Tag Archives: stalking

Stalking myths

5 myths about stalking you need to know, written by Regina Rooney, via Bangor Daily News: Maine Focus:

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, and as it draws to a close, we here at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence are thinking about stalking — about what it looks like, how we talk about it and respond to it, and how it impacts people’s lives.

The definition of stalking recommended by the National Stalking Resource Center is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” But even with that definition, confusion and misinformation about this problem abounds. So this year, we are examining some of the key myths about stalking.

Myth 1: Stalkers only stalk strangers

While the popular image is of the stalker as a random stranger who catches a glimpse of someone through a store window and becomes fascinated by them on the spot, reality differs. In fact, the majority of of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know. And many of those (66 percent of female victims, and 44 percent of male victims) are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. So while it is true that stranger stalking happens, it makes up the minority of cases.

Stalking behaviors can include following a person, monitoring another person’s actions or repeatedly contacting them against their will. These are all also behaviors that can fall under the umbrella of domestic abuse. It is important that we realize that while stalking doesn’t always indicate a domestic violence relationship, abusive people frequently stalk their victims as a part of their plan to gain power and control. And it is a serious red flag: 76 percent of intimate partner femicide victims — women who were killed in domestic violence homicides — were stalked by their abusers prior to their murders.

Myth 2: It’s nothing serious

Despite that last statistic, stalking is rarely treated very seriously in our culture at large. Many of us glibly use “stalking” in our everyday conversation to indicate something as routine as running into a friend at the grocery store. Using the word in this way minimizes the reality of the act.

There are examples in pop culture, too. Consider the video for Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue,” which depicts Sugarland’s lead singer Jennifer Nettles stalking, kidnapping and drugging a man. Despite the lighthearted tone of the video — the boppy beat, the bright colors, the comical expressions on everyone’s faces — what the video depicts is actually an extremely serious situation. Unfortunately, it is all presented as a joke — even when the video ends with the singer’s fist punching the victim in the face.

In reality, stalking takes a serious toll on victims. Rates of anxiety, severe depression, insomnia and social dysfunction are much higher among people who have been stalked when compared with the general population. People who experience stalking report not knowing what is coming next, what to expect or how long it will go on. They lose time from work and have trouble functioning in everyday life. Treating stalking like a joke minimizes the experience of victims and contributes to the idea that what they are going through isn’t really that bad.

Myth 3: It’s romantic…or even sexy

This is another form of minimization. We may be encouraged to interpret someone’s repeated attentions as romantic or desirable. People experiencing abuse are often encouraged to interpret the abuser’s actions as something other than abusive. People may say, “He just really loves you,” or “I wish someone cared about me that much.” But repeated unwanted attentions are not flattering or positive; insisting that they are negates victims’ feelings and undermines their instincts about their own situations.

Attitudes like these are reinforced by popular culture, which often portrays unhealthy behaviors as romantic and/or sexy. While we have become somewhat more sensitive to portrayals of domestic abuse and rape, stalking still seems to lack critical attention as far as the entertainment industry is concerned. In Maroon 5’s recent video for “Animals,” lead singer Adam Levine plays a blood-soaked butcher trailing a woman through the city, planning to “eat her alive.”

Levine sings, “Yeah, you can start over, you can run free/You can find other fish in the sea/You can pretend it’s meant to be/ But you can’t stay away from me.”

The meaning here is constructed not only by the lyrics and the images — which are quite disturbing — but by the fact that Levine was People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2013 and is seen as a major sex symbol. Although the video did garner criticism in advocacy circles, it was widely accepted. The fact that anyone thought it appropriate to portray these behaviors as desirable shows how much we have left to do to change perceptions of stalking and of sexualized violence in general.

Myth 4: Cyber stalkers are all tech geniuses

Sadly, it is extremely easy to use today’s technology to keep tabs on someone else. One does not need to be a super techie or even to have the latest and greatest in technology to be able to track another’s movements, hack into their accounts, film them without their knowledge or invade their privacy online. And the implications for victims are far-reaching, from anxiety and depression to loss of job prospects. Perhaps most troubling of all, the misuse of technology to stalk can leave victims with the impression that their abusers really do know everything, that there really is no way to find safety or get help without the abuser being able to follow.

Thankfully, there is good work being done to counteract the swift evolution of cyber abuse. The Stalking Resource Center and the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net Project are both great resources. Maine’s domestic violence resource centersspecialize in safety planning, and can help those being stalked by an intimate partner to get help. For those experiencing stalking at the hands of someone other than an intimate partner, they can contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Myth 5: It doesn’t happen in Maine

In fact, we know it does happen in Maine — frequently. Stalking isn’t something that only takes place “out there” in the world. It is happening to our neighbors and our friends. It may be happening to you. The state of Maine has recognized the scope and seriousness of the problem by making stalking a crime.

It is time to move past the myths of stalking, to see it for what it really is: a serious crime that happens to too many people, too much of the time, yet is too often minimized by our culture at large. We know that it takes a community to say no to abuse and violence. It is time that we as a community raise our voices and say no to stalking, too.

Romanticizing violence in pop culture

Robin Thicke’s video: further evidence that we’re romancing the stalker-esque, via The Guardian:

A woman drowning, a bloodied face, a man turning his fingers into a gun and pointing it at his own head: not exactly the stuff of romance! Yet this – along with a bunch of private text messages – is the imagery that makes up the music video for Get Her Back, the lead single from creepy crooner Robin Thicke on his followup to his number-one selling album Blurred Lines. And this is just one song on an entire record dedicated to winning back the affection of his estranged wife, the actress Paula Patton. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned chocolate and flowers?

Thicke’s new album, titled – what else? – Paula, features tracks called You’re My Fantasy, Still Madly Crazy, Something Bad, Whatever I Want and Lock the Door, among others. The disturbing video, released on Monday, features real SMS messages sent between Thicke and Patton, interspersed with images of violence, and ends ominously with a shadowy figure walking off into the distance with these words: This is just the beginning. So far, the video has been called “vulnerable” and“emotional”; album write-ups call Thicke “repentant” with this “romantic gesture”.

I think a more accurate term would be stalker-ish.

The US Department of Justice defines stalking as “a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact … that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” That definition explicitly includes the repeated sending of unwanted presents and flowers, waiting for a woman at home or school, or making indirect threats. Does selling a music video with a look-a-like of your wife drowning count?

None of us know the ins and outs of the Patton and Thicke’s relationship outside of what’s public – they were high school sweethearts and they have a child together. But romanticizing the creepy and potentially harassing efforts of a man obsessed with this ex sends a dangerous message to young men about what “romance” really is. Hint: it has nothing to do with haranguing and publicly shaming us back into a relationship.

Thicke is hardly alone in his interpretation of what constitutes a grand romantic gesture. Stalking or behavior bordering on such is a huge part of the narrative around romance, especially in pop culture: the boy keeps trying to get the girl until she says yes. You need to look no further than the outrageously popular Twilight series – books and movies – to know that the stalker-as-romantic lead looms large in our cultural imagination. From There’s Something About Mary to Groundhog Day, the guy who would do anything to land the girl is supposedly the stuff women’s dreams are made of. (Of course, there’s no room for female protagonists or celebrities doing the same, like, say, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She’d be called nuts in less time than it takes to get through the YouTube ad before a music video.)

It doesn’t surprise me that a man whose hit song sounded like an assault anthem and featured a video full of naked models would attempt to get back his wife via public pressure and a threatening music video. And the Get Her Back video is threatening. From the drowning to the finger gun (threatening suicide is a common signal of an abuser), the video sends a message that Thicke won’t take no for an answer. And that’s not romantic – it’s just downright scary.

January is Stalking Awareness Month

January 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of Stalking Awareness Month.

“Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”

If you or someone you know is being stalked, please call us at 1-800-871-7741 (Maine only) or 1-866-656-4673 (national) for help and support. You do not have to go through this alone.

Stalking, Human Trafficking & The Superbowl

Today, January 31st, marks the end of Stalking Awareness Month & Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  However, just because the month is ending, that does not mean that we are stopping.  We will continue to educate, raise awareness, and work towards ending these violent crimes all year ’round.

Quick facts about stalking:
* 6.6 million people are stalked annually in the United States
* Nearly 75% of victims know their stalker in some capacity
* 46% of stalking victims experience at least one unwanted contact per week
* 11% of victims have been stalked for 5 years or more
* 2% of stalking victims in 2008 experienced sexual violence by the stalker (this number rises to 31% when the stalker is a current or former intimate partner)
(Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008)

Quick facts about human trafficking:
* Nearly 300,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry each year  (Estes & Weiner, 2001)
* Between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year  (USDOS, 2009)

Also, something to think about this weekend while you’re watching the Superbowl… 

The Super Bowl is commonly known as one of the largest human trafficking incidences in the U.S.



January is Stalking Awareness Month

Stalking is not romantic, and it is not funny.  Stalking is real, and it is a crime…it does not only happen to celebrities.  “Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”

* 6.6 million people are stalked annually in the United States
* Nearly 75% of victims know their stalker in some capacity
* 46% of stalking victims experience at least one unwanted contact per week
* 11% of victims have been stalked for 5 years or more
* 2% of stalking victims in 2008 experienced sexual violence by the stalker (this number rises to 31% when the stalker is a current or former intimate partner)

[Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008]

If you or someone you know is being stalked, please call us at 1-800-871-7741 (Maine only).  If you live outside of Maine, you can call the national sexual assault helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE. You do not have to go through this alone.