The Stalker - When presents and flattery turn into a threat …

What kind of people are they, the ones who turn amateur detective and make it their life’s work to follow others around, making a nuisance of themselves? We call them stalkers, and stalkers are hunters.

Once they have caught the scent, they follow their quarry. Typical actions by stalkers are nuisance telephone calls, letters, SMS messages, making contact through third parties, hanging around, sending presents, lying in wait, following, breaking into the home, investigating daily routines and habits – right up to physical threats. Stalking is only seen as a criminal activity when the level of terrorisation has reached its height. Before this, the police are unable to take serious action against presents and constant declarations of love.

Know your enemy – free yourself from his power

Stalkers are usually known to the victim: an ex-partner, a work colleague, a neighbour or a close acquaintance. VIPs are also affected. Many of us – the statistics say at least ten percent – have personally experienced some form of stalking behaviour at some time (though often in a more harmless form). Being constantly followed by an ex-partner is unfortunately so commonplace that it is almost regarded as "somehow normal" nowadays. Usually the motivation for stalking is to be found in the relationship with the victim. A conference on "Stalking" was held in Vienna in 2004. A distinction was drawn between vengeance-related stalking, instrumental stalking and stalking related to domestic violence. In this respect the typology developed by Pat Mullen and his colleagues at the Victorian Institute for Forensic Psychiatry in Australia is interesting. It identifies five different types of stalker:

The rejected stalker

Largest group (50%)
Mostly ex-partners
Often a mixture of motives – anger and reconciliation
Belief that the victim is provoking them
Also feelings of vengeance caused by taking narcissistic offence

The relationship-seeking stalker

Misinterpretation of the relationship
Ignoring/reinterpreting the victim’s feedback
Idealising the victim - "idolisers"
Stalker is often a "loner"
Victim can be desired as a partner/friend/parent figure
Not susceptible to counter-action

The attacking stalker

Stalker is almost always male
Stalking is a prelude to violence (spying, delusions of power, practice)
Frequently acts of sexual violence
Victims do not notice the stalking
Stalker is sometimes deficient in social relationships (loner)

The vengeance-seeking stalker

Victim stands for a supposedly suffered injustice
Stalker wants to turn helplessness into power
Victim is intended to feel fear and desperation
Stalker feels justified in stalking, sees himself as a "victim" taking vengeance

The erotomanic, morbid, obsessive stalker

Usually a psychopathic personality, often paranoid
Motivation: control/dominance
Victim is seen as "prey"
Subtle stalking techniques

In a study involving 551 victims and 98 perpetrators conducted in Darmstadt, Germany, it was found that the victim suffered for an average of 28 months. 40 percent of stalkers were repeat offenders. Most stalkers perceive their parental home as cool and remote. They like to be in control during relationships, and are afraid of the relationship breaking up. They use control methods to maintain the relationship. The central point of stalking is power and helplessness. Karin Spacek of the 24-hour emergency service says: "For the perpetrators, exercising power and control is the central element in the relationship which has enabled them to raise their own self-esteem. In these cases separation means a loss of power and control, with consequent loss of self-esteem. That is why psychological terror cannot be stopped by a rational conversation. Any further rejection carries the risk that the destructive feelings and control needs of the perpetrator will be strengthened. In extreme cases this can lead not only to physical attacks, but even to murder of the victim." (Conference report "Stalking", Vienna 2004) Many victims of stalking are unaware that their reactions give the stalker fresh ammunition. Negative acknowledgement is preferable to the stalker than not being noticed at all. Stalkers seek a "relationship" with their victim. This can be very one-sided. What the stalker defines as a "liaison" can extend from a non-committal smile right up to fearful reactions on the part of the object of desire: "So long as she still feels something for me … even if she is frightened of me – after all, that means she still has feelings for me – then I still have an influence over this person which is vital to my survival."

Know yourself – free yourself from his power

Stalking is an interaction between two people: the victim and the perpetrator. Together they form a system, like a lock and key. The stalker continues his attacks owing to "suitable" signals. Stalking is the result of a relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. It is a circle which must be broken. This includes being aware of one’s own victim signals or helplessness, which attracts the stalker. Never negotiate with the opponent! Any communication with the stalker must be direct and in unmistakable language, with clear demands. This requires an equal conversational status and a self-confident manner. Justifications, apologies or extended negotiations by the victim can be construed as victim behaviour and achieve the opposite effect. The word "No" must allow no negotiation! Blitzdefence role-playing provides enough scope for conveying unmistakable messages and building up long-term self-confidence. Where stalking is involved, it is urgently necessary to seek professional help either as a perpetrator or victim. In their study of stalking, the psychologists Voss and Hoffmann in Darmstadt come to this conclusion: "In almost two thirds of these cases, the stalkers desisted from their behaviour when a police complaint was made. Care must however always be taken when applying these measures, as under certain conditions the situation can escalate as a result of proactive intervention." More about this in Part 3 of the article on court verdicts and Blitzdefence, "You won’t escape me" (WTW March 05). EWTO members wishing to know more about self-defence for women should refer to the relevant seminars held by Sabine Mackrodt and Emanuel Kellert, and the book "Defend yourself! – Self-defence for women".

Text: Oliver C. Pfannenstiel, 3rd TG