This week’s chilling headlines highlight the proliferation of stalkers terrorizing America. Stalking can happen to anyone: it can happen to you.
The San Francisco Chronicle calls attention to the case of a Phoenix, Arizona man convicted and sentenced for stalking his ex-girlfriend. Maricopa County prosecutors convicted 35-year old Gregg Pfeifer on charges that he repeatedly stalked and harassed his ex-girlfriend and her family with incessant texts, phone calls and e-mails and placed a jar of gasoline on her hood of a friend’s car parked next to her home. Police arrested Pfeifer on suspicion of arson, aggravated harassment and stalking. The court sentenced Pfeifer to nearly nine years in jail and lifetime probation.
On June 7, 2013, a Moline, Illinois man, Jeffrey A. Graves, plead not guilty to criminal stalking after he threatened to kill a woman by injecting her with drain cleaner. After allegedly holding her against her will and repeatedly sexually assaulting the victim, Graves is said to have threatened to cut off the heads of her children. Prosecutors presented evidence that Graves, using another inmate’s identity, called the victim at least 65 times and wrote 2 threatening letters addressed to the victim’s young son while he was in jail awaiting trial. A trial date is pending.
Try to envision the shame, embarrassment, disappointment and sadness a Minnesota woman must have felt when she discovered that the “man of her dreams” whom she meet online was in reality her “Sicko” ex-husband. After a messy divorce and exhausting custody battle in 2011, the victim went online to a dating site in the hope of finding an honorable and loving man. She thought she had found her soul mate in Aaron Carpenter. The victim and Carpenter carried on an extensive online courtship. Turns out Aaron Carpenter is really the victim’s ex-husband, Brian Mathew Cornelius. As of June 8, 2013, charges filed show Cornelius will appear in court next month to face stalking charges.
Stalking In America
Unless you have personally been the victim of a stalker, it is virtually impossible to imagine the horrific physical trauma and emotional devastation of the experience. Stalking in America affects not only the terrified victim; it impacts the lives of their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
The Office Of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice (NIJ) defines stalking, “Like domestic violence, stalking is a crime of power and control. Stalking is conservatively defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated (two or more occasions) visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear. Stalking behaviors also may include persistent patterns of leaving or sending the victim unwanted items or presents that may range from seemingly romantic to bizarre, following or lying in wait for the victim, damaging or threatening to damage the victim’s property, defaming the victim’s character, or harassing the victim via the Internet by posting personal information or spreading rumors about the victim.”
The NIJ further reports, “Based on U.S. Census estimates of the number of women and men in the country, one out of every 12 U.S. women (8.2 million) has been stalked at some time in her life, and one out of every 45 U.S. men (2 million) has been stalked at some time in his life.” Statistics indicate that men do the most stalking and 4 out of 5 stalking victims are women.
The majority of stalkers assault their victims through fear and intimidation, following a predictable pathetic pattern that often seems too weird to be real. Stalkers experience no boundaries and refuse to take no for an answer. They believe the object of their obsession really does love them. Victims often receive an endless barrage of texts, e-mails, notes, letters and phone calls proclaiming the predator’s undying affection and lewd desires followed by unwanted gifts and even death threats when the stalker feels rejected.
In a paper “Stalkers and their Victims” by Paul E. Mullen, M.B.B.S., D.Sc., and Michele Pathé, M.B.B.S. presented in the Psychiatric Times April 2001 Vol. XVIII Issue 4, stalking is defined.
· The Rejected respond to an unwelcome end to a close relationship by actions intended to lead to reconciliation, an extraction of reparation from the victim or both. For the stalker, the behavior maintains some semblance of continued contact and relationship with the victim.
· The Intimacy Seekers pursue someone they have little, if any, relationship with in the mistaken belief that they are loved, or inevitably will be loved, by the victim. The stalking satisfies needs for contact and closeness while feeding fantasies of an eventual loving relationship.
· The Incompetent are would-be suitors seeking a partner. Given their ignorance or indifference to the usual courting rituals, they use methods that are, at best, counterproductive and, at worst, terrifying. The stalking provides an approximation of finding a partner.
· The Resentful respond to a perceived insult or injury by actions aimed not just at revenge but also at vindication. The stalking is the act of vengeance.
· The Predatory pursue their desires for sexual gratification and control. The stalking is a rehearsal for the stalker’s violent sexual fantasies and a partial satisfaction of voyeuristic and sadistic desires.
When a victim turns to law officers for relief, their complaints may be dismissed as the grumblings of a spurned lover or the too eager pursuit of an ardent suitor. It may be difficult to convince police officers that box of chocolates anonymously left on your pillow or the flowers delivered to your mother’s address put you in fear for your life and are more than just harassment. Stalking is often difficult to prove unless the threat is written and explicit. Even when the victim succeeds in obtaining a court mandated restraining order; a restraining order is not an antidote for fear. Victim’s continue to live in a state of unrelenting anxiety, terrified to walk the dog alone or go to the market knowing they could well be in the “cross-hairs” of the watchful eye of a predator intent on causing them bodily harm.
The Federal Government, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. Territories have passed anti-stalking legislation; however, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, juries and judges often find themselves hampered by lack of evidence. Facts are buried in a quagmire of unrequited love, lust, jealousy, anger, frustration and fear. It is often a matter of “she said, he said” without hard proof of behavior that meets the standard of the anti-stalking statutes. Anti-stalking laws vary from state to state and violation of the law may result in either misdemeanor or felony charges. The question of when and how to apply the law is normally based on the accessed level of threat.
As the stalking behavior escalates, stalkers often violently vent their feelings of frustration and rejection by damaging the victim’s personal property or injuring or killing the victim’s pet. Victims exist in a constant state of terror: afraid to open the mail, answer the phone or to respond to a knock at the door. Victims become socially isolated, afraid to meet with family or friends because doing so could place loved ones in great danger. A stalker will stop at nothing and may hurt or kill someone close to the victim in order to further terrorize and manipulate the stalker-victim relationship. Although some stalkers are strangers to their victims, the NJI reports that over 62 percent of stalkers have some type of relationship with their victim: the majority through dating or marriage.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) reports, “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men. Those numbers only tell part of the story—more than 1 million women are raped in a year and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking in a year. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are important and widespread public health problems in the United States.”
In a fact sheet on stalking presented by Mindy Mechanic Ph.D. with the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, the consequences of stalking in America is explained:
“Victims of stalking experience a number of disruptive psychological consequences of stalking, including significant fear and safety concerns, as well as symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Most stalking victims do not seek mental health services. Approximately one-third of female and one-fifth of male stalking victims sought professional counseling. While homicide occurs in only 2% of stalking cases, when it does occur, the victim is most likely to be a former intimate partner.”
By: Marlene Affeld
U.S. Center For Disease Control and Prevention
The Village Voice
Stalking The Stalkers
The New York Times
Me And My Shadow
Fact Sheet On Stalking
National Violence Against Women Research Center
San Francisco Chronicle
Phoenix man gets prison in arson and stalking case
Quad City Times
Man pleads not guilty to felony stalking charge
Woman’s boyfriend turns out to be ex-husband