Police Psychology | Stalking the Stalker
Hamish Brown, MBE
Hamish retired in 2004 as a Detective Inspector on the Specialist Crime Directorate at New Scotland Yard after over 30 years service with the Metropolitan Police, London England
It is easy to think stalking is all about celebrities and the stars, after all when we see any news item about stalking it is usually associated with those people. It is true, of course, the stalking of celebrities is a rising and serious problem. The growth of the technical sophistication of the media, the rise of the internet and the unparalled access to information have all contributed to provide a dangerous basis on which stalkers can survive.
The threat is real to celebrities but this is only the tip of the iceberg as the over whelming number of people who are stalked are ordinary members of the public. They do not have their own lawyers, agents and security but are the often anonymous victims of stalking who have to fend for themselves. They are attacked every day with a terror that is real to them but unknown by others.
Domestic violence plays a significant part but stalking can be connected to many other reasons as well including resentment, bullying and intimidation. It must be taken into account that whilst it is normally the case of men stalking women but women can, and do, stalk men with males often seen as too embarrassed to report it and there is same sex stalking as well.
What is unique about the crime of stalking is the acts are usually not specific criminal offences but it is the circumstances or totality of the behaviour that counts. For example, it is not a crime to constantly stand outside a person’s house or persistently follow them about but this can be upsetting for the recipient all the same. It is precisely this type of seemingly innocent behaviour that is often used by stalkers to cause victims’ psychological distress and it is essential to think outside the box when looking at stalking activity.
Examples of this behaviour can include the ordering of unwanted taxis and pizza deliveries, the delivering of unwelcome flowers and presents and the sending of endless texts or other computer communications. Stalkers can be unbelievably cunning and think through scenarios which beggar belief. There was a case of a man who knew his former girlfriend was upset when she heard a certain piece of music as this was played at the funeral of close friend. He, knowing she was away from the mobile, called her and played the music down the voice mail.
The internet and social networking sites plays a large part in our lives and not surprisingly ‘cyber stalking’ is a big issue. There was a case where a lady, who had some domestic problems, was walking down a quiet street with her five year old son John when she received a text simply saying, “John’s shoe lace is undone,” and when she looked down saw it was. It is important to be careful what information and photographs are divulged and we have seen sensitive issues surrounding ‘revenge porn.’ Many people would not care to go to a busy shopping mall and shout out details of their private lives to the masses of strangers. The same should apply to what information is put on the internet because that is who it is likely to be seen – by strangers.
Remember, stalking is a nasty and insidious crime and victims are entitled to be taken seriously.
Site Editor: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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