Stalking is a pressing social disorder in modern society. Prior to the passage of stalking laws, police officers were sometimes unable to arrest except if there was proof of physical contact, such as an attack (Taylor-Dunn et al., 2021). Presently, stalking is assumed to be a type of cyberstalking involving intimidation or harassment using modern communication methods, including sending spam messages or emails to an unwilling or unresponsive target (Moore, 2017). Many scholarly papers have been published that define stalking and underscore its psychological, social, and legal consequences. The victim’s role in the victimization process, as well as the immediate and long-term impacts of violence on victims, have been the subject of study in recent decades. Ultimately, the perpetrators frequently try to alter or exaggerate the details of the crime to diminish their involvement, making the victim doubt their accounts, which can be termed gaslighting.
Victims’ Stalking Experiences
Frequently, the victim gives specific details concerning the conditions underlying the crime. This includes communications and encounters with the perpetrator before and after the incident, threats and demands made to them, and the offender’s weapon of choice. Other information may encompass the perpetrator’s identity and whereabouts and information on their character (if they are familiar with the victim). The victim’s statement helps therapists and detectives categorize and investigate the crime and finally interrogate the perpetrator.
Victims of stalkers usually feel stuck in an atmosphere characterized by worry, tension, and dread, which forces them to make radical changes to their way of life. According to the target’s viewpoint, the stalker is either familiar or mysterious (McEwan et al., 2018). There is a range in stalking from zero physical interaction to a fatal level of interaction and intimidation. Emily Infeld, a successful American athlete, was at the pinnacle of her profession when an unknown male developed a dangerous obsession with her (Kumar & Lavigne, 2021). She lived in constant insecurity and occasionally in exile for over two years.
The man sent her many messages on Facebook Messenger and many emails in which he made elaborate plans on how he wanted their “wedding” to be conducted. Stalking victims’ harrowing experiences under their tormentors are best captured by Infeld’s words: “I was paranoid the whole time…I looked out the windows, I paced, I couldn’t be still. I was really scared” (Kumar & Lavigne, 2021). This statement is a classic example of the impact of stalking on the victim. They lose control of their lives because someone else pushes them to live a life of fear, anxiety, and stress.
Targets have frequently interacted with stalkers, more commonly without the victim’s knowledge. Consequently, they may be unaware of the perpetrator’s identity. There is no reciprocity between the victim and the stalker. Inevitably, the victim will notice the predator’s existence (Moore, 2017). Additional possible targets include wives, partners, and anybody seen as a barrier between the creeper and their intended victim. In other words, uninvolved individuals and the victim’s acquaintances become targets of the creep’s activity in certain circumstances.
Victim-Blaming and Gaslighting of Stalking Victims
Most research on stalking originates from domestic violence victims, whom their abusers usually harass. Stalking is a common characteristic of domestic violence, especially when the perpetrator is extremely jealous or after the breakup of an unhealthy partnership. Males often stalk close partners or ex-lovers to exercise dominance and influence over them (Jane, 2020). According to Cass (2020), most stalkers deny or resort to victim-blaming when reported to authorities. Gaslighting methods that exploit victims’ systemic weaknesses successfully isolate and trap them. Offenders use victims’ fear and mistrust of establishments to portray them as “mad” and increase their control over them (Jane, 2020). These systemic flaws result from sexual, gender, and racial disparities embedded in how victims, for example, females, are perceived and handled in institutional contexts.
Since abusers take advantage of structural flaws, entities generally considered useful to victims typically become a component of gaslighting. For example, in the Infeld case, the stalker was a mental health patient, which complicated his capture (Kumar & Lavigne, 2021). Indeed, authorities are inclined to disregard allegations where the accused has psychological issues or diseases since detaining and pushing the individual through the system could exacerbate their condition. This is particularly true if the judicial process has no effective rehabilitation strategy for individuals with psychiatric problems (The United States Department of Justice, 2017). Possibly, the police sympathized with Infeld’s stalker more than they did with her as the victim because the former had mental health problems.
Stalking has been identified as a major risk factor for intimate partner violence. Romantic companions committed over 22 percent of killings in the U.S. in 2016, many of whom started by stalking their victims before murdering them (Ertl et al., 2019). Although many victims report their partners for stalking, it is often challenging to follow up on the cases because some partners counter the accusations with their version of the stalking claims. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to know who is telling the truth, especially when there is no clear evidence of stalking.
The effect of stalking on the victim may be different depending on their personal qualities, prior experiences, and present situations. The general impact of a stalking incident on the target may be influenced by how those around react to the victim’s predicament, mainly how law enforcement handles the harassment. Overall, stalking victims serve as a treasure of facts, providing a better comprehension of the encounter of long-term bullying and a better understanding of stalking as a social disorder.
Cass, A. I. (2020). College student perceptions of victim responsibility in stalking incidents. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 31(3), 353-371. Web.
Ertl, A., Sheats, K. J., Petrosky, E., Betz, C. J., Yuan, K., & Fowler, K. A. (2019). Surveillance for Violent Deaths – National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Surveillance Summaries, 68(9), 1–36. Web.
Jane, E. A. (2020). Online abuse and harassment. The International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication, 1-16. Web.
Kumar, A., & Lavigne, P. (2021). Olympic runner Emily Infeld’s harrowing three-year ordeal with a stalker. ESPN.com; ESPN. Web.
McEwan, T. E., Shea, D. E., Daffern, M., MacKenzie, R. D., Ogloff, J. R., & Mullen, P. E. (2018). The reliability and predictive validity of the Stalking Risk Profile. Assessment, 25(2), 259-276. Web.
Moore, A. (2017). Surviving a cyberstalker: How to prevent and survive cyber abuse and stalking. Alexis Moore.
Taylor-Dunn, H., Bowen, E., & Gilchrist, E. A. (2021). Reporting harassment and stalking to the police: A qualitative study of victims’ experiences. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(11-12), NP5965–NP5992. Web.
The United States Department of Justice. (2017). Addressing mental illness in the criminal justice system. Justice.gov. Web.