[Read the story.]
Thank you so much for Kristin Ohlson's article. With anti-stalking law enforcement such a weak area (for some understandable reasons, as well as for some baffling ones), it's crucial that the public is made aware, in a nonsensationalist way, of what a problem stalking can be in many women's lives. I was stalked by an ex-boyfriend while I was a graduate student and he was a university employee. Even though he never said he would physically injure me, his constant presence and implicitly threatening behavior deeply affected my ability to be on campus (i.e., to do my job). I went to several authority figures, ranging from the police to my graduate chair, to the University Women's Center, to no avail -- he had gotten to them first, and told them that I was stalking him (a classic maneuver). I was shocked at how willing people were to believe his version over mine. ("Fatal Attraction" syndrome? But how can we expect it to be otherwise when most instances of stalking portrayed in mainstream media are of voracious she-devils torturing poor, helpless men?) It wasn't until a year and some months had gone by, and my stalker just decided to let up, that my situation improved. (I still see him regularly, since he moved into my neighborhood -- another action that was not deemed sufficiently threatening by the people from whom I sought help.)
For me and others like me, whose lives are not explicitly threatened by stalkers -- and who are consequently not taken seriously -- but whose emotional and psychological well-being are jeopardized on a daily basis, articles like this one are our only real hope for proclaiming the seriousness of our situation, and for encouraging people to take notice. Thank you again for the conscientiousness you've shown by printing this important article.
Ohlson's article was a persuasive and detailed indictment of the failure of law enforcement to deal with stalking cases and new stalking laws. Yet I was disappointed by the article's focus exclusively on male stalkers of ex-romantic partners, and seemingly dismissive attitude toward male stalking victims. While such victims may be only 13 percent, according to the quoted statistic, that is not an insignificant number. This seems akin to the perception that men can never be the victims of sexual assault or rape, an incorrect view with problematic implications that is only slowly starting to change. Both notions perpetuate a view of men exclusively as sexual predators and women exclusively as victims and discredit the experiences of those who don't fit that assumption. I personally have known both a man who was the target of a female stalker -- an ex-romantic partner, and a woman who was the victim of a female stalker -- and they had no prior romantic history. Both of these instances were as traumatic and terrifying to the persons involved as the cases discussed by the author.
Stalking can reduce a well-educated, emotionally balanced woman to a quivering, jumpy, depressed victim rather quickly. I know, as I was stalked by an ex-boyfriend for a year. My local police department was completely inept and worse, uninterested in my "domestic problem." It took the insistence of a doctor to get me in contact with a local domestic abuse shelter. There, I finally got the legal advice I needed, along with counseling and group therapy with other women who could relate to my experiences.
Police departments need better training in dealing with stalking victims and perpetrators. Victims need to be given information about local support groups and their legal rights. Perpetrators need to be shut down and treated like the criminal bullies they are. If more men made up the majority of stalking victims, I am positive the laws would already be in place to discourage this demented behavior.
Many people will disagree with this, but any time a woman is stalked by a someone who may have violent intentions, the first thing she should do is to buy a handgun and learn how to use it. If her state requires her to obtain a concealed handgun permit, she should get one. I'm not a "gun nut," nor do I think that guns are the solution to every problem. But when you are stalked by someone with potentially violent intentions, your risk factors are magnified. Use the police as much as possible, but never think that they have any responsibility for your personal safety. That's your responsibility, and if you don't protect yourself, no one else will.
-- Jim Holman