When I talk about being stalked, one question always comes up.
Why didn’t you go to the police?
My family and I did go to the police, but it didn’t do any good. The reasons for that are complicated and I think it’s worth explaining.
State Anti-Stalking Laws
Each state has its own version of an anti-stalking law. These laws can vary drastically from state to state. In 1999, I was living in Arkansas which has one of the worst anti-stalking laws in the country. In order for the stalking to be considered a felony, my stalker had to make an explicit death threat toward me. However, most stalkers aren’t that stupid and figure out ways to skirt around that. They might leave a dead bird on someone’s porch, which is an implied threat.
“Only two states–Arkansas and Massachusetts–require the making of a threat to be part of stalking.” – Strengthening Antistalking Statutes, Legal Series Bulliten #1 (January 2002)
In my case, the stalker left a picture of a bride with her face scratched out and underlined Bible verses that were about executing prostitutes by burning them alive and various other verses that spoke about death. The only thing that may have been considered a credible threat by the police was the copy of an obituary he glued my name onto. However, that still may not have been considered an explicit threat because he still did not come right out and say or write, “I am going to kill you, Kristy” even though his intention was very clear.
“In several…states, threats had to be explicitly made before the behavior counted as stalking. However, victims often find that the threats made by stalkers are implied, such as sending them dead flowers, animal carcasses, or pictures with the victims cut out.” – Snow, Robert L., Stopping a Stalker: A Cop’s Guide to Making the System Work for You (1998)
Breaking & Entering
Couldn’t he have been arrested for breaking into my house?
Let me give you this scenario:
I’ve got beef with you. So, I call the police and tell them you’ve broken into my house. Do you think the police should arrest you just on my word?
This is why he wasn’t arrested for breaking into the house. Even though we knew it was him, we didn’t have any real evidence that proved it was him to the police. He claimed we were spreading lies about him. (For what purpose, I have no idea.)
We had a good friend who worked for the police department during this time. He would have jumped at the chance to have this man arrested if he could find any shred of hard proof. However, he must have worn gloves when he broke into the house because we could never get fingerprints.
The Price of Freedom
We have a lot of freedom in this country. I’m all in favor of maintaining our freedom. However, we have to understand that all of that freedom also carries some level of risk.
This man would drive down our road repeatedly to keep an eye on the house and see if we were home or not. Just driving up and down the road in itself (while not in the context of other stalking related activities) is not a crime. When we reported this to the police, they rightly said that anyone has the right to drive down any road they want. There was nothing they could legally do to stop him unless we could prove he was doing all of the other things he was doing, which would turn this driving activity into a stalking charge.
He also had the right to attend any church he wanted, which put him in close proximity to me and my family on a regular basis. He had the right to show up in locations when I was there.
Proof of Stalking
Stalking isn’t about isolated incidents. To prove stalking, you have to look at the big picture. It’s a pattern of behavior. However, the police would respond to individual incidents. Stalking laws were new at that time and the police weren’t used to dealing with cases like this.
By itself, calling someone repeatedly isn’t illegal.
By itself, driving down a road 10 times a day isn’t illegal.
By itself, leaving ripped out pages of a Bible isn’t illegal.
By itself, leaving pictures of brides isn’t illegal.
But, when you take all of these activities together, it’s obviously a case of stalking.
I’ve done quite a bit of research on stalking over the years. Each case is a little different, but there are patterns researchers have found.
In my case, this stalker was what’s called an “intimacy-seeker”. He and I had no romantic relationship and I had barely spoken with him in the past. However, he believed I was meant to be with him and saw my parents (particularly my mother) as a roadblock. He believed if he could just get them out of the way, he could be with me. These types of stalkers generally aren’t deterred by things like restraining orders. They just see going through them as a way of proving their love. Sometimes the restraining order only enrages them.
Not all stalkers become violent, but I was at an increased risk for violence because this stalker had a history of violence (his wife left him for that reason) and he was schizophrenic (this is one of the mental illnesses that increases the risk of violence in a stalking case).
Many stalking cases escalate slowly over a longer period of time, but I was stalked intensely for about 3 months, though he started what was likely a “courtship” in his mind a couple of months before that (following me around at church events and talking over my friends to monopolize my attention).
There are some events that tend to trigger a stalker into escalating their activity. In my case, my stalker’s divorce had recently been finalized. On top of that, he was questioned by a police officer. This can also trigger a stalker into becoming violent.
The activity in my case escalated very quickly from harassment to death threats. His attitude moved from wanting to have me to wanting to kill me in a matter of weeks.
I could have tried to keep working with the local police on my case and have him arrested. However, I would have had to wait around until he made an explicit death threat. Even then, if I couldn’t prove that the threat was made by him, it wouldn’t do me any good. By the time he made a mistake and made both 1) an explicit threat and 2) a threat I could definitely tie to him he would have had many opportunities to kill me. Some people are stalked for years without being able to get the police to charge their stalker.
My family chose to leave the state rather than fight against a homicidal stalker and the poor anti-stalking law that tied the hands of the police.
It wasn’t that we didn’t go to the police. The police just couldn’t legally do anything about it.