Over seven-million people are stalked each year in the United States. And a staggering percentage of those people are women. In fact, three out of every four women have experienced some form of stalking in their lifetime. Most are stalked by a former intimate partner, friend, room-mate, or colleague. More than 80% of female stalking victims are physically attacked by their stalker and nearly half that number experience sexual abuse, misconduct, or rape. Fifteen percent of women who are stalked admit to either a disruption in their employment or having to leave a job completely; an equal percentage have to move as a result of stalking.
Things like restraining orders don’t do much to deter a stalker either. It’s a piece of paper. Police are not babysitters. Shows like NCIS and CSI have created a general perception that those who are being stalked have a solvable case within the span of a television episode, because a special cop out there is working 24/7 to catch the “bad guy.” Or, that you can simply have a police unit sitting outside of your home for protection. It’s just not true. Police can investigate, take reports, test evidence—but even that does not render immediate results. It can take six months or more for a crime lab to return tests on fingerprinting. Especially on a stalker case, which often falls under the category of a Domestic Dispute. Though stalking has a tendency to escalate and result in violent behavior, there are too many cases, like homicides, that take precedence at the lab. The irony is that one-third of female stalking victims are killed, according to the Department of Justice.
I’m just going to say it—because stalking affects more women than men, it’s not a priority. I am currently being stalked by a fan-turned-friend and his wife. They have even enlisted other family members and friends to their cause. This is the second time in my life that I have had a serious stalker. The first time, I was 18, single and living alone. It happened for two years. The only reason it stopped is because I got married and left the State. Now, I’m 43. But found myself living alone again in the last year. Within five months, I earned another stalker. I had stalkers in between, but only cyber-stalkers. Mostly enthusiastic fans who did not realize the boundaries they crossed.
While cyber-stalking makes physical stalking easier, it’s not nearly as frightening—though still uber-creepy—as having your home violated by your stalkers while you’re on vacation, coming back to your bed being laid in, personal correspondence read, and eight-days’ worth of mail, stolen. Or, being followed for seven miles en route to the grocery store after not having left your house in seven days. Or, having your home broken into while you go hiking because you saw a rainbow, took a picture, and posted it on Twitter. Or, having to leave your job at a State College because of the public schedule that left you and your home vulnerable. Or, having to move out of your house because you fear for your life.
Well-meaning folks suggest solutions like attorneys, police and security cameras. I have availed myself of all three. But both of my security cameras have been tampered with. And, it’s just a camera, people. Anyone who feels that even half of what I describe above is somehow acceptable behavior ain’t worried about camera. Attorneys charge you $300 an hour to tell you they can get you a restraining order, but it will take a month for the hearing, and in the interim, you should think about moving anyway. And police are so overwhelmed with current case loads, all they can do is come when you call, take down some information, maybe ask a few neighbors some questions, collect evidence, and put it all in a filing cabinet. One policeman knew my stalkers, grew up with one of them. Said they were connected to a group of “known intimidators and dopers.” He told me to move, and in the meantime, get a gun, because, and I quote, “No 911 call’s gonna save you if they come when you’re home. They do that, they’re looking to hurt you. You shoot first, ask questions later, understand baby-girl?”
Did I just fall into an episode of the Twilight Zone???
Some 60% of stalker cases are estimated to go unreported. And a whopping 76% of female murder cases in the U.S. are committed by a stalker. All of the above is why. If this were a “man” problem, it wouldn’t be a problem anymore. Like Viagara. When men have a problem with sex—like magic, there’s a pill. But there is no female equivalent. Why? Because women don’t really matter.
I don’t matter. Even though more than half-a-million people read this very blog. Even though my books are published in nine languages and sold in 30 countries. Even though I’ve worked with over 200 pop culture icons. Even though I’ve been a professor for 20 years, including 11 teaching excellence nominations , earning five. Even though I have people who love me.
Police will be installing cameras at my home today. Because, now, they’re worried. Since May 31st, there have been five break ins. But this all started in December of 2014 with an attempted break-in, followed by an aggravated assault—half a dozen arrows shot into my house. If I were being honest though, it truly started with this fan cyber-stalking me almost two years ago. We became friends. I trusted him. Though I never associated his constant availability with stalking until now.
Writing about this isn’t for them. It’s for you. The woman facing something similar who feels alone. The man who has a sister complaining of the same thing, but you just find it impossible to believe. The teenage boy who finds himself sitting in front of his ex-girlfriend’s house, thinking that if he could just talk to her, she’d want him back. The wife of a no-good, lying, cheating scumbag who makes it her mission to destroy the life of another human being because of her own miserable situation.
My celebrity friends and clients are all nodding their heads right now. Like temporary debt between contracts, stalkers are just a part of being a public figure in the Entertainment Industry, even a very minor one, like me. But whether expected or not, stalking is serious business.
I feel a sense of ethical obligation. As a writer. A witness to the world. Bad things happen when good people stay silent. Hannah Arendt taught me that. The right to have rights. One of which is to live in relative peace.