I have many gardening tools ready to use, yet my most valuable tool has become this small canister of mace. The need to feel safe in one’s own garden was beyond my comprehension. I could not understand why this was happening. Why did I have to watch my back while gardening?
This is my blog, and it is a gardening blog, however I must address an issue that has impacted my own life.
January is National Stalking Awareness month.
I waited to post this information during an appropriate time, and because January is National Stalking Awareness month, this is the appropriate time with January fast approaching. My experience with this insidious crime has been very personal. And yes it is a crime; it is a crime in all 50 states. California was the first state to have anti-stalking laws in 1990, and all other states followed suit. Stalking is perhaps one of very few crimes in that we can have a more proactive approach. We can impact the behaviors of the stalker, before they escalate and can cause irreversible harm. Stalking in Ohio is defined : “No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person.” Ohio Revised Code 2903.211 Menacing by Stalking- 1996
While a single incident or action may appear to be harmless and not against the law, it is the cumulative effect and the continuous nature of the behaviors that are so cruel. Stalking has been called the building block crime.
Perhaps receiving flowers from a supposed ‘secret’ admirer may be puzzling; it is the repeated placement of roses on property, including the hood of your car, which becomes unsettling. Beyond troublesome, is when you tell the person who is leaving the roses to stop, and they do not. Walking on someone’s property may appear harmless, yet when it is repeated and done at times that are unusual, such as very early in the morning or during the night time hours, then it is scary. Notes and cards with very inappropriate messages that are placed about the property, even in a mailbox and in the garage of the victim is very disturbing. Spying on the victim, looking in windows, and engaging in voyeur type behaviors are criminal. Stalkers will harm or kill pets. The motivation for this heartless action is at times for revenge, but is also done in order to manipulate the victim, by using it as an opportunity to comfort the victim. The same motivation of manipulation is used for stealing items, such as keys and then suddenly ‘finding’ the lost item for the victim. I never wanted to refer to myself as a victim, but I was just that.
The constant and inappropriate attention is unnerving. Stalking behaviors would shake anyone. The part that is so disturbing is the persistence of the stalker. I know that even directly telling the stalker to stop what they are doing and to stay off your property, only brings about increased activity. Any attention from the victim, even, and it seems most especially, negative attention, is rewarding to the stalker. This makes it very difficult to stop a stalker, as they are always thinking and planning what they can do next. I was faced with a stalker that fantasized a relationship, and this type of stalking is very persistent. It is beyond comprehension what could possibly go through the mind of a stalker. They do not have rational thinking. They have no remorse and no conscience.
I needed the intervention of law enforcement after attempting to stop the behavior with no avail. I ended up filing for a civil stalking protection order from the court. The sad part is I filed on August 6th, and was granted the order on November 13th, a full 3 months after I filed.
All I can say is that stalking robs the victim of the pleasures of everyday life. You end up altering your own life so much in attempts to avoid the stalker, that you become isolated.
My own situation, while very frightening and causing substantial distress, did not end up with the horrible acts that conclude some stalking episodes. It is known that the vast majority of women who are murdered in this country were stalked before they were killed. This is where law enforcement needs to be more proactive. We also need to strengthen many of our laws. Here in Ohio, there was a case in a nearby town, that ended up in the murder of a teacher. She had been stalked for years by someone with whom she had no relationship with, and even though he was convicted of menacing by stalking, he was out of prison quickly, and returned to once again engage in his stalking behaviors. He had killed her dog, and was even able to purchase a gun.
Stalking is dangerous, and needs to be treated as the crime that it is. If something doesn’t appear appropriate, or doesn’t feel right, it is not. Trust your gut. Let others know what is happening and do contact the police with every incident, no matter how small it may seem to others. It is left to the victim to collect evidence, so keep every physical piece of evidence, take pictures of damage, or even of the stalker on your property, keep any voice mail or e mail. When I realized that I needed to be keeping evidence, I was able to collect 36 notes and cards that were left on my property over an 18 month period. Prior to this I did throw everything away in the garbage can because it was just so upsetting. I was also able to get a picture of the stalker on my property at 6:30 in the morning, looking up at my windows. This trespassing was captured on my time lapsed garden camera. This was after he had already been told twice to stay off my property. It just didn’t matter. The picture along with the cards and notes and the willingness of others to testify were enough to obtain a protection order. I had the testimony of his former employer who had fired this person due to the creep making obscene phone calls from that business line. Also another neighbor witnessed this person going into my garage and trying to open my doors when I was not at home. He had also engaged in harassing and voyeur activities with this other neighbor. Both people were willing to testify. This may not always be the case, as it occurred to me that some people just aren’t as willing to get involved. It really is left up to the victim. Having an attorney is also invaluable, and it is a shame that one has to hire an attorney when they are the victim of a crime. The courts in Ohio do provide victim advocates in cases such as mine, yet even the advocate advised me to retain a lawyer.
The statistics are startling. 3.4 million Americans have been stalked, according to a study completed in 2009, with 1 in every 12 women experiencing this nightmare at some point in their lives. Most stalking victims are women and most stalkers are men, however not always. Less than half of stalking is committed by people who had a former relationship with the victim. This form of stalking is very dangerous and often involves violent crimes. The vast majority of victims do know the stalker, be it a coworker, neighbor, or even someone who waits on you in a store. The average duration of stalking is two years, and unfortunately half of all stalking victims never report the crime. I fully understand that reluctance to report, because I know that I did not want a motivation of revenge added to the fixation. A full third of acquaintance stalkers, which is what I was faced with, do end up attacking the victim. Stalking is dangerous.
There are resources out there if you are having any trouble with someone you believe may be engaging in stalking behaviors. Remember, stalking behaviors are chronic, and it can happen to anyone. It is extremely difficult and even dangerous to try to stop this on your own. Stalkers tend to be serial in nature. Most have engaged in stalking before. There is absolutely nothing that the victim does to attract such a person. It is all in the stalker’s mind.
A very informative book that I found was written by Mike Proctor, How to Stop a Stalker., and it is available on Amazon. There is also information from the National Center for the Victims of Crime. NCVC. www.ncvc.org. Another good website for information is “End Stalking in America” www.esia.net.
I now need to work on getting my life back.
It is NOT a joke
It is NOT romantic
It is NOT OK