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Stalking – An Often Overlooked and Downplayed Piece of Domestic Violence

By: Mary-Margaret Sweeney, Director of Community Engagement, DVN

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. It is an often overlooked or downplayed piece of domestic violence, yet a factor in so many of our stories. The National Center for Victims of Crime list some common examples of stalking:

Follow you and show up wherever you are.

  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails.
  • Damage your home, car, or other property.
  • Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
  • Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
  • Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
  • Find out about you by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
  • Posting information or spreading rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.

From Protection Against Stalking

 

If you have never experienced stalking, imagine yourself in one of the above situations. Maybe the stalker even uses several of them. Consider how destabilizing it would be to live this way. You never know when they may show up. Unwanted gifts or cards are seen by co-workers as sweet and loving, but you feel in your gut that there is danger under the surface. Attention from your partner that was at first welcomed by you becomes overwhelming and demanding. Your protests may be met by onlookers with “I wish my partner sent me flowers!” or “Aww, give them another chance! It’s cute that they’re willing to fight for you!” The person stalking you might say “You used to love it when I surprised you!” “I just love you; what’s wrong with that?” “If you trusted me, you wouldn’t mind if I looked at your texts and emails.”

This can make a victim feel like they are the only one who sees this behavior as a problem, and that maybe they are wrong. Maybe they should be thankful that someone is paying this much attention to them. Grateful, even. And the cycle continues.

It is part of my mission as an educator activist to help people understand the forms of abuse that are not always obvious. I hope to help people understand that the same people who condescendingly ask “Why would you stay in an abusive relationship?” may be the very same people who six months ago also said, “Well I don’t know why you’re complaining! I wish my partner sent me flowers!” When someone expresses discomfort or fear in regards to their partner, it is our job to listen, ask how we can help, and believe them.

Written by Mary-Margaret Sweeney, DVN’s Director of Community Engagement