I have read recently some famous personalities saying that it is fun stalking old school friends on twitter and facebook, to see what they are doing with their life. Recently, we heard an incident of a 15 years old girl committing suicide, as she was continuously cyber stalked and verbally bullied. This shows that some adults and children think stalking as an entertaining game and do not understand their own psychology or the suffering their behavior causes to the victims.
I think public at large needs to be educated regarding stalking: what it is, who does it and what is the impact and risks associated with it? Although it is a huge topic I am covering some aspects below after researching from Sam Vaknin’s site on abuse.
1. Stalking is a criminal offence
As per a 1997 Review Paper titled “Stalking (Part I) An Overview of the Problem”, Karen M. Abrams, MD, FRCPC1, Gail Erlick Robinson, MD, DPsych, FRCPC2, define stalking thus:
“Stalking, or criminal harassment, is defined as the ‘willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassing of another person’, usually requiring a ‘credible threat of violence’ against the victim or the victim’s family
(1).’Harass’ refers to willful conduct directed at a person that seriously alarms, annoys, or distresses the person and which serves no legitimate purpose;
(2). Typically, the behavior involves such things as loitering near the victim, approaching, making multiple phone calls, constant surveillance, harassing the victim’s employer or children, harming a pet, interfering with personal property, sabotaging dates, and sending threatening or sexually suggestive ‘gifts’ or letters. The harassment usually escalates, often beginning with phone calls that gradually become more threatening and aggressive in nature, and frequently ends in violent acts;
(3). In essence, the offender’s behavior is terrorizing, intimidating, and threatening, and restricts the freedom of and controls the victim.”
Here it needs to be highlighted that participating in criminal activities cannot be considered entertainment or fun by normal social behavior standards. This can have very serious consequences on the stalker and the victim.
2. Psychological Aspects of Stalkers
According to Sam Vaknin- “Stalkers are not made of one cloth. Some of them are psychopaths; others are schizoid, narcissists, paranoid, or an admixture of these mental health disorders. Stalkers harass their victims because they are lonely, or because it is fun (these are latent sadists), or because they can’t help it (clinging or co-dependent behavior), or for a myriad different reasons. The only denominator common to all bullying stalkers is their pent-up rage. The stalker is angry at his or her targets and hates them. He perceives his victims as unnecessarily and churlishly frustrating. The aim of stalking is to “educate” the victim and to punish him or her” This again indicates that this is not normal acceptable social behavior from adults and children.
3. Types of stalkers
a) The Erotomaniac
The stalker believes he/she is in love with his/her victim. The victim may categorically deny it and/or there is evidence available to the contrary, example the victim is married or in a committed relationship, the stalker will still consider that his/her feelings are reciprocated. The stalker believes that some coded messages are being given by the victim. Thus, the delusion remains in the stalker’s mind that victim is interested in him/her. These stalkers are generally ex-partners, neighbors or ex-coworkers.
b) The Narcissist
The narcissist stalker is not emotionally attached with the victim; however their sense of entitlement makes them believe that they are entitled to the victim’s time, attention, admiration and resources. The narcissist interprets every rejection as an act of aggression which leads to a narcissistic injury. Thus the narcissist reacts with rage and vindictiveness, and can turn violent. The narcissist considers himself above moral code of conduct and law, hence is immune to the consequences of his actions.
c) The Paranoid
The paranoid are unpredictable and are the most likely to turn violent. Paranoid stalkers cannot be reasoned or cajoled, and thrive on threats, anxiety and fear. They hate the victim’s freedom, and contact friends and relatives to find the victims address and contact details. They enter the premises, tap phones and hack computer systems to get the information. The paranoid are prone to bouts of extreme aggression and many women have lost their life because of a paranoid stalkers violent attack. They are normally ex-partners and are the most dangerous of all stalkers.
d) The Antisocial (Psychopath)
The psychopath does not comply with the social norms of the society. The psychopaths are generally vindictive, remorseless, ruthless, driven, dangerous, aggressive, violent, irritable, and, sometimes, prone to magical thinking. Many psychopaths are outright bullies and compensate their sense of inadequacy with verbal, psychological and physical abuse. Though ruthless and, typically, violent, the psychopath is a calculating machine, out to maximize his gratification and personal profit. Psychopaths lack empathy and may even be sadistic – but understand well and instantly the language of carrots and sticks. The psychopaths do not like tangling with law hence, can be explained that their unreasonable behavior will attract criminal allegations.
Stalking is becoming more prevalent in the society with technology. Now stalking is done by hacking internet and emails accounts, installing hidden spy cameras and recorders in place of work or residence, tapping phones and mobiles and installing GPS in vehicles. Simultaneously neighbors, friends and acquaintances are used to do proxy stalking. Proxy stalking is conducted when the main stalker is not physically present and uses other people to do it on his/her behalf.
The victims in most cases have to change their life style, work environments, social circle, phone numbers, email accounts etc. to avoid the stalker. Stalking literally means ‘hunting’, so one can understand a victim’s plight on being continuously hunted by different means. The victims are psychologically traumatized, some suffer from depression and a few turn suicidal.
Stalking must be stopped to protect the social environment. Psychological assistance must be provided to stalkers and victims. With psychological counseling stalkers can overcome their sense of internal inadequacy and this motivates them to stop their anti-social behavior. With psychological counseling victims can recover from the trauma of stalking and lead normal lives.
The society is morally responsible to curtail stalking by adults and kids. As a society we cannot allow this practice to run rampant. Please help in building awareness regarding the subject and initiating steps to restrict anti-social behavior.