When Stalking Wasn’t a Crime…

The vote in the Senate for the Violence Against Women Act is expected to pass by a wide margin.  Then it will move to the House where advocates are a little more unsure of the outcome.  This is fundamentally wrong.  In the 18 years since the inception of this piece of legislation it has never not passed.  There has never been a question of its importance.

I’ve posted a couple of times on my feelings on this act and the failure to pass it.  I will continue to do so until Congress stops acting a fool and passes it.  As an advocate for women who have experienced violence this is very important to me.  I am also very disappointed in the lack of news coverage this has received in major media outlets.  25% of women experience domestic violence in their life time.  That means that more than likely you and/or several women you know have been the victim of intimate partner violence.  This is a huge part of our population.  It should be something that is important to us as a nation.  People should intimately care about the outcomes of this vote and the fate of this act.

That being said I’d like to share with you a story that was posted on Being Feminist’s Facebook Page in January.  One of their readers shared the following story and I share it with you now with their permission:

This is a letter from one of our members who chooses to remain anonymous.

*trigger warning*

I suffered terrible abuse from a boyfriend I broke up with. He seemed nice but something was always nagging at me in the back of my head and when I finally broke up with him my nightmare began.
I broke up with him as he never respected my boundaries. I was a single full time working Mother and i tried to keep my dating him separate from my home life. I was afraid to allow any man too close to my daughter. However he started showing up at my home anyway. I did not allow him in most times but he became more and more insistent. When I broke up with him he physically assaulted me. He started stalking me everywhere. He broke my window to my apartment. I had police at my house all the time to report all the threatening calls. He even threatened to abduct my daughter from her daycare. This went on for months and despite the police going to talk to him over and over it just got worse. He had a drinking problem which was another reason he was out of control. I begged the police to press charges but they never did. Finally I found out about a law under the child protection act in Toronto Ontario where I lived. They MUST act if I child is in any physical or mental danger. I went down to the police station and had to be very forceful. I told them if anything happenend to my child I would not only sue them I would contact every media outlet that would listen! Finally they pressed charges and he was in jail for 5 days. As soon as he got out it was worse than ever. I was poor I could not just MOVE. In the end after three months of terror one night I just thought maybe if I just sleep with him one more time and blame myself for being unworthy of him etc he would be satisfied and go away. So I drank a huge bottle of wine called him up went to his house and did the DEED.

Unfortuantely I ended up pregnant and had to get an abortion. All I got from the doctor was that was a stupid thing I did! I KNOW IT WAS STUPID BUT I WAS SCARED TO DEATH! He only backed off when he found out I got pregnant. I not only had to stop paying rent so I could afford to move I ended up in court for non payment or rent, had to leave the city and it messed up my job and my career in that field.

BUT I have been blamed. I was willing…maybe but maybe not. I was desperate! I felt raped. I felt I had to give him what he wanted to keep myself and my child safe! What happened to me? Date rape?

You can share this but not my name because I wonder if I am the only woman who ever went through a stalker situation and did what I did?

PS: This took place about 18 years ago so I hope they are more vigilant regarding stalking now. I still feel like “I asked for it” in some ways but after months of being terrorized I could not think straight anymore. It did not help that I am disabled. I am legally blind so trying to avoid him was impossible. I could not see well enough to see him until he was within yards of me!”

Stalking was not always considered a crime.  That seems crazy, right?  Police had to wait for the perpetrator to commit another “real” crime before he or she could be arrested.  As stalking can escalate over time the next crime may be murder.

It was not until 1990 that the first anti-stalking law was passed in California [source].  This was a reaction to the death of Rebecca Schaeffer.  It took an actress being stalked and then murdered before “we the people” decided to do anything about it and this was only in one state.  In 1994, under the Violence Against Women Act, stalking was made a federal crime.  In 1996 this was expanded to include any type of stalking, regardless of the presence of a previous relationship or not.

1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced being stalked.  Stalkers may do anything from follow a person, or send them “gifts,” to threatening to harm a pet, friend, or family member.  Stalking is a very serious crime.  For more information please check out the Stalking Resource Center.  It is important for victims to have the knowledge to understand what is happening to them and the resources to get help.  The Violence Against Women Act made this possible.  It made people take this crime seriously.  This is only one of the many reasons it must be reauthorized.

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3 thoughts on “When Stalking Wasn’t a Crime…

  1. canbebitter says:

    Hi – I’m not from the US, so I was hoping you could explain why Congress needs to pass a law that you said has already been enacted for 18 years? Is this a difference between state and federal legislation?

    Obviously — I hope this passes.

    • Aimee is right, the law has to be reauthorized every so many years. Before this last time though it has been reauthorized with strong bipartisan support every time. Why we are hearing about it so much now is because while it passed in the Senate last year the House let it expire. The Senate has again passed it and it is once again up to the House.

      On a state versus federal level it does make a difference. Every state has anti-violence and anti-domestic violence etc. laws but the federal piece is important say if a survivor needs to flee to another state to escape her abuser. I can look up some more state vs. federal differences if you’d like. It would be good for me to know as well. My knowlegde of the inner workings of government has faded some since I have been out of school. 🙂

  2. Aimee says:

    The way I understand it, canbebitter, certain provisions of this act need to be reauthorized by Congress every five years. I guess that’s the way it was originally written when it was first enacted in 1990.

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