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The National Stalking Clinic

There’s a new clinic in the UK to repair stalkers.

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.”

That’s familiar.

“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

Comments

  1. says

    I have a prediction to make:
    The usual suspects will claim that you are making a Fuss™ and that you are making it all about You™ and that you’re harming Real Victims™

    Can I get Randi’s million dollars now?

  2. says

    Oh yes. Of course they will. They have to say something, after all, and that will be one of today’s things to say. Without the post they would have had to find other things to say instead, which they always manage to do, even if they are things they’ve said 70 billion times before and most of them are lies.

  3. Brisvegan says

    Hopefully posting some of ths sort of information will start to strip away some of the support and fence sitting that allows the stalkers to claim some sort of “debate”. Maybe the false equivalency folk will start to see abuse for what it is.

    Not holding my breath, unfortunately.

    You have my support and very best wishes. You are doing great work.

  4. crowepps says

    Thank you for being willing to share this with others. The more aware people are of how much damage this bizarre, irrational behavior causes, the less tolerant they will be of those who do it and the less likely they will be to think that it’s ‘funny’.

  5. says

    I hope this psychiatric treatment works, because these people seem in need of a psychiatrist to me.

    And thank you Ophelia for standing up to them.

  6. bad Jim says

    This seems like a relatively new phenomenon, which is hard to believe. What did people like this do in the old days?

    Some of this may be plain old bullying empowered by the internet. It’s easy for everyone to keep in touch, which means that it’s easy to track the object of an obsession and, given anonymity, free of consequence to transmit offense, up to and including threats.

    The article discusses many men who, despite repeated incarcerations, don’t seem to be able to keep themselves from terrorizing their targets, and technology may not be all that important. If this hasn’t always been a problem, what changed? If it was always a problem, why does it seem novel?

    (Don José kills Carmen. Tosca kills Scarpia. Perhaps women under threat traditionally sought a protector but now turn to the police, misguidedly thinking that no one should have to put up with this shit? Take heart! It turns out the AR-15 is actually a ladies’ gun!)

    Ophelia, you ought to be able to echo Roosevelt and say “I welcome their hatred”, because it means you’re making a difference, which is a good thing when you’re on the right side. Your haters are probably all sound and fury, so the best approach is to point and laugh, because they are so obviously ridiculous and contemptible. The very fact that they make it personal means that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

  7. oursally says

    I used to have a stalker in the pre-internet days. Creep. Ex-boyfriend. Moved to be near me, rented the flat next door, followed me down the street, broke into my flat and tried to get into bed with me. Creep.

    No-one ever helped me. My mates said, what’s the problem, he loves you. I decided to be bold. I told everyone about it – oh, that creep C, look, he’s following me again. Then I saw a sign for a beginners’ Karate course. I signed up and told all my friends I was doing it to defend myself from C. From that day on he avoided me like the plague. Creep.

    (I kept up Karate and got my black belt 25 years ago.)

  8. NickS says

    Completely unscientific… but… there is an endemic root to this problem as anyone here probably knows already, tenfold …. I despair at the level of control freakery among males who are or have been in relationships with women I know. Brittle, neurotic, sulking and bullying martinets with no capacity for allowing their wives or girlfriends to just get on with things without repressive interference – and perhaps even enjoy living together. I’m 47 now and it pisses me off how many middle aged, smart, capable women who I know personally have to suffer the tawdry accretive stifling bullshit of outwardly acceptable men, or, who get bullied, threatened and stalked after dumping them. Far too many, far too often. Let’s grow the fuck up gents.

    Yes I know women can be bullying controlling harridans, but I don’t know anywhere near as many of them, and I’m not particularly biased. I’m ashamed to be a bloke sometimes.

    Glad to see yer blog’s still going strong OB !

  9. h. hanson says

    It was a long time ago for me but I get the impression that the police still do not take this as seriously as they ought. They laughed when I told them the man I had a restraining order against was mowing my lawn. It was funny but they still had no right not to respond to the situation. In the end I had to move away. I’m glad those days are over. Very stressful. You have my respect and admiration for not giving in.

  10. johnthedrunkard says

    In my own, admittedly narrow, experience—resisting a girlfriend’s violent stalking by an ex, harassment, sock-puppetry and ID theft in a professional mailing list—the implacable hostility of the stalker(s) is almost secondary to the desperate rationalization of ‘normal’ society to the threat of evil.

    ‘So, it’s a boy-girl thing then’ from a policeman. ‘I’m sure there must be two sides to the story’ from many women, ‘why don’t you stop posting, it only stirs them up,’ from colleagues intimidated into silence themselves.

    And so on.

    Whether any treatment can ‘cure’ trolls is one issue. I think it is more important to do whatever can be done to engage the non-pathological community to recognize the simple existence of a vast problem. This is annalagous to the way that religious institutions (especially, but not exclusively the RCC) balk at dealing with sexual or financial corruption in their leadership.

    Once the scales have fallen from one’s eyes, I hope no one can continue minimizing or accepting the ghastly deviance that has been flourishing under their noses.

  11. freemage says

    I will say I rather like the idea of treating this as a mental-health issue. It’s an approach that, if handled well, can actually stop the problem in a way that neither prison sentences (which are generally too rare to be good as a deterrent, and too short to serve a rehabilitative effect) nor victim-blaming approaches like getting the target to move or otherwise ‘stop inciting’ the stalker can possibly accomplish. If there’s a counseling/therapy approach that can actually break the cyclic (and often spiraling) thought-patterns the stalkers seem to fall into, then I’m all for it–anything that can prevent recurrence or escalation counts as a good thing.

    That said… I’m also inclined to despair at the notion of this approach being useful in cases like yours, Ophelia, and that really sucks. Instead of a single person who might theoretically be broken out of the trap they’ve built for themselves, cyberstalking ‘campaigns’ like the ‘pitters are engaged in are a result of groupthink, and that is notoriously hard to influence from the outside. What’s needed are renunciates–people who have been on the inside and come to realize that they are harming both themselves and others, and break away. In short, the ‘pit needs their own Megan Phelps-Rope. That’ll be the sign that things are starting to finally wear down.

  12. leni says

    Hmmm. Cue the MRA outrage at the feminist FEMA camps that innocently concerned exes will now be put into. All the false allegations of stalking that will ruin men’s lives and drain them of more of their hard earned money.

    Oh the humanity!

  13. left0ver1under says

    I have to wonder how stalkers progress or become that way. Are they all obsessive from the beginning (repeatedly asking one person until they say yes)? Or do many start sanely (able to take “No” for an answer) and get worse? What are the (or are there) warning signs?

    Speaking only anecdotally from personal observation, the obsessive people I’ve seen were always that way. Then again, I don’t have much experience with such people.

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