When forensic psychiatrist Frank Farnham first meets a stalker, he doesn’t judge. Some of his clients have done awful things. They have intimidated, pursued and terrified their victims. They have sent harassing emails to ex-partners or followed work colleagues home from the office. They have developed harmful fixations on people who have no intention of returning their attentions. All of them will have run the risk of being sent to jail.
Farnham is the co-founder of the UK’s first-ever National Stalking Clinic, based at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, north London.
…According to 2012 Home Office statistics, almost a fifth of women in the UK and 10% of men aged 16-59 say they have been affected by stalking, yet conviction rates remain low: only 20 stalkers a year are jailed for more than 12 months, while others get shortened or community sentences. Farnham and his colleagues are offering an alternative to ineffective prison terms.
Almost a fifth of women – lordy. That’s a lot. It’s self-reporting, so who knows how accurate it is, but still.
The treatment takes the form of joint psychiatric and psychological assessment which, says Farnham, “looks at the cycles and patterns of behaviour. What gets you into this situation where you’re offending? Let’s unpack that. Usually the perpetrator turns up and he’s very disparaging about the victim. It’s all about how the perpetrator sees things… So it’s, ‘OK, how can we stop this stalker going back into prison?’ Over time, they’ll start looking at the victim and the impact it’s having on them.”
“Hey, stop harassing me; leave me alone.”
“No!!! You’re a terrible person. I have to punish you because you’re so terrible.”
“Um…you have a very exaggerated idea of my terribleness. You also have no business punishing people. Leave me alone.”
“No!!! You’re terrible!!!!! You’re more terrible than anyone anywhere; you’re the worst person ever.”
You may laugh, but I’ve seen people say exactly that. Not often, but a couple of times (and of course I see only a tiny percentage of what there is, because I don’t enjoy looking at it). Literally “the worst person” anywhere ever. Literally.
The types of stalkers Farnham sees are 80% male and can be divided into five broad categories: the rejected stalker, who has had a relationship with the victim and often seeks revenge, the intimate stalker who often becomes deluded that the object of their attentions is a willing romantic partner, the incompetent stalker who usually has underlying learning disabilities or mental-health issues, the resentful stalker who does it to frighten and distress and finally, the predatory stalker who is preparing a sexual attack.
It’s four. Mine (and ours) is four. The resentful.
A 2004 report, conducted by two criminal psychologists in the UK, America and Australia, found that nearly half of all offenders turned violent, while 40% of victims were forced to move home or job. Typically, stalking situations last a year or two, although a substantial number carry on for up to five years and some even for decades.
With broadened access to the internet, instances of cyber-stalking (which can include email hacking, threatening messages left on social networking sites and identity theft) have also increased dramatically – the 2010 British Crime Survey estimates that around 2.1 million people experience online stalking each year.
A new branch of human creativity. I predict great things for it in the future.
Claire Waxman, 37, a complementary therapist who was stalked by Elliot Fogel, a Sky Sports television producer she first met at school, says that when she reported it, she was met with “a very flippant reaction. The policeman laughed it off and said something like, ‘Aren’t you lucky, having an admirer?'”
Claire says one of the difficulties in getting the relevant authorities to take stalking seriously is that the impact is often psychological and hard to prove. “As stalking victims, we’ve not been beaten up, you can’t see the physical injury,” she explains. “The problem is that the actions in isolation can look pretty meaningless but when you live on a day- to-day basis with something that is invading your family and work life, you feel infected by this person.
“There’s no place you can turn where they’re not watching. You know you’re being watched and you have that feeling, that animal instinct, all the time… it’s not flattering in any way whatsoever.”
Not even if you’re a notorious Professional Victim and Attention Whore who Stirs Up Drama only for The Blog Hits?
No; not even then.
The reporter, Elizabeth Day, tells the nightmare story of one woman.
How, I wonder, does she find the strength to talk so openly about her case when it has cost her so much? “Someone once told me the safest thing to do was tell everyone,” she says. “I have to speak out. That’s what keeps me sane. A lot of people feel shame or they feel embarrassed. I don’t feel ashamed. I feel outraged.”
Speaking out does help to keep us sane.
Thank you for listening.
H/t Barry Pearson