First off, stalking is a crime. While it is different from other forms of crime as no specific adverse action defines it, stalking is the persistent unwanted behavior by someone towards you- the victim. The unwanted behaviour can include following you, collecting information about you, threats, and attempts to repeatedly contact you in ways you fear. Stalking makes you feel nervous and susceptible to any form of attack. Since the resultant goal of stalking is to make you feel vulnerable, what motivates stalkers to want to make you vulnerable? Why do they want to stalk you?
What happens inside the mind of your stalker?
It is prudent to begin by noting that there is no perfect way to determine who will or won’t become your stalker, but you can know the motivating factors that would drive people to start stalking. Some of the motivating factors are:
Rejection - Most of the time, stalkers see themselves as victims of being led-on or toyed with. They have an intense fear of abandonment, and this does not let them reason out critically.
Obsession – Stalkers are obsessive, particularly when it comes to their romantic inclinations. They get preoccupied with you as a target to the extent that they can be unable to sleep or even forget to eat.
Fantasy – For stalkers, the line between fact and fiction is blurry. To them, you belong to them, and that’s how they feed their imagination that you two are destined to be together.
Narcissism – Stalkers luck the skills to cope with rejection, shame, loss, or embarrassment. This way, they don’t respect your feeling nor boundaries. They justify their actions with statements like “If I can’t have you, no one can.”
Once they have identified you as their victim, to begin their harassment, stalkers opt for easy modes of contact such as social media, calling and at times emailing. When you get alarmed and ‘block’ these avenues, they then escalate to more intrusive behaviours. They now start spying on you and at times, confront you.
There is no particular way of spotting a stalker. If someone is making you uncomfortable or afraid, take hid, that’s your bat signal- something is wrong. So what can you do?
What to do when you have a stalker?
It is practical that you can sense something is wrong but not be able to place your hands on the exact problem. Sometimes, you are not able to prove that something is wrong in the first place. Owing to this, it gets very uncomfortable to deal with a stalker, but there are ways you can protect yourself:
Being firm and letting them know – Letting your stalker see that you are unwilling to continue the contact, and sticking to it, denies your stalker the chance to feel that you are leading them on or just taking them for granted.
Set boundaries without a care about their feelings – Worrying about hurting their feelings makes you maintain contact and even lead them on. Here, you are setting boundaries to keep yourself safe, not them. Let them know that it is their unwelcomed behavior that created the situation.
Be careful with your personal information – You need to be mindful of the kind of information you share especially on social media. Do not give your stalker a heads-up by letting your friends tag you in posts that reveal your whereabouts and day-to-day patterns like clubs you frequent and places you spend your weekends.
Don’t reveal your location – This is simple. Don’t allow apps in your gadgets to show your location. Don’t make it easy for your stalker to track you.
Be calm and stay firm – Remaining cool ensures you don’t feed into your stalkers need to create an emotional response from you. Being calm and firm leaves you in charge of your feelings.
While you may not want to post on social media or announce to crowds that you have a stalker, it is important that you tell a variety of people about your problem so that if something were to happen, you might have witnesses. These people can be co-workers, boss, parents, neighbours, office management, doorman, and your spouse.
If possible, show these people a photo of the stalker or give a detailed description and tell them what to should they see the stalker. Call you? Tell stalker to leave? Call the police? Yes, you need to report stalking to the police even if the stalking has been from a distance and non-violent.
Why and how to report stalking to the police
Stalking is a crime and should be reported to the police. When reporting, you may want to include all the signs of stalking as the police will need to have evidence of a couple of unwanted contacts before they can charge someone with stalking. Even as you report, you should:
- Be aware that the authorities may not be able to do much until when the stalking has escalated and reached points of threat and violence.
- Ask the police what you should do to keep track of the encounters, when and how to call for their help if necessary.
- Ask them for tips on coming up with a safety plan. You may also want to
- Call the police frequently when you feel as though they are not taking your complaint seriously.
What the law says about stalking in Kenya
Stalking does only end at physical activity, and more often than not it is also perpetrated online. Commenting on the issue of stalking, lawyer Harold Ayodo pinpoints that “the Kenya Information and Communications Act and the Cybercrime and Computer Related Crimes Bill of 2014 also deal in part with online stalking and cyberbullying. So far, the state has come up with laws where harassing and stalking someone on Facebook or Twitter can now earn you a 10-year prison sentence or a Sh.20 million fine, or both.”
A section of the Bill reads in part: “A person who, individually or with other persons, willfully and repeatedly communicates, either directly or indirectly, with another person or anyone known to that person, commits an offence if, they know or ought to know that their conduct is likely to cause that person apprehension or fear of violence to them, or damage or loss on that persons’ property, or detrimentally affects that person.”