave the flowers and scarf?” No. I didn’t, but I know it was my Stalker. I have now set up what I light heartedly refer to as a “Stalker Cam” in my front window. It’s a simple web cam with a USB input to my laptop and downloaded, from the web motion detection recording software. There are plenty available to choose from here: http://www.top4download.com/free-free-motion-detection-software/
Surprisingly for me, the people who seem to be taking this experience the most lightly, is my immediate family. My Mother and Father, have advised me “not to over-react, because I’ve known him for a long time” and my Sister in-law, who flippantly chuckled and said “what’s he done, left you some flowers and a scarf”. Yes. At my front fucking door, over four months since I have answered a single call from him or text and being forced to change my phone, in the hope the harassment would end, but it didn’t. Later in the conversation I discovered that she too has had a Stalker – at her workplace. A security guard from the shopping centre would walk her to her car. Okay, so he knew where she worked and the employer was responsible for ensuring her safe passage to her car. Since this is my home, where I am supposed to enjoy sanctuary, should I hire my own security detail to provide me with the same security? We hear of celebrity stalkers from time to time…lucky for them, they can afford to hire security guards. One of the difficulties with this situation when you work in the public eye is that you are constantly popping up in front of your stalker to keep you firmly planted in their minds, or giving them easy access to you. Things like “checking in” your activities on facebook and twitter, need to be taken into account as well. In my case, I’m on the radio five days a week, which also lets him know that I still work in the same place. Advice is to change your routine, stay with a friend for a while and wear a whistle around your neck.
It was the stalking and subsequent death of young actress Rebecca Schaeffer that led to a change in the Law. Her stalker or disturbed fan, found out where she lived and knocked on her front door and shot her. You can read more about that awful event here: http://www.franksreelreviews.com/shorttakes/shaeffer/shaeffer.htm
In Australia, any stalking carried out for longer than two weeks is considered “Long term”. The statistics are that 75 – 80% of all stalking cases are done to women. Out of those, it is most likely to be long-term cases that escalate. Don’t ever take it lightly, because the people who will tell you how you should take it, are probably rational human beings – your Stalker, is not.
I’d really love to read about your experiences in the comments…