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Thread: U.S. report tracks spread of stalking

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default U.S. report tracks spread of stalking

    U.S. report tracks spread of stalking

    When Vernon E. Miller was sentenced for stalking in November, cell-phone records showed that he had made 3,788 calls to his former girlfriend in a single month.
    He rang her doorbell repeatedly for months, the police said, and he had been seen peeking in her window. Miller had pleaded guilty to stalking the woman but asked that he receive no jail time.
    "It is a crime of being in love with someone, and no one else in the world to turn to," Miller, 40, told Judge John M. Cascio of the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Pa., at his sentencing. He begged for "a little compassion" because his girlfriend "had found somebody else." But the judge, noting that Miller, formerly of Cumberland, Md., had been accused of similar behavior before, sent him to the county jail.
    Whether they are obsessed fans fixating on celebrities or former romantic partners, stalkers like Miller typically invoke spurned love - real or imagined - to defend their actions. But stalkers seldom have to justify their behavior in the legal system, because only one in three cases is reported to the authorities, according to a Justice Department study released last month.
    The report was the first in-depth federal look at the prevalence of stalking, which is a crime in every state. While many people tend to associate stalking with the pursuit of stars like Uma Thurman and David Letterman, researchers found that 3.4 million people were subjected to stalking, defined as a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Women were more often the victims than men. And 11 percent, about 374,000 people, had been stalked for five or more years.
    And then there were those like Cameron Wallace of New Franklin, Ohio, who endured the terrifying experience far longer. Wallace, now 28, was in her sophomore year of high school in 1996 when she sat next to Ryan Clutter in art class. Although they never dated or were even friends, he began turning up just about everywhere she went.
    For the next 11 years, he appeared at her house or at the mall, sat behind her at the movies, sent demands by e-mail and threatened her life. He described how he would kill her: "He was going to gut me," she said in an interview this month, still tearful.
    Yet, she said, the police told her that it was hard to "connect all his actions" and that he had denied them. "They could not act until he did something more serious," Wallace said.
    Three-quarters of victims know their stalkers, whether it is a current or former friend, roommate or neighbor, this study and others have found. "Often, stalkers want to make their victims fearful," said Eugene A. Rugala, a former FBI profiler who advises on workplace threats. "They are thinking, 'How dare you do this to me? I'm going to make you pay.' But others feel it could be a way of getting back into the relationship."
    Experts say only a small number of stalking incidents reach the courts because cases are often difficult to compile. There is often no clear physical evidence linking a stalker to the victim.
    In the Justice Department study, the most common reasons for respondents not telling the police they were being stalked was that they felt it was a personal matter or they did not think the police would think it was important.
    "Stalking is treated like domestic violence was 20 or 25 years ago," said Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the National Victims Center and a former federal prosecutor. "Law enforcement is often suspicious or cynical, but is now beginning to deal with stalking as a crime."


    Many victims initially refuse to believe, or accept, that a former partner is singling them out for retaliation. It is a shock for others when a stranger begins to constantly annoy or follow them.
    "Many people told us they were uneasy, felt creeped out or scared," said Katrina Baum, a Bureau of Justice Statistics researcher and an author of the study. "There's a reluctance to label the behavior because it's too frightening. At some point the behavior can escalate to where it can't be ignored."
    Wallace said that at first, "I didn't realize how serious it was." But after she got married in 1999, Clutter called "at 1 a.m. and said I had 30 days to get out of the house or he would kill me and my husband," she recalled. "That's when I really started getting scared."
    Most states passed laws after the stalking and killing of the actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989. A first offense is usually deemed a misdemeanor. Punishment varies by state, but can include up to a year in jail, a fine, probation and counseling.
    In 34 states stalking is a felony only upon a second offense or when coupled with an aggravating factor, like possession of a deadly weapon. Compounding the victim's plight is that some states also limit protective orders to relatives or spouses. Wallace was finally able to get a protective order in Ohio against Clutter, in 2003, but he did not stop hounding her.
    Three years later he broke into her house and then, by e-mail, sent her a photograph he had taken of her sleeping. When the police searched his apartment, they found a kind of shrine to Wallace, with stolen articles of her clothing.
    There was also a handgun, a computer with his threatening e-mail messages and more than 3,000 images of child pornography. Convicted of stalking and other charges in 2007, he is serving a 13-year prison sentence.
    One reason Wallace and other victims have difficulty pulling together a case is that stalking is often confused with harassment, a less serious behavior. Park Dietz, a Southern California forensic psychiatrist, said the behavior crosses the line when it includes lying in wait, following or breaking in.
    Dietz, who helps corporations address stalking and other threats, said that treating stalking as a misdemeanor "is useless because it angers offenders and makes them more dangerous," adding, "It's like poking a wild animal with a stick."
    Strengthened victim protection in states like Kansas now allows the police to investigate reports of reasonable fear for one's safety rather than the stricter requirement of "a credible threat."
    The state has Jodi's law, named after Jodi Sanderholm, a 19-year-old college student who was kidnapped, raped and strangled in January 2007. The suspect, Justin E. Thurber, was found guilty recently on charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.
    The Somerset County district attorney, Jerry L. Spangler, said incarceration in cases like Miller's was not enough; stalkers also "require individualized treatment," he said. Miller's lawyer did not return calls for comment.
    "They almost never admit something is wrong with them," said Barry Rosenfeld, a psychology professor and director of clinical training at Fordham University who has evaluated dozens of stalkers.
    "Stalkers often feel bad, lonely and vulnerable," Rosenfeld said. "Then they'll call, even though there is a protection order saying they can't do it. They won't get an answer, and they'll call again."
    Rosenfeld is testing a more intensive program to help offenders learn to better control their need "to do something to feel better in the moment."
    After a decade of suffering electronic tampering of her credit card bills, computer and bank accounts - as well as phone threats and vandalism - Karen Welch of New Jersey, a chief financial officer for a nonprofit group, pushed to overhaul the state stalking law.
    "I don't want a Karen's law that gives more protection after it's too late," Welch said. "I want the law broadened so it protects victims against emotional distress or significant mental suffering, not just when a person fears for her safety."
    The bill passed and is awaiting the governor's signature, according to its sponsor, New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat.
    In Ohio, Wallace testified for legislation to electronically monitor stalkers so victims and the police know when they approach. Wallace said she expected the law, which goes into effect this April, "to save many lives, and possibly my own, after Ryan is released from prison."

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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    whoah, this is a scary read! I didn't think that many people actually do this stupid shit...but i guess i was wrong

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    Yeah, it's hard to believe that someone can be so oblivious to reality and immune to someone else's plea to stop communication.

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    Three years later he broke into her house and then, by e-mail, sent her a photograph he had taken of her sleeping. When the police searched his apartment, they found a kind of shrine to Wallace, with stolen articles of her clothing.


    Scary. I wonder how he got her email. Freak.

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