Stalking is a popular subject for fictional films and television shows, and for good reason. It is a terrifying concept, and the ideal subject matter for weaving tales filled with drama, suspense, and horror. The problem, in the real world, is that stalking does create all those things in the daily lives of thousands of people – over 25,000 in the U.K in 2020 alone, and that’s just the cases that were officially reported. Indeed, it is a notoriously difficult crime to deal with – for both law enforcement, and victims alike.
The reason stalking is so difficult to deal with is because it stems from human behaviour in such a way as to easily leave space for denial and, subsequently, ‘gaslighting.’ This is a type of manipulation that leads the victim to question their own perception, memory, or their own interpretation of events. More than a simple denial, or the act of calling an accuser a liar, ‘gaslighting’ is the very purposeful perpetration of a hostile act, and then claiming that it never happened in the first place.
For example, if somebody begins to shower you with attention, while also intimidating you to the point of making you feel uncomfortable, and you report them for it, the person responsible may well claim that they were simply ‘being friendly,’ and that you are the unreasonable and unpleasant party. If this happens in the workplace, or within a social circle, this can have consequences that reach far beyond the interactions with the perpetrator in question.
Identifying stalking behaviour
With the nature of stalking being fertile ground for gaslighting, it is important to clearly define the types of behaviour that can indicate whether or not a person is stalking you.
- Ignoring your boundaries
As individuals, we all have boundaries, and they change according to the person with whom we are interacting. For example, the boundaries you have in a long-term relationship, or with your close family members will be different to those you establish with work colleagues, friends and acquaintances. These will certainly be different from the boundaries you hold with strangers. In our everyday lives, we do not routinely state our boundaries at the start of every interaction. We tend to communicate them through body language and tone. When a person fails to pick up on these clues, it becomes necessary to clear up any ambiguity, and clearly state what our boundaries are with regards to that person. If that person then chooses to ignore those boundaries as explicitly stated, their behaviour has become a problem. Behaviour that breaches the boundaries you have established may include:
- Unannounced visits to your home, place of business, or desk.
- Unwanted invasion of personal space, including unwanted touching, or gaining entry to your property without permission.
- Unwanted invasion of privacy, including badgering for personal details and information – from you, or those around you.
In the most basic terms, a person is ignoring your boundaries any time they do something that you have made clear you do not want, so it is vital to ensure that you reiterate and make clear what those boundaries are, any time you are made to feel uncomfortable. If the person in questions continues that unwanted behaviour, they are a stalker.
- Being physically or emotionally aggressive
Aggression can play a part in stalking where the perpetrator begins to exhibit intimidation tactics. When we think of aggression, we think of physical altercations and either the threat or perpetration of violence. This can certainly occur in stalking – particularly if the individual causing the problem feels that their access to you is under threat. They may indicate that they are willing to cause injury to either you or those close to you unless you acquiesce to their demands for attention. They may indeed commit acts of violence, too.
But, stalkers can also be emotionally aggressive, which can manifest as extreme, grand gestures. They may begin showering you with over-the-top expensive gifts, or even make romantic proposals that are not in-keeping with the real nature of your actual connection. You may have been on a single date, or had a single conversation, and the person in question is suddenly inviting you to view apartments, or is setting up wedding registry lists.
- Attempting to exert any degree of control
When you notice that someone else is trying to control your own behaviour or situation – even in ways that are small and subtle – it should ring alarm bells immediately. When that person is a stalker, controlling behaviour might take several different forms.
- Manipulating people in order to isolate you from friends and family
- Constantly wanting to know your movements
- Constantly commenting on your social media posts
If you find yourself ‘editing’ your normal behaviour – avoiding doing something you would usually enjoy doing, going somewhere, spending time with particular people, or posting something on social media – because you know it would prompt a problematic response from another individual, then that individual is controlling you. These types of tactics can occur in conjunction with aggressiveness and the ignoring of your boundaries, but have the end goal of ensuring that you behave in the way that your stalker would prefer.
In each of these types of behaviour, the overarching theme is clearly obsessiveness. If a person is stalking you, it is because you are essentially their obsession. This gives rise to possessiveness, which gives rise to the ignoring of boundaries, physical and emotional aggressiveness, and attempts to exert some degree of control. There is also an element of punishment involved. If the victim does not respond in a way that satisfies the stalker, then behaviours may escalate to manipulations designed to punish, with the goal being to encourage compliance in the future.
Why do people stalk?
It is easy to dismiss stalking behaviour as a symptom of mental illness but, in reality, this is not always accurate. Mental illness may well be the case in some instances, but not all. Sometimes the behaviour is a toxic response to a particular situation or turn of events. Sometimes, the loneliness experienced by some people can manifest in problematic ways for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, people are just manipulative. Reasons that give rise to stalking can include:
- A response to rejection – When a relationship ends, one party may resort to stalking in response. The target may be the former partner, with either the intention of attempting a reconciliation, or for the purpose of revenge. The target could alternatively be someone in the former partner’s life, if the rejected party feels that they are in some way responsible for the relationship ending. The motivation in this type of stalking is usually the continuation of a connection to the former partner, or the boosting of the stalker’s self-esteem.
- A response to loneliness – This reason can account for two different types of stalking. Sometimes, a stalker fixates on a person for a relatively short time, because they seek a brief liaison rather than meaningful intimacy. This can be a ‘quick fix’ for feelings of loneliness on the part of the stalker. At the other end of the spectrum, a stalker may become deeply obsessed with creating and maintaining an emotional connection with the victim, which stems from a sense loneliness.
- Predation – Stalking that arises from a predatory nature is not really about the victim at all, but rather it stems from the desire to exert power and control over others. For this reason, predatory stalking is usually the type of behaviour exhibited in preparation for violent sexual assault and is often seen in cases where the perpetrator is a man unknown to the victim.
- A sense of resentment or injustice – If a person feels they have been in some way maligned or mistreated by an individual or organisation, they can sometimes begin exhibiting stalking behaviour as a way to achieve retribution, or to justify their own claims of victimhood. Specifically, this reason for stalking can arise between parties between whom the issue of romance does not factor.
We are all responsible for our own behaviour, which means that the victim is never to blame for being stalked – no matter what claims the stalker may make to the contrary. The range of circumstances listed here, which can give rise to stalking, have one thing in common: They all describe the way a person reacts to events or situations. The responsibility for the reaction of an individual is always the individual themselves.
This is an incontrovertible fact which cuts both ways. A stalker is responsible for their stalking behaviour, and a victim is responsible for the way they react to it – and there are a number of options available once you suspect that you are being stalked.
Who can help?
Stalking, and suspicions of stalking, should always be reported to the police. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it will provide you with a crime number to use in the future, to help build up a picture of what is happening over time. Secondly, if the problematic behaviour escalates, then law enforcement already has a historical record of previous issues. But, what about the gaslighting? When reporting stalking to the authorities, it is easy for them to dismiss such concerns as paranoia, or simply ‘bad blood’ following a confrontation. What you need is evidence.
This is where a reputable and reliable Private Investigation firm can help. A team of highly experienced, highly trained professionals using state-of-the-art technology can mount a bespoke operation that includes counter-surveillance, the collection of witness statements, and a discreet review of personal digital media – all designed to document evidence of stalking objectively, and in a way that is admissible in court. This is by far the fastest way to combat gaslighting, and to prove the pattern of hostile behaviour you are facing. This strategy has never been more effective, now that the Stalking and Protection Act 2019 allows for Stalking Protection Orders to be implemented – the breach of which can lead to a jail term of up to five years.
Contact OpSec Solutions today for a free, confidential consultation on your case.