Sitting, waiting, watching for their prey… ready to pounce. Is it an animal? No, it’s a stalker.
A barbed wire fence stood between the man and Sandra Bullock. But this didn’t stop him from breaking into her home. An hour later, Bullock found him, locked herself in a room and dialed 911. It was later revealed the intruder was an obsessed fan who didn’t want to steal or hurt the movie star, just have “one-on-one” time with her.
These infatuations don’t just occur with celebrities; as ordinary people, we could find ourselves in a similar predicament. In 2005, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 195,000 women had been victims of stalking in the past 12 months. With the rise of the internet and cyber stalking, statistics have likely risen since.
“Stalking includes following a person, watching them or frequenting areas where a person lives or works, or any places they go for social or leisure activities,” says Emilie Deacon, Senior Constable at Port Stephens Detectives. She said stalking includes “the use of electronic means like text messaging, email, and cyber stalking”.
STALKING Prevent: Protect: Progress: is a training program for service providers, which explains that stalking stems from an obsession with a person. The least common obsession is Erotomania, which covers 10% of stalking cases. The victim, usually a well known individual, often does not know the stalker. These people are often called celebrity stalkers and majority are women who target males with a common disorder of schizophrenia.
The Love Obsessional group makes up 42% of stalkers. The pursuer develops an infatuation mixed with the blindness of love, even though the two people have not had any sexual or intimate relations. The stalker will set out to live their fantasy and expect a victim to play the assigned role of returning their passionate love. When this love and devotion isn’t returned and all their attempts have failed, the stalker will go further to get the victim’s attention.
A 55-year-old Kim* from Sydney experienced this type of stalker when she worked in a pub. “I just thought he was a regular at first, but then the other workers told me he would only visit during my shifts,” says Kim.
In a job that required a lot of customer service and probably a little bit of harmless flirting to keep patrons happy, Kim felt the man’s eyes on her most of the time. After conversations with other customers he would ask what they talked about and why she would choose to talk to someone else over him. “He then got barred from the pub, but then he went on to call the pub’s phone from outside the building, just so he could hear my voice,” she said.
The third and largest group are the Simple Obsession stalkers, which involves 48 percent of all stalkers, 80 percent being male. This individual is socially immature and find it hard to maintain a meaningful relationship. Traits of this individual include extreme jealousy, insecurity, paranoia and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. This type of stalking is associated with the end of a relationship, to seek retribution and fix the damaged relationship. These stalkers are more likely to become violent and most of them will harm their victim or damage the victim’s property.
The Simple Obsession stalker sounds just like an angry ex who just can’t let go, so what is the difference between obsession and love?
“With stalking, there is a disequilibrium of care, positive emotion, consideration or concern between both parties,” explains psychotherapist Brandon Srot. “Love, on the other hand, might suggest a more balanced sense of give and take between both parties, in which loving acts are positively received and experienced and do not cause either party to feel a sense of fear.”
20-year-old Belle* went on three dates with a love interest but decided against seeing him again. He refused to accept this and harassed Belle via text, Whatsapp and Instagram, to the extent that when Belle blocked her stalker’s number, he got a new one. He continued to send her naked photos and tell her he would wait for her in places or find that he’d find her wherever she goes.
“It was really scary,” says Belle. “There was a time where he had messaged me via Facebook saying that he had a pair of my underwear. Which was physically impossible, he implied that he had come to my house and taken them while I was out. I was genuinely freaked out.”
Australian researcher, Paul Mullen, reminds us to not view stalkers as criminals but rather as individuals who experience considerable distress and vulnerability. They might be struggling with other mental health concerns and victims should always share their concern for their own and the stalkers safety.
But regardless, you should tell someone, warns Constable Deacon.
“People can’t help you if they aren’t aware of what’s happening,” she says. “Make contact with them, accept help that’s offered and seek their advice and support. People choose to work in these areas because they care – let them help you.” – Alana Scott
*Names have been changed
Top Photo by Alana Scott