When They Stalk Us

STALKING: The most overused, misidentified, and misunderstood term in human conflict. It is used to describe a wide swath of human conflict rightfully or wrongfully between two or more people. If you've watched a Lifetime Movie, you can see it play out on the small screen, and typically those scripts are based on real-life incidents. Make no mistake, stalking is real and not a weekend thriller flick. Let's level set on the definition of stalking.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), Stalking refers to repeated harassing or threatening behavior by an individual, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property.

In this digital age, we must also understand what stalking is through the usage of technology.

According to Techopedia, Cyberstalking is a criminal practice where an individual uses the Internet to systematically harass or threaten someone. This crime can be perpetrated through email, social media, chat rooms, instant messaging clients and any other online medium.

Okay, so there's some massive wrongs happening - some civil and some criminal if any form of stalking starts happening in your life. The next best question victims of stalkers ask, "why are they stalking me?" The answer is as varied as the temperature outside. There is no good reason for stalking anyone. The measure in the court system is against what a "Reasonably Prudent Person" would do. That's a pretty clear distinction that juries can understand because at the end of the day, no reasonably prudent person would engage in stalking - for any reason.

Who Are the Stalkers?

We're all born about the same size and shape, but years later we start to see the difference. There is no profile of stalkers, it is rather their behaviors that identify them as such. I've studied this topic through my research and work connected to adult bullying. Very good people can have a traumatic incident happen in their lives and begin to stalk. Examples I've seen through my research:

- Making unannounced drive by visits to the target's home or place of business;

- Checking the voicemail of the ex-partner to see who he/she is dating next;and a further extension is to begin following/stalking the new partner;

- Calling friends of the target to gather information related to whereabouts or in an attempt to disparage the target to their circle;

- Hide on the target's property in an attempt to startle or watch them;

- Keeping up with the target online through social media unbeknownst to the target;

- Creating an Impersonation Social Media account to draw in fans/friends of the target;

- And the list sadly goes on.

Obsession

Deeply rooted in the definition of stalking is the word "Obsession". Pardon all of the definitions, but it's important that we understand the underpinnings of stalking.

Obsession as defined by Merriam Webster is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes a person's mind.

When obsession happens, rationality and normal reasoning have left the building. I've gathered data on stalkers who admit to checking the social media accounts of their targets upwards of 50+ times a day. It becomes their routine and habit of stalking that is now their new normal set of behaviors. As with other bad behaviors, when you normalize it, escalation is not far behind.

Delusion

Once the stalker has developed an abnormal connection to their target (aka "an obsession"), delusional thoughts become more prevalent - including the ability to act on those urges. 

The Cleveland Clinic defines "Delusional" as a disorder (previously called paranoid disorder), and is a type of serious mental illness — called a “psychosis”— in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue.

In my research on the topic, the stalker's perception of reality can become remarkably skewed. The stories that are born in the mind of someone obsessed and delusional about the target are nothing short of shocking. In some cases with great clarity, the stalker will describe a reality only known to them. The stalker is able to vehemently defend their actions with twisted justifications for their provocations and criminality. It's real to them, and harmful to most everyone else. Delusion is dangerous.

Celebrity Stalking

It seems every few months we hear about cases in the news where an obsessed fan of a celebrity is being sentenced for criminal stalking. The stories are wild. The beliefs held by the stalkers are jaw-dropping. Here's some of the more outrageous cases that made headlines in the past few years:

  • Beyonce was stalked by a man who believed she had died years prior and was replaced with some sort of clone. The stalker's intent was to harass the clone. In the end Beyonce won an anti-harassment order against the stalker.
  • Miley Cyrus had a stalker who was caught in the act of breaking into her home. When approached and questioned by police he relayed that he and Miley Cyrus were married and had known each other for five years. Miley Cyrus testified that she had never met the trespasser and was certainly not married to him. That stalker got 18 months in jail for criminal trespassing.
  • Justin Bieber was targeted by a prison inmate (serving a life sentence for rape and murder of a minor) who ordered two other inmates to plot to physically harm the Biebs. Thankfully when prison guards caught wind of the plot, they were able to stop it.
  • Kim Kardashian had a stalker who would message her constantly and show up to all of her LA events. She was eventually able to gain a permanent injunction against the stalker which forbade the stalker from all contact - including social media.
  • Ariana Grande had a stalker who sent messages to her, gifts, attempted outreach through social media, and even tried to crash her record label's Christmas party. Through swift action in the courts, the stalker was ordered to stay away from Grande and to be treated for a delusional disorder.
In each of these cases and countless more the stalkers engaged in extreme recon to learn about their target's whereabouts and feel a connection to the target. In all cases, the stalker speaks about their target as if they are "in the know" about every aspect of the target's life. In most celeb cases, the target has never had an interaction with the stalker prior to the obsession. And while I'm not on the celeb level of those I've listed, I've even had a reader of one of my books mark it up as if they were talking to me or having some disjointed and delusional conversation. According to their writings they felt I was specifically talking about them, and therefore talked back to me through their mark ups. It gets scary to see an obsession unfold as an observer or a target.

How Many People Are Affected?

Just like other crimes connected to passion, the crimes of stalking and cyberstalking are difficult to quantify. In order to count a stalking incident, the victim must report the crime. There are many times a person is stalked without their knowledge. How do we count that? There are many times the victim fails to report the crime because they feel it further ensnares them in the incident - they just want it to all go away. According to the Stalking Resource Center:
  • 6.6 million people are stalked annually in the US.
  • One in six women and one in 19 men have been stalked.
  • 66 percent of the women and 41 percent of the men were stalked by a current or former partner.
  • 46 percent of the victims had at least one unwanted contact weekly from the stalker.
  • 11 percent of stalking victims have been stalked for five years or more
  • One in seven stalking victims moved as a result of their victimization.
  • About one in five of stalking victims are stalked by a stranger.
Based on the numbers, we have all been touched in some way by a stalker. It's either happened to you or someone you know. In all cases the stakes are high. Stalkers have no limits and no boundaries. Unfortunately, stalkers get a head start because by the time the target figures out they're being stalked, things have spiraled out of control and escalated to a dangerous cocktail of obsession and delusion.

    Protect Yourself

    Being stalked is terrible, but doing nothing can jeopardize your life. Here's some resources and information you need:
    • Know Your Rights - Stalking Laws by State
    • Speak to an Expert at the Safe Horizon Hotline - 800-621-HOPE (4673).
    • Keep records of the incidents you are aware of - this can be used as evidence for police investigations for processing in criminal and/or civil cases.
    • Stay aware of your surroundings and limit your moments alone in public.
    • If you feel you are compromised at home, change your locks, limit who has access to your home.
    • Make your social media accounts private
    • Regularly change your passwords to secure your digital footprint
    Remember, you didn't make a stalker stalk you. You're generally facing a mentally ill person; exercise an abundance of caution. The ultimate goal for a victim of stalking is to end the stalking. Under no circumstance is is okay to retaliate against the stalker and perpetrate a crime. Following the law and advice from safety experts will help restore your own personal safety and quality of life. Let me hear your thoughts on this topic. How have you been impacted by stalking?

     

    --drJ

     #Shock the World

    Jennifer "drJ" Thibeaux is an American author, publisher, speaker, and entrepreneur. Leading The Thibeaux Company®, drJ hopes to impact human performance in a variety of industries. Working with executives and key influencers in Fortune 100 companies, drJ has developed a keen sense of performance in action. Earning business and education advanced degrees, drJ continues to insert intelligence into the performance conversation. Hosting and appearing on a variety of radio shows, podcasts, and other broadcast mediums, drJ has no "stop" in sight. To find out more about Jennifer "drJ" Thibeaux or products and projects from The Thibeaux Company®, be sure to visit www.Thibeaux.org


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