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. 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. But none of those things have saved the 3/4 women murdered each year by their stalker, does it? Nearly 60% of whom reported the stalking to police within 12 months of their deaths.
About two-thirds of the stalker cases in the States 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.
Writing about this isn’t for the stalkers of this world, who are generally looking for attention from their target--even if it's negative. Perhaps especially if it's negative. Writing about this is 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 if you're a very minor one. 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.
So, the next time you hear about someone dealing with a stalker of any variety, help that person get the help he or she needs. Stop protecting criminals and start protecting their victims. It's disgusting behavior that stalking is allowed to persist, and, when a victim escapes the nightmare, that person needs community assistance--assistance like jobs, clothes, shelter, food. When you have to run to save your life, that means you must leave all you have behind.
The laws surrounding stalkers need to be changed. Too many women are dying at the hands of predators. And, there needs to be new laws created that address the sad reality of women having to leave their jobs and homes just to breathe for another day. How do you keep paying your bills when that happens? Where do you live? And, how can you get another job when you had to leave the last one on short notice? Like victims of sexual harassment (most women who are stalked are stalked by either a former intimate partner or someone who wanted to be...), victims of stalking receive little-to-no sympathy, understanding, or, compassion. Stalking victims have no recourse when the systems put into to place to protect us also fails us--if that failure didn't happen on a regular basis, the statistics for things like femicide would look vastly different. The only recourse you have when being stalked is to literally abandon your life and hope the stalker(s) don't follow.
My hope is that every single person who has ever stalked a woman ends up behind bars. And, if human-justice fails, that karmic-justice prevails. Prevails to the extent that every loss suffered by the victim is also visited upon her stalker(s).
Something for the stalkers of this world to think about....