The past few weeks have served as an unfortunate reminder to the real-world dangers which have been lying in wait for our return to normal. Active shooters, aggravated grievance, political attacks, and then this week, stalking concerns confronting public figures re-emerged as stark reminders to yet other dangers we will all be forced to contend with as our world reopens and our society slowly but surely does its best to get back on track.
But stalking is not a problem limited to the extravagant lifestyles of the rich and the famous. In fact, those public figure stalking concerns encompass only a very small percentage of the overall stalking cases. This means that those most likely to be targeted by these intraspecies predators are the everyday people themselves.
For every case of a public figure being targeted by inappropriate pursuit, there are exponentially more concerns like what happened this week in Oklahoma, where a man was arrested after he attempted to abduct a former colleague he had been stalking for over a month.
Given this, I want to provide five protective strategies that those who are impacted by stalking concerns could have readily available to help them prepare today for a safer tomorrow.
But before we dig down into these protective strategies, I think it would also be helpful to recognize the difference in the kind of stalking concerns that celebrities, luminaries, and public figures are most likely to be pursued by are not necessarily the same kind of inappropriate pursuer that most people will be forced to face.
By and large, those who pursue and stalk public figures have serious mental illness — in fact more than 80% of them do. This is a drastic difference than those predators who stalk individuals with whom they covet as part of their everyday lives. Less than 7% of these stalkers are diagnosed with a serious mental illness. This is not to say that they are not “troubled” so much as it means that they are afflicted with a different type of emotional and mental immaturity that allows them to justify a pattern of behavior that would otherwise be viewed as being far outside the realm of acceptable social behavior.
Understanding the Motivation of a Stalker
- Simple Obsessional:This is the most common type of stalker and typically involves a male stalking an intimate partner who they believe is planning to leave them or who has already left them. The stalker is unable to move on from the relationship. In rarer scenarios, the stalking may be directed toward someone with whom the stalker had no intimate relationship, but there was a close personal connection which the stalker believes was violated, or was in some way mistreated, wronged, or the cause of some other unresolved grievance.
- Love Obsessional:In this type of stalking, the stalker is either a complete stranger or only casually known by the person being targeted. In order to “make themselves known,” the stalker becomes obsessed and begins a pattern of behavior as a means of making the victim aware of his or her existence. High profile examples of this type of stalking include when celebrities or public figures become the target. However, with the advent of social media, this type of stalking can be directed toward anyone with whom the predator has an infatuation.
- Erotomania:In this type of stalking, the stalker incorrectly believes that their target is in love with them, and if not for some external barrier or interference, the two of them would be together. These perceived obstacles only exist in the mind of the stalker, but realities may fuel delusion. The target is married, therefore, her spouse is “holding her prisoner and she must be rescued.” Or, her parents would never approve of us, so they must be removed. This is a critical variable to consider since the stalker may also pose a risk to those persons close to the victim who may be viewed as “being in the way.”
Despite a general understanding of what may have motivated a stalker to begin the inappropriate pursuit of their victim, there is still no way to predict what they will do and when. No two stalking cases are identical just as no two cases of heart disease are identical. But what both do have are the known dynamics that are most likely to end in a harmful consequence. So, just as the doctor may be able to assess a person’s high blood pressure and high cholesterol and determine that a heart attack is likely, it would be impossible for that same doctor to predict with accuracy when that heart attack will take place. The same assessment protocol takes place with threat management. The patterns and escalation in predatory practices may indicate a high degree of lethality, yet predicting the time and date of that violent act would not be possible.
This is exactly why both professions take the warning signs very seriously, prescribing best practices for making those bad things better.
With that being said, here are the five best protective strategies for stopping a stalker so that you can prepare today for a safer tomorrow.
Special thanks also to Chuck Randolph, Senior Director of Operations and Intelligence for AT-RISK International who joined me on the Coursen’s Corner podcast this week to discuss these protective strategies. You can hear our conversation in the clips below each section for why these take-aways are so important to stopping a stalker in their tracks.
#1. “Call stalking by its name”
If we choose to ignore today’s concerns, we will be forced to face tomorrow’s crises. Call the demons by their name, for only then can they be cast away. Give yourself permission to participate in your own protection. Sometimes the first step to managing a threat is to simply acknowledge that the risk is real. You may even notice that by doing so opens up the floodgates – both mentally and physically, for you to participate in your own protection, all because you gave yourself permission to do so.
#2. “Document everything”
Write down everything that has happened leading up to this exact moment and then document everything that happens from that point forward. Do not block phone numbers. Do not block them on social media. Don’t do anything that may escalate this concern into a game of cat and mouse.
The more information you can document, the more able your advocates will be to protect and defend you. Take screen shots, make voice notes, whatever information you have available should be documented as if you are journaling a historical record, because that is exactly what you need to do. If you call the police because there is a guy sitting outside your house, and that’s all the information they have to go on, there is not much they can do to help you.
But, if you show them that the guy in the truck is the same guy who got fired because he couldn’t take no for an answer, has been calling and texting you ten times a day, who started sending gifts to your home two weeks ago, and then started leaving gifts in person at your door step this week, and that same guy is now sitting in his truck outside your home, that is a pattern of behavior deserving of police intervention.
#3. “Ask for help”
The help will find you if you ask for it, but that help cannot find you if you do not ask for assistance. There are plenty of advocacy and support programs whose sole purpose for existence is to help good people make bad things better. These organizations are here to help you.
These organizations can help you get the help you need, but they can only help those who ask for their assistance. Do not try to do this alone. Do not think for one second that any of this was your fault, or that you did something to cause this. This is NOT your fault. You are not alone. There are good people waiting to help you … all you have to do is to ask.
#4. “Reduce your vulnerability”
Audit yourself with honesty. Where are you most at risk? Recruit local assets like the security guards at work or your job’s human resources team. The more eyes you have looking out for you, the safer you will be, and the more information you will be able to document for your file.
Do whatever you can to be proactive in your own protection. Maintain a healthy sense of skepticism and a moderate dose of vigilance so that you can help yourself stay as safe and protected as possible.
#5. “Decide if legal action is necessary”
If the concern has not resolved itself, you may want to take legal action by filing a restraining order or asking the police to make an arrest so that your stalker can be charged with stalking, criminal harassment, or some other charge. It is considered best practice to follow the sage wisdom and guidance of the team helping you to manage your concern toward its most favorable resolution, but ultimately, the choice is yours.
So, trust your gut, and defend yourself at all times. And don’t ever feel guilty for taking the necessary precautions or the proactive decisions to ensure the certainty of your safety.