Monday, February 20, 2006

Stalking ...
Exams are over, which should give me a bit of spare time but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to have happened. Coursework, prep for classes etc etc. I’m a volunteer with Victim Support so I’ve also used my free week to do some work with them. There was an interesting piece on Woman’s Hour last week discussing the effects of and law relating to stalking. Stalking isn’t a legal term – the relevant statute is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and harassment is generally how it is referred to in the law. Prior to the introduction of this law there was very little in the English legal system to protect women from stalkers – although a silent caller was successfully prosecuted for common law assault. The act now makes harassment a crime, which is a positive move, particularly as the programme and crime statistics suggest that women are much more likely than men to be victims of stalking.

I’ve never experienced stalking on the level of the individual interviewed on the programme, but I have certainly experienced unwanted and persistent male attention to the extent that I have felt extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. I don’t know enough about the subject to speculate on the sociological and psychological sources of this behaviour in general, but in my situation it definitely stemmed from an overtly possessive attitude. The individual in question became angry with me because he no longer recognised me as the person who was once ‘his’. I found this frustrating and frightening and responded by telling him that the only reason he disliked the change was because I no longer took any of his shit. I then attempted to cut the relationship off at that point. Unfortunately this led to obsessive, repetitive telephone calls, often anonymous in the hopes of catching me out so that I would answer. He also harassed my sister and best friend in the same manner.

The situation has calmed down recently to the extent that he very rarely calls or texts me. However he continues to email me at regular intervals. At first I read these emails, but found them very frightening because the ‘chatty’ tone in which they are written suggests that we are still in touch, in fact that we are still close friends. They are now deleted immediately. I have never felt physically threatened by this person’s presence or harassment, but this does not diminish the fact that I have been made to feel extremely vulnerable because this person believed that he somehow had a right to pursue me until I changed in a way that suited him. I still worry that he will come to my house, and when I am in on my own always check through the window before opening the door.
I am aware that this is very minor in the catalogue of things, particularly because renewed media interest in recent months has arisen as a result of the murder of Clare Bernal by her ex boyfriend in Harvey Nicholls. He had been charged under the Protection from Harassment Act and released on bail when he committed the murder. Nevertheless I was pleased to hear this being covered seriously this week with the emphasis upon real women rather than celebrities. Check out NSS and Women’s Aid for more information and advice, also Victim Support are always there if you know anyone who has experienced any crime.


At 12:53 pm, Blogger TP said...

It is scary definately - I was stalked by a relative of my boyfriend for a while when I was at uni. He would call round in the middle of the night, call me over and over and over in the early hours, text me, make excuses to get into my house (early on he was often let in by my housemates)and not leave. It got to the point that i was scared to answer the door incase it was him. He once pulled to doorbell off the door when no on answered it.

I think it should be easier to get help and advice in situations like this. In the end my dad answered the phone when I was home for the weekend and threatened to find him if he didn't stop calling. He stopped after that - but because he's related to my boyfriend I still feel uneasy about it to this day, and will inevitably see him at family functions.

At 5:03 pm, Blogger la somnambule said...

I think the worst thing about these situations is that people often just don't realise how much apparently harmless behaviour can affect you ... I'm glad your dad helped you out.


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