Stalking as domestic terrorism

In 2009, the US Justice Department released the results of the largest survey ever done in the USA on stalking. The report stated that 3.4 million Americans had identified themselves as having been stalked during a one-year period. Some were male; the vast majority of those being stalked were female.

In this study, stalking was defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person on at least two separate occasions that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. The most common forms of stalking were unwanted phone calls (66 per cent), unsolicited emails or letters (31 per cent) or having rumors spread about them (36 per cent).

Nearly 75 per cent of the victims were familiar with their stalker who, in most cases, was an ex-spouse or ex-boyfriend.

A spokesperson for the US National Victim Center recently states un-categorically: ‘All stalkers have personality disorders.’ Narcissists, those with Borderline Personality Disorder, and Psychopaths are the most likely to stalk ex partner.Forensic psychiatrist Dr Park Dietz agrees. “None of the people who engage in stalking behavior are normal individuals.”

Criminologists say that non stranger stalking is triggered by the same emotionally inadequate response to losing control that serial killers exhibit. Robert Keppel, the lead detective in the Ted Bundy case, says that stalkers are typically “people who have abnormally short tempers, who snap at those around them during stress, who are prone to violence as a first resort . . . and who are almost pathological about exerting control over others and over events around them.”

The majority of domestic stalkers express their hostility towards a rejecting wife or girlfriend without murdering them. They stay at whatever is for them a ‘compensatory ‘level of violence. But the threshold between that and domestic homicide is ‘frighteningly narrow and the numbers of people on the edge so great,’ says Keppel.

According to experts, stalkers should be regarded as ‘terrorists’: whether they are stalking an ex-wife by spreading false rumors about her and sabotaging her employment, or breaking into her home.


B.T.K. wants to tell his story. Is that a good idea?

In August 2005, Dennis Rader pleaded guilty in a Kansas courtroom to 10 murders. Addressing the judge in a monotone, Rader, otherwise known as the B.T.K. Strangler, provided graphic details about each murder. He might as well been reading a shopping list. Rader’s flat delivery in the witness box added to the horrors he was describing. There was never a hint of remorse. Rader seemed to enjoy having everybody’s attention, and the TV cameras proved that he was no longer a nobody. Pausing in his testimony, he instructed the judge on the difference between “trolling” and “stalking.” His manner resembled a boring headmaster The only times there was a glimpse of the monster inside was an occasional smirk, quickly suppressed.

Since Rader is serving ten life sentences in the El Dorado state prison, one could reasonably expect that would be the last we heard of him. But not so fast. Serial killers are highly narcissistic. Rader was no exception. The attention-seeking prisoner missed being the spotlight. He even considered writing a book. Why not? He couldn’t profit from it of course, because of the Son of Sam law, but he would be back in the headlines. Luckily for the victims’ families as well as the rest of us he didn’t write his self-serving memoir. However, last year, Katherine Ramsland, a well-respected non-fiction author of 54 books, reached out to him. She wanted to write a book to help investigators and criminologists understand serial killers like Rader: would he co-operate with her? Would he what? Rader didn’t need any persuading. He embraced the idea.

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania who has in mind, she says, a “non sensationalist” book. Rader has in mind something different: a return to public attention. It’s a pity he will get it. Shortly after agreeing to co-operate, Rader sent a four page handwritten letter to a Kansas newspaper, to announce a book was on its way. The letter was labeled “From the Desk of: Dennis L. Rader.” He claims his intention is to help the victims’ families. “I can never replace their love ones, my deeds too ‘dark’ to understand, the book or movies, etc. is the only way to help them.” Obviously he’s hoping that his story will reach the big screen, too.

I’m not sure profilers will learn anything about the mind of a serial killer that they don’t already know. From the 1980s on, FBI researchers and criminologists have interviewed hundreds of serial killers in American prisons. There is also a first rate book written by veteran profiler John Douglas and Johnny Dodd called “Inside the Mind of BTK”. Still one has to applaud Professor Ramsland’s fortitude: I can’t imagine a more odious and unpleasant task for an author than to be in regular contact with Rader. Getting the truth from him is also going to be hard. As a psychopath, he will be determined to control the material. He might believe he can manipulate Professor Ramsland. He’s wrong of course. Ramsland is a highly respected psychologist who will recognize such tactics, but I don’t envy her the tug of war. The only person who will be enjoying himself is the subject. Just when you thought you had heard the last of him, Dennis Rader is back.

Why hasn’t the Equal Rights Amendment been passed?

I guess it was rather idealistic of me when I was a high school student to think that the birth of the women’s movement had been the death knell to gender discrimination. In fact, I confess that way into my thirties I always assumed the ERA had been passed. But more than forty years after it was introduced,the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t been ratified. Now obviously if the ERA ever passes, it won’t mean the end of misogyny. Legislation doesn’t end hatred. We know that from the continuing prevalence of racism. Nevertheless the passing of civil rights legislation that affirmed the races were equal and must be treated as such did result in sweeping changes. Passing the ERA would be evidence that women and men are also regarded as equal under American law. Refusing to pass it is proof they’re not, that the fight for equality isn’t over. It’s still a battle that needs to be won.

Psychopathy and its Relationship to Serial Murder

I came across this recently.  The FBI Symposium happened in 2005 but its findings are just as relevant today.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation hosted a multi-disciplinary Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, on August 29, 2005 through September 2, 2005. The goal of the Symposium was to bring together a group of respected experts on serial murder from a variety of fields and specialties, to identify the commonalities of knowledge regarding serial murder.

Attendees at the Serial Murder Symposium agreed that there is no generic profile of a serial murderer. Serial killers differ in many ways, including their motivations for killing and their behavior at the crime scene. However, attendees did identify certain traits common to some serial murderers, including sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity, the need for control, and predatory behavior. These traits and behaviors are consistent with the psychopathic personality disorder. Attendees felt it was very important for law enforcement and other professionals in the criminal justice system to understand psychopathy and its relationship to serial murder.

In  my first book The Girls’ Guide to Predators; the Games Some Men Play I recommend something similar: that women who are being stalked, learn all they can about the characteristics of psychopathy.  These guys actually do seem to play by the same rulebook, so it can’t hurt to Know they enemy!   Estimates vary among the experts but the general consensus is that between 50 and 90 percent of men who stalk women are psychopaths. (So that’s somewhere between half of them, and almost all of them!)  If she understands how a stalker thinks and behaves, a target will be better able to anticipate his next move and take precautions, rather than being caught off guard. One excellent resource is the Love Fraud website, which is run by Donna Anderson.

Those untested rape kits

In Detroit, vast quantities of untested rape kits were discovered in an abandoned police warehouse in 2009. There were 11,000 of them. Since then, it has transpired that this systematic failure to test rape kits is not limited to Detroit. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits across this country have also never been tested —despite the fact that in 2004 Congress passed the Debbie Smith act to reduce the backlog of rape kits. Where did the funding go? Often it was spent on other things, like improving laboratories. It certainly didn’t go where it was intended: to achieve justice for victims or keep rapists off the streets. The lack of federal oversight, and the absence of a serious commitment amongst the states which received the funding is obvious once you start looking at the numbers. For instance, 5231 rape kits were collected in Las Vegas, between 2004 and 2014 but only 846 were actually sent to a lab for testing. In Seattle, 1641 rape kits were gathered between 2004 and 2014, but only 365 were ever tested for DNA.
As a result of the failure to test those hundreds of thousands of rape kits, the criminals themselves remained free to victimize other women and girls. For example, since state officials in Detroit began processing the untested rape kits in 2009, about 100 serial rapists have been identified and charged. One hundred serial rapists —probably more—in one city alone .
The issue of untested rape kits is upsetting in itself, but it points to a broader problem. Are the neglected rape kits a byproduct of a refusal to treat violence against women seriously? Is there today a widespread acceptance of sexual violence towards women and girls as an inevitable—albeit regrettable— fact of life?
According to government figures, one in five females has experienced a rape or attempted rape, Over half of the country— fifty one percent of Americans— is female. So why isn’t reducing sexual violence the number one priority in the corridors of power? In fact, is it a priority at all? Members of both political parties have never joined together to declare a War on Sexual Violence, as they did with the ill-fated War on Drugs. Politicians don’t even bother addressing the issue of sexual violence on the campaign trail (where it’s common practice to make promises that are discarded after winning office). It’s because ending sexual violence against women isn’t a priority for the majority of politicians—it isn’t even an issue!
And that’s what those hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits are telling us.

Stranger stalking

Stranger Stalking

In previous posts I’ve spoken about the most common form of stalking which occurs after an intimate relationship ends, and one party- the stalker- has refused to let go. Their behavior is vindictive. He – or she- has determined their ex partner will not have the opportunity to build a new life without them at the center of it. They’re also intent on settling imaginary scores.

But what about the stranger stalker, and the erotomaniac? What do these stalkers have in common with the intimate partner stalker?

Well, firstly, they’re all obsessive, and highly narcissistic individuals. They are controlling. And manipulative. They lack empathy. Some of them – the psychopaths- lack a conscience, as well.
“All stalkers have personality disorders,” explains forensic psychiatrist Dr Park Dietz. “None of the people who engage in stalking behavior are normal individuals”.

Take for example, the stranger stalker. Typically this stalker has a history of failure with the opposite sex. He’s usually alienated from other people. If he’s employed, it’s likely to be in a job he hates, and probably because he lacks friends, he’s lonely. He wants the woman he has his eye on, to transform his wretched life into something positive and happy.

Retired FBI profiler John Douglas describes this individual’s need to compensate for feelings of insecurity and inadequacy as a red flag.. “Obviously not all insecure men become serial killers, rapists or stalkers, but it is an important element in the total picture and can often be the first warning sign. “  If the subject of his attention lets him know she isn’t interested in him, the stranger stalker can become violent.  His motivation is now to possess and control.
To prevent a stranger’s fantasy life from including us,  experts advise that women shouldn’t be too forthcoming in their  interactions with strangers or semi-strangers.
One prominent expert on stalking, Dr Park Dietz says in his experience it’s friendly, wholesome looking girls who are the most at risk from an approach by an inadequate personality, simply because they seem unguarded.
John Douglas saw the same thing when he was working as a criminal profiler. As he writes in his book, ‘Anatomy of Motive’ :
“ My daughters are both young women now, but I am tempted to advise them against being true to their warm and friendly natures: don’t talk to that man behind you in the supermarket line. Don’t say “Excuse me” and smile at that guy you bumped into on your way to the bathroom at the movies”

What about erotomania?

This stalker is completely delusional.  Erotomania is a mental disorder, resulting from schizophrenia or psychosis. The stalker believes the person he is stalking — often a stranger — is actually in love with him. As with John Hinckley, the man who stalked Jodie Foster.
Some erotomaniacs believe they have already had sexual relations with the victim. Some have deluded themselves that the victim wants to marry or co-habit with them. Though females as well as males can suffer from this delusion, men are more likely to act upon it.

Erotomania is the cause of most celebrity stalking, but erotomaniacs can also fixate on ordinary citizens. Without the bodyguards and tight security that a famous celebrity has at their disposal, a victim must resort to varying her routine and changing locks, phone numbers, passwords and residences.

Stranger stalking in general is a terrifying experience because the adversary is invisible and unknown. It is left to the target’s imagination to try and figure out who her pursuer might be.
In fact even when a target knows the stalker is her ex partner , she is not exempt from the psychological trauma that stalking involves. Not knowing what he intends to do , or when the stalker will strike, victims say, is the equivalent of finding yourself hiding in the darkness from a Ninja assassin.

Stalking: dealing with police and courts.

Call the police as soon as you realize you are being stalked.

Getting the police involved as soon as possible might frighten away a less determined stalker. But even if the stalker continues his harassment you will have to show the courts a course of conduct over a period of time.

Try to talk calmly to the police, because when they interview the stalker you can bet he will be doing his best to appear in control, and he will be telling them you’re the crazy one. If you have had a sexual relationship with the stalker, be frank about it. If the police find that you’ve lied to them, everything else you tell them will seem less credible.

Request that the police file a report and ask them how you can get hold of a copy of this report. You will need it if the stalking continues and you have to go to court.   Stalking convictions require a pattern of repeated acts.
Get hold of a copy of the stalking laws for your state, as well as the federal laws.
The police are there to protect and serve citizens. If you think the police aren’t taking your complaint seriously enough, ask to see a supervisor. If the police don’t comply, call 911 and ask for one.

These calls are recorded, and so you are not going to be refused by the dispatcher.
Tell the supervisor you want a report. If you are unhappy with the response, file a complaint.
Keep a record of the names of everyone you speak to in connection with the stalking, plus dates and time, and everything you have done so far to keep yourself safe. You might need it in court.

If you get a restraining order, bear in mind it may not stop the stalker. It may stop someone who is prominent in the community or a minor stalker, but there are no guarantees. However, there is another benefit. It establishes a record of your concern about the stalker, and it also gives police the right to arrest him if they find him near you.
Keep a copy of the restraining order on your person in case he approaches you, plus one at home and one at your place of work.
To help you in building a case against the stalker, save all evidence: phone calls, emails, tapes from answering machines. Be careful not to contaminate physical evidence with your fingerprints. Pick up letters by the corners. Put everything in clear plastic bags. Photograph any acts of vandalism. Videotape or photograph the stalker if he follows you or watches you from outside your home.

If the stalker is your ex.

It is important to cease all direct contact with the stalker. This is the No Contact rule as advised by psychologists specializing in these cases. Don’t respond to emails, letters or phone calls. Take precautions when you’re out, so you don’t come face to face with him. If he can’t intimidate you, which is what he wants, he may move on.
Never show him any emotion. Stalkers thrive on the fear or upset reactions of their victims.
Only meet him if it becomes essential and then only with professional third parties present: your lawyer, the police, a social worker.
Safeguard your computer.
Never discuss personal matters with him. Never negotiate, or attempt to reason with him or appease him. He will see these efforts as weakness. Don’t try to appeal to his conscience or empathy. He will see these appeals as evidence he is wearing you down.
Remember that any personal criticisms you make to his face are likely to backfire. They will be distorted to vindicate his delusions of persecution or entitlement and to fuel his fantasies of revenge.
Document everything: Keep a diary of what he says, and what he does. Record him on the answering machine.
If the stalker has started following you on the street or keeps showing up unannounced at your home or office. tell co-workers, neighbors, friends and family so they can be watchful on your behalf. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to stop a stalker.
Secure your home. You don’t want your stalker breaking in.
People don’t always behave compassionately, and sometimes they are quick to judge. When you are stalked or harassed you learn who your real friends are.Ignore personal criticisms, say the experts. His personality disorder is not your fault. The fact he has built a fantasy around controlling you is not your fault. He is the sick one. Stalking and harassment is a crime, so this man is engaging in criminal behavior.
A major reason police departments used to treat stalking cases lightly was because after filing charges against ex-partners, so many women would drop them. While this is understandable — the women were afraid, or they’d bought the line that their abuser had seen the error of his ways — it was counterproductive, because the abuse always intensified.
The personality disorder of a stalker does not just go away. These disorders are hardwired. They get worse as time goes by.
Because they see so many stalking cases, police departments know that it is likely to get worse, and so now they’re able to proceed with the charges even if the victim has changed her mind.

Profile of a Stalker

Stalking is differentiated from other crimes by its persistence and repetition.

Sometimes stalking consists of daily annoyances, such as frequent verbally abusive telephone calls, texting and emails. Although this type of stalking may not seem that onerous, it still has an effect on the victim’s ability to work. Constant harassment is stressful and harms the body’s immune system, frequently leading to illness.

Other stalking involves turning up at the victim’s place of work, following her or breaking into her home. In some cases, it’s not even the ex doing the stalking, but a professional criminal he employs. One survivor I spoke to told me her wealthy ex-partner hired a hit man to follow and terrorize her.

This kind of psychological warfare, no matter at what level, changes a woman’s life, perhaps forever. She starts looking over her shoulder, wondering what the next step in escalating violence will be, and how to protect herself. One criminal profiler said this kind of ruthless campaign never fails to sicken him: “He is the one who’s doing something wrong, yet she’s the one who is punished for it. She’s the one who needs to change her locks. She’s the one who spends money she may not have in a desperate effort to stay safe.”

Stalking victims are most typically women who have left controlling men. “I wasn’t allowed to have any past before him,” one woman recalls.

The typical stalker is a man who refuses to allow his ex partner to have a future without him. To a psychopath, which most stalkers are, divorce is a battle to the death. Indeed, in some cases he is prepared to kill them both- and sometimes the children, too- rather than let her ‘win’. Winning to him usually means taking half of their assets and moving beyond his control.

Police tell us that most stalkers who assault or murder their victims usually threatened them with violence beforehand. Therefore, if this is your situation, it is wise to regard all threats as promises. Like promises, not all are fulfilled, but says one detective, “nevertheless they should be accepted as a commitment to future action until proved otherwise”.

In a recent study of 100 victims of stalking, almost all of them reported that the stalking had a destructive impact on their ability to work, socialize and function psychologically. Seventy per cent reported cutting back on their social activities as a result of their ex’s stalking behavior.

In most cases, the stalking will intensify if the stalker believes he is traumatizing the victim. He becomes bolder in his actions. He begins to feel invincible, enjoying a feeling of supremacy whenever he scores another point in his battle of wills.

Targets of long term stalking usually become isolated. The victim has often lost most of her social support system — especially if her ex has spread false rumors about her — and she may also have lost her job.

Over 80 per cent of victims in the study reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder including flashbacks, an increased level of anxiety, shakiness, jumpiness, hyper-vigilance, change in weight and sleeping patterns, and panic attacks.
With few exceptions, the stalking victims described a decline in their psychological and physical health. They felt ‘violated’ by the stalking, they said, and many used the terms ‘emotional rape’ or ‘psychological terrorism’ to explain the impact the stalking had upon their mind. All of them described feeling a loss of control over the direction of their own lives.
The trauma symptoms often persisted after the stalker had seemed to withdraw, because the victim could not be certain it was over yet. In the above mentioned study:

Eighty per cent of victims testified that their personality had changed as a consequence of their harassment, most victims noting that they had become less friendly and outgoing, and conversely more cautious, paranoid, easily frightened, aggressive and introverted.

The study urged that stalking must be acknowledged as a legitimate concern for society as a whole, not only because of the considerable costs of supporting victims with PTSD who can no longer work and who may have long-term health care needs, but because virtually every one of us is a potential victim of stalking.

The Damage They Do.

“It is very likely that at some time in your life, you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological and financial well-being, it is crucial that you know how to identify the psychopath, how to protect yourself, and how to minimize the harm done to you.”
(Dr Robert Hare, “Without Conscience; The Hidden World of the Psychopaths Amongst Us”)

Who would knowingly set out to exploit other people? To ruin reputations with lies? To play mind games with vulnerable people? To stalk an ex partner?

Malice is beyond the comprehension of most normal people are concerned, but then psychopaths aren’t normal people. They think differently to us. It makes them feel powerful to cause suffering. Their personality is disordered.

The majority of domestic abusers, con artists, stalkers, rapists, serial killers and child molesters are psychopaths. That’s why recognizing and avoiding them is essential to a happy life.

However most people behind bars aren’t psychopaths. Most prisoners are capable of rehabilitation. In fact only one fifth of those in prison are psychopaths. But, as criminologists point out, the psychopathic inmates commit predatory crimes, like rape,serial homicide, preying on children, and stalking.

As one forensic psychologist Dr J Reid Meloy writes: “predatory violence is not independent of the psychopathic process, and, in fact, appears to be quite dependent upon psychopathy.”

But whether they end up in jail or not – and plenty of them are doing very well on Wall Street instead- researchers conclude that psychopaths in their every day lives have a hard wired predatory mind-set. They are ruthless and willing to disregard the social and moral contracts that the rest of us abide by. They have a contempt for normal law-abiding citizens, whom they are quick to exploit.

Given this mindset, there is no psychopath who is harmless. In relationships. a psychopath leaves a trail of human wreckage and broken hearts wherever he goes. Does he feel bad about this? Psychopaths don’t experience remorse. The opposite is true. Psychopaths enjoy an aggressive satisfaction at making others suffer.

Psychiatrists estimate 80-% of psychopaths are male, and the majority of them are heterosexual.
Psychopaths are said to be 50-95% of stalkers (estimates vary between experts) , 50% and upwards of domestic abusers, 100% of con artists, 95% of serial killers and between 50 and 90% of serial rapists.

Trained hospital staff has observed that male psychopaths are able to dupe and manipulate females more easily than males. Most men sense there is something ‘off’ about them. But females are often charmed. The same is true with female psychopaths. Other women see through them more easily than men do.

There is always a high cost when an individual lets a psychopath into his or her life. Embarking on a relationship with a predatory individual with no conscience and a lot of aggression… isn’t going to lead living happily ever after. That’s because psychopaths are unable to relate to another human being without using them. Every intimate relationship inevitably becomes a power struggle, and psychopaths are obsessed with being the one in control.

Because psychopaths enjoy playing mind games, anyone who works in close contact with psychopaths over a prolonged period of time is vulnerable to developing PTSD . As former head of Quantico Roger Depue tells it “sometimes, no matter how hard the best profilers tried to avoid it” the psychopath got through their defense systems.

For that reason most psychiatrists today refuse to accept psychopathic clients. Also, because many doctors have been stalked by psychopathic clients.

But what about family members, who usually don’t even know about psychopaths until the damage has been done, and they are sitting in a psychiatrists’ office? Why weren’t they taught to recognize this disorder, so they could make an informed choice when it came to choosing an intimate partner?

Many women –and men- have had their lives destroyed by a psychopath.

In my upcoming book. ‘The Girls Guide to Predators’ I survey the personality traits that indicate a dangerously disordered personality. I will give you a brief run down on the history of psychopathy, what the term means, and how to recognize when you are being conned.

One of the tell tale signs of psychopaths is pathological deception, so I will provide a list of red flags indicating you are being lied to. Another is extreme narcissism. There’s a chapter on that.

What about the danger of making a false identification? It’s my view that if someone has the red flags of psychopathy, you don’t want to have an intimate relationship with them anyway.

If you have just left a dangerous relationship I will tell you the precautions to take if you are being stalked. If you are trying to divorce a psychopath, I will explain the common tactics the psychopath will try to use to financially avenge himself upon you.

In relationships with psychopaths, the “victimization goes far beyond trying to take advantage of someone on a date or during a simple business transaction.

The victimization is predatory in nature; it often leads to severe financial, physical or emotional harm for the individual. ”
(Dr Robert Hare and Dr Paul Babiak)