Stalking is the willful, malicious and repeated following, harassing, or contacting of another person. Stalking becomes a criminal act when the harassment causes a “reasonable person” to feel fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.
The problems begin with the fact that there is no enforceable definition of what constitutes a “reasonable person,” nor is there generally any due process attempt to prove willful intent in stalking cases.
In the gender feminist world all women are “reasonable” and all men are not, and if she doesn’t like what he is doing it must be willful intent to stalk her. That ideology is hardly a sound basis for draconian legislation that makes stalking a felony in Colorado and many other states.
The following should not be interpreted to suggest that stalking isn’t a real, and often frightening phenomenon. However, as with other issues of domestic violence the term, and now crime of stalking have been so broadly defined that the behavior of any lovesick swain is now a crime. Consider the song lyrics made popular in the 1950s by Nat King Cole and still frequently played today, some 50-years later:
Lyrics: To The Ends Of The Earth
Songwriters: Sherman, Noel, Sherman, Joe
Label: Capitol Records
Artist: Nat King Cole
To the ends of the earth
I’ll follow my star
To the ends of the earth
Just to be where you are
No matter where you roam
I’ll never be far behind
Who cares where the path may wind
As long as I find you?
Though the melody dies
The song lingers on
And a thousand goodbyes
Won’t convince me you’re gone
I’ll follow you, my love
You’ll never be free
To the ends of the earth
Till you’ve given your love to me
No matter where you roam
I’ll never be far behind
Who cares where the path may wind
As long as I find you?
Does this song sound like (a) a stalker’s symphony, or (b) the refrain of a lovesick swain? If you answered (a) then you might be regarded as seriously emotionally disturbed and have clearly never been in love.
In a following section psychologist Dr. Michael Connor points out that nearly 90% of all college students who break up will engage in what is called “unwanted pursuit behavior.” Obviously “stalking” isn’t unusual and is rarely criminal. But when such normal behavior is mixed with radical feminist hysteria it is made to sound as though every unwanted phone call, email, or passing in the hall or on the road is a criminal act.
Clearly in many cases we have made normal human behavior a felony.
Falling in and out of love is not criminal
Now the truth is that virtually everyone, man or woman, who has fallen in love has engaged in what might be termed “stalking” behavior. Admit it, you sent love notes to her. You drove past his house many times to check on him. You followed her home from school to find out where she lived. You called and texted him ten times a day. And that is when the relationship is heating up.
But what happens when love goes south?
Since nearly 90% of all college students who break up will engage in what is called “unwanted pursuit behavior” it is a perfectly normal reaction to love lost. Pursuit behavior includes writing notes or poetry, giving gifts, making phone calls or texting, contacting friends, following the person or intruding in their life. This can border and easily cross the line and become an obsession.
What researcher’s find interesting is that pursuit behavior is the norm. If Jane dissolves a relationship with Bob, then it is very common for Bob to pursue Jane as a means to try and restore the relationship, or vice versa. Researchers call this a “relationship repair mechanism.” Some people, and even the courts, mistakenly call this stalking. So that creepy boyfriend who keeps calling or sending you email, or the lunachic who persists in texting or calling you after a single date, are not criminals, simply human and behaving in normal courtship rituals, however you might resent it.
Dr. Conner also notes that:
• Women stalk men nearly as much as men stalk women.
• Men and women also stalk each other in similar ways.
• Men stalk more at night and women stalk more by day.
• Nearly 3 out of 11 people who break up will begin to feel or think they are being stalked.
On any given day, about one out of a thousand people may feel like they are being stalked. But is it criminal? Or have the radical feminists who believe a pillow fight is domestic violence simply established a new beachhead in their war against men?
What is criminal stalking?
A lot of people imagine they are being stalked and it seems to be a favorite tactic of women to make false allegations of stalking for vengeance, revenge, or to gain advantage in a divorce. Note that some men do the same, usually with much less success. But are the imagined wrongs of a drama queen really criminal acts?
Lets take a moment and review what is criminal stalking. Under Colorado law stalking is the willful, malicious and repeated following, harassing, or contacting of another person. Stalking becomes a criminal act when the harassment causes a “reasonable person” to feel fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them. Most states have similar statutes.
So before a tale of love-gone-wrong is considered “stalking” be sure that what you’ve endured, or are enduring definitely crosses the line into criminal behavior and that you are acting as a “reasonable person.”Hysteria and false allegations only serve to mask the real problems.
Note that men and women in love seldom act in a fashion their friends think is reasonable and when love turns to hate it’s Katy bar the door. So just because you hate him, or her, does not mean they are stalking you when they try to make amends.
Then when does “stalking” become criminal?
Criminal behavior during stalking
Anytime death threats are made or property is destroyed, and it can be documented, it seems clear the behavior is criminal. Unfortunately, men often treat these incidents as a joke initially and women commonly react hysterically to often minor incidents. And the justice system is a poor arbitrator even when death threats present a clear and present danger to an individual. Much-touted restraining orders are no protection at all and may well make the situation worse.
Criminal stalking is frequently marked by broken car windows, slashed and flat tires, phone calls every half hour at all hours of the night and day, stolen mail, filing a false change of address, false allegations of domestic violence and child abuse, spying often by intercepting email, wrecking or hacking computer(s), and so on.
Other common criminal stalking behaviors reported to the Equal Justice Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org) are:
• Arson, which mainly seems to be done by women in our experience;
• Tracking by use of the Internet, GPS devices on cars, in purses, bicycles, with cell phones, etc.;
• Use of neighbors or friends to track your whereabouts or if you have a new relationship, but this is only criminal if he or she uses the information illegally;
• Attacks or harassment of a new girlfriend or boyfriend;
• Surveillance cameras;
• Calling employers or military commanders and making false reports;
• Filing false reports with police, particularly where this will get a man, and sometimes a woman, arrested at work or on base;
• Identity theft or ruining your credit;
• Dumpster diving, or going through your trash or mail to get credit card applications and then taking out a credit card in your name or other malicious acts;
• Emptying out bank accounts or transferring stocks and bonds into their name (usually happens during a divorce);
• Entering your residence or going through your desk at work;
• Stealing, often just petty items as a momento; and
• A million other ways irrational people can and will invent to terrorize their victim.
Stalking and technology
By 2004 it became relatively trivial to “stalk” someone via the Internet. Talk to any private investigator or reporter and you’ll find they currently have access to huge databases with virtually unlimited details about the life of almost any individual, e.g., ChoicePoint. Access to these databases is becoming ever easier for anyone with minimal computer skills and a few dollars to spend.
With regard to “stalking” consider the following scenario from the July 2004 IEEE Spectrum (p. 34) based on surveillance technology and databases that will almost certainly be available within a decade
“Passing you on the street, I swipe my RFID reader to obtain your name and address. Googling you on a few public databases, including one of new homeowners in the neighborhood, I discover that you’re in the market for a used lawn mower. Your bank account is in order, and your credit is fantastic, even after you paid off your ex-wife’s debt as part of your recent divorce settlement. You had a quadruple bypass last year and need a riding mower just like the one sitting in my garage. Your spy tracker alerts you to the fact that I’m checking you out, prompting you to launch your own investigation. You learn I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder and am taking medication to keep my life together. But you also know that my disorder manifests as a cleaning fetish; it’s a good bet that the lawn mower I listed on eBay is in pristine shape. Furthermore, you can infer that I’m so desperate to make my credit card payments this month that I’ll sell you that mower for a song.”
Now imagine you are being stalked and someone can get that level of information about you at almost no cost? For example, it presently costs $6 to download all your court records in Colorado from COcourts.com. Court records from Denver can be had free. And these are just a couple of currently-available public databases. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation also provides a criminal record database on individuals available for nominal cost. Most states have similar databases with public access. And note that it is essential for public safety that court and criminal records be publicly available.
As of 2010 you can stalk anyone who has a cell phone with commercially available services. Google “cell phone tracking.” For example, Big Daddy Spy promises that for $50 you can listen, read, and record any cell phone and the target phone will never know!
Or take stalking to another level of technology. In a spinoff of military observation, for $750, (plus options) you can currently purchase a radio-controlled airplane from Draganfly Innovations, Inc. in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. With optional eye-cam or digital still camera, the Predator will cruise silently for up to 1.5 hours on lithium-polymer batteries along a GPS-guided flight path transmitting digital still photographs and real-time color video. You’re just out flying your model airplane. No harm in that is there?
It is obvious that no laws against stalking can curtail the surveillance technology currently available, or soon to be available. Thus, the only purpose the current laws can serve is to provide a weapon for harassment and vengeance.
How common is criminal stalking?
I know of no quantitative estimates of how common criminal stalking is as distinguished from normal behavior. And what data exist are confused by false allegations that are all too easily made and failure to determine whether the level of events truly rises to the level where a “reasonable person” would be in fear. Typically, in court if you are male, you’re guilty as charged and damn due process and the evidence. And evidence of mental disorders in females is virtually certain to be ignored by the judge, particularly if she dresses well and is an accomplished liar.
Most stalking incidents are not reported, or such reports are ignored by law enforcement, something any man who has been stalked, and many women, will be familiar with. And except for the rare case where a man or woman is killed by a stalker there is little documentation of such incidents.
Stalking through a personal lens
I have been stalked, and know other men who have endured this as well, so it isn’t a topic I treat lightly. Let me present behavior by my ex-wife, who stalked me from 1997 to 2003. She pulled the usual: death threats, broken car windows, slashed and flat tires, pushed over mailbox, phone calls every half hour at all hours of the night and day, parking in front of the house, stolen mail and filed false change of address, false allegations of domestic violence and abuse (she was the violent one), and some other tricks if you’ve been criminally stalked you will likely relate to.
The behavior and actions of stalkers is often bizarre and all the more frightening thereby. Consider:
• A prominent oceanographer I worked with at Woods Hole eventually took a position in England after enduring more than a decade of stalking by his ex-wife. Her behavior was so outrageous even Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had been forced to take out a restraining order against her to keep her off the property.
• In January, 2000, a 19-year old Colorado Springs woman broke windows in her ex-boyfriend’s car in Lakewood, Colorado, then poured gasoline inside and set it on fire. His car, six nearby vehicles, and the carport were destroyed.
• In Nevada an exotic dancer convicted of stalking had posted a map on the Web with directions to the man’s house.
On the next page Wendy McElroy gives a woman’s perspective on stalking and offers some useful guidance on what to do about it. But, as a male, the laws and police are likely to be of no use if a woman is stalking you, and she will probably use the laws against you to claim she is the one in fear. In my case numerous calls I made to the police invoked no action against the woman. Eventually a civil suit convinced her to cease and desist but the cost to me was in the tens of thousands of dollars and, even then, she persisted for five years.
Available data show, as with domestic violence, that “stalking” behavior is fairly evenly divided between men and women. However, in our experience, women are much more persistent with such behavior. We are aware of several incidents of female stalking of former male partners that extends over more than a decade, although cases of men stalking women for similar periods are not unknown.
The most common version of stalking reported to the Equal Justice Foundation is a woman who takes out a restraining order against a man and then stalks him with cell phone in hand. When she finds him, she calls the police, who then arrest the man for violating the restraining order. In one case the woman took a job at the grocery store where she knew her ex-husband shopped. When he came in to buy groceries, she called the cops, and he spent Christmas and New Years in jail.
But not everything should be considered stalking.
Stalking: The latest hit on the feminist bandwagon
How do women view stalking a man?
Rather as a joke it would often appear. But stalking is now a felony in Colorado and many other states. However, that generally only applies if a man is stalking a woman.
In the real world a common scenario is for a woman to take out a restraining order and then stalk the man she has restrained to get him arrested. Consider a case where I was told:
“I am scared to death of her…she called the police on me because she found me in the bus station, catching the bus I have been riding for 2 years.”
Because of repeated reports of such incidents we have been beefing up the section on Defensive Male Actions because it is virtually certain the police will not take any steps to protect men who find themselves being stalked. The information in the section on Surveillance Methods As A Defense has proven useful to both men and women who were being stalked.
Stalking according to the National Violence Against Women survey
The following are taken from screening questions on the National Violence Against Women (NVAW) survey (2000, p. 6) defining what constituted “stalking” in their view:
• Not including bill collectors, telephone solicitors, or other salespeople, has anyone, male or female ever:
___ Followed you or spied on you?
___ Sent you unsolicited letters or written correspondence?
___ Made unsolicited phone calls to you?
___ Stood outside your home, school, or workplace?
___ Showed up at places you were even though he or she had no business being there?
___ Left unwanted items for you to find?
___ Tried to communicate in other ways against your will?
___ Vandalized your property or destroyed something you loved?
Stalking scenarios under these definitions
• You call a girl up that you met asking for a date. She says she is busy. You see her somewhere again and say hi. She smiles so you try for another date. No go. Try again and it must be “stalking.”
• You have a disagreement and she never wants to see you again. You send roses with a note. No response. You try calling a couple of times. That must be “stalking” as well.
• You write her a letter or email saying you’re sorry, and you would like to make up. You work in the same building and you leave the letter on her chair at work or send the email to her. You must be “stalking” her.Sending a letter or email can now be considered a crime!
• Your car breaks down and you ride the bus for a week. The bus stop is outside where she works. The bus is usually late and you are standing there waiting when she sees you day after day. How could it be anything but “stalking”?
• You’ve broken up. After you try calling her a couple of times you run into some friends of hers and ask how she’s doing. Could it be you are spying on her?
• She works at a business you frequent and you smile and flirt with her, as she does with you. You try to make a date or see her outside her work. Stalking.
Most people would regard such events as well within the normal course of human affairs. The path to true romance is filled with potholes but now we’ve made it a crime. Is that wise?
Remember, in such cases proof is not required, a female “victim” is believed without reservation or question, and hearsay is admissible. Of course it isn’t considered possible that the “victim” could be paranoid or psychotic. And her “fear” must be considered “reasonable” regardless of the actual circumstances.
How likely is it she might use such charges as revenge for some real or imagined wrong you may have done her?
Maybe you deal with females on another planet than the one I live on, but such raw, naked power to destroy will be used with evil intent here.
Anti-stalking laws don’t, and can’t work
Restraining orders and stalking
Will these draconian measures stop any individual bent on death and destruction. Certainly not! Consider the following article by Ellen Sorokin in The Washington Times, April 17, 2000.
“Anti-stalking legislation in the 1990’s has been hailed by women’s groups and public officials as a long overdue crackdown on abusive spouses and ‘twisted psychopaths.’ Prosecutors and police officers report that the laws rarely work. ‘It’s just a piece of paper,’ according to Arlington Deputy Attorney Theo Stamos. The restraining orders work in cases where the would-be-stalker is basically law-abiding, said Dorothy J. Lenning, with a Maryland advocacy group for domestic-violence victims, ‘But there are a lot of guys out there who are not law-abiding, so restraining orders aren’t so successful.’ Forensic consultant Reid Meloy agrees: ‘[Restraining orders] really don’t affect the very delusional.'”
The Times story also reported on two stalker-turned-murder cases in Maryland. This is out of 9,000 restraining orders issued in Maryland last year. Only 93 persons were held in contempt of protective orders in Maryland between 1997 and 1999. The story suggested that this was not enough.
The Times article is making a case that the laws don’t work because there has to be some evidence to convict a stalker of a crime in many states. The implication is that courts and police shouldn’t need evidence other than the allegations made by the “victim.” In short, you are guilty because she says you are. And, of course, if you are a male being stalked by a female, such laws don’t apply and the police will almost certainly do nothing except possibly ridicule you.
The Times reporter does not question whether the 350,000 protective orders for stalking issued each year are justified, or consider that an unfair judgment may actually be the catalyst that sparks an otherwise ugly situation into violence. She does quote experts who suggest that law-abiding men aren’t a threat (so why is the protective order needed?), and that delusional individuals are nearly impossible to stop.
Although Ms. Sorokin’s intent was to argue that laws should be tougher, her facts suggest that the laws do nothing to prevent violence. She conveniently ignores the much bigger issue of how these laws are abused as leverage in domestic disputes and divorces, or for revenge and vengeance, and effectively deny due process of law to those accused.
There is other evidence that the present laws don’t stop, or even greatly hinder those who stalk. While we believe the National Violence Against Women survey is fatally flawed overall, they do present the only semi-quantitative evidence we have found on how effective current anti-stalking measures are. Tjaden and Thoennes (2000, p. 52) report that more than two thirds of the restraining orders issued against men for stalking women were violated and nine out of ten issued against women stalking men were ignored in their sample.
I have also seen frequent attempts to define stalking in a context that includes two people presently living together, the logic of which escapes me.
It appears quite evident that with stalking we are presently treating the symptoms and not the cause.
But how can criminal stalking be reduced?
You may never have been criminally stalked, and known the fear that goes with it, but you are upset by the abuse of current laws. If so, help us fight the injustice by joining the Equal Justice Foundation and volunteering your time and expertise. We certainly are not going to win this without help. And if you know of someone who is being stalked you might pass the link along.
If you want to avoid a stalker
The only thing we’ve found effective to end stalking is distance. Face it, they probably aren’t going to stop anytime soon of their own volition. Having them arrested is more likely to increase your danger than stop them. As shown before, restraining orders provide no protection, and all too frequently end in murder, yours.
So you’d best make up your mind to move. We recommend a minimum of 500 miles away, but 1,000 would be better.
In extreme cases one can even change their Social Security number. But before you go that far, Jack Luna, in his book How To Be Invisible: The Essential Guide To Protecting You Personal Privacy, Your Assets and Your Life offers some valuable tips including the following:
1. Stop receiving mail at your home address.
If you truly want to avoid a stalker or other nuisances and uninvited guests, never allow your name to be connected to where you live (after you move). Rent a private mailbox with a commercial mail-receiving agency. A “ghost” address is better: Pick up your mail and courier, e.g. FedEx, UPS, packages at a local office or at your accountants or a friends home. Some people even have mail sent to their attorney’s office and then have it forwarded to the “ghost” address or mailbox. More expensive but probably safer.
For license renewals, or anything else that shows up in a public records search, create a limited liability company (see No. 4) and buy a forwarding address from a service in Alaska.
2. Change your phone number.
Even better, cancel your land line and use a disposable prepaid cell phone that you replace regularly. If you absolutely must have a land line for an Internet connection, at least cancel your present phone. Then after you move, and at least two weeks later, have a legal proxy or nominee (established with a simple form) order a new unlisted number.
Include whatever security features are available with the new service, e.g., Caller ID (a must), call screening, no calls except in emergencies between certain hours (stops those 1 AM hang up calls), etc. Talk with the phone representative and find out what options are available at your new location. Also ask them about how to have a call traced if you suspect that certain someone has tracked you down despite all your precautions and keep that information handy as, typically, you must initiate call trace immediately and certainly before any other call is received.
• Never use your license as ID. If you don’t have a passport, order one. Passports don’t list Social Security numbers or addresses.
• Take your name off all titles. Establish a New Mexico limited liability company. LLC ownership is anonymous in that state, and no annual reports are required. Use your LLC when you purchase vehicles, boats, real estate, or whatever. Unlike corporations, single-member LLC’s do not usually require a tax ID (EIN), and are not named on your tax returns. Any income is listed as personal income on Schedule C.
• Buy a cross-cut shredder. “Dumpster diving” is becoming ever more popular and virtually everything about you can be learned from your trash. Don’t make it easy for them.
• If death threats have been made against you, whether by a man or woman, we recommend you obtain a concealed carry permit and go armed at all times. At the very least you should have pepper or wasp spray cans to use against your stalker.
And don’t assume that after one year, or five years, that a stalker has given up. In many cases this game goes on for more than a decade, particularly with female stalkers. We’ve even heard of cases where a stalker was sent to prison but then continued stalking their victim after being released.
Equal Justice Foundation http://www.ejfi.org/