Hint...We Must Include Intimate Partner Violence & Cyber-stalking.
When I started doing batters intervention work and providing sexual assault advocacy services, we in the field often talked about stalking through use of technology like GPS tracking systems as though they were rare, new-aged gizmos that only some abusers knew how to use. Now everyone has a GPS system on their phones, and these capabilities are built into several common social media apps. Stalking in "real life" was otherwise characterized as harassment at work, being followed home, and sending unwanted letters. Repeated sexting and texting was also just starting to be recognized as grounds for violating protection orders and the like.
However, in today's age, what happens online informs what happens offline. Everyone has a smartphone, and even the most unsophisticated stalker-abuser knows how to use one. Cyber-stalking is not its own form of stalking, it is inherent to stalking in general. To be honest, the old definition is the new definition but now we need to create safety plans and therapy services that address stalking online and offline at the same damn time.
PTSD and Stalking
In a recent article "This is what Being Stalked Can Do to Your Mind" by Caroline Shannon Karasik, I was afforded the opportunity to define PTSD as it is sometimes caused by stalking. Something important to remember about PTSD is that the P stands for "post" suggesting that the symptoms come after the trauma. Case in point, if a person is actively being stalked, then the symptoms aren't disordered. Rather the symptoms are adaptive to that person's survival.
For instance, It may seem helpful to go the long way around, switch up one's routine, and change one's passwords frequently when being stalked, but it may not be helpful once the stalker has moved on. PTSD is only diagnosed once the trauma has passed and the individual is still behaving as if the threat is real and present.
Here's another example-- if your partner triple checks your messages as soon as you walk through the door, it may make sense to be on alert, clearing texts and e-mails from friends and support systems in an effort to avoid an argument at home. If your partner yells at you for an hour and shakes you when they discover through GPS tracking that you visited a friend for lunch outside of your normal route to and from work, this might cause extreme distress to you, the victim. But the distress is an understandable reaction because each time you are grilled about your whereabouts you experienced a new trauma.
Depression and anxiety disorders are also commonly related to stalking.
You are having normal reactions to an extreme situation, not extreme reactions to a normal situation
Abusers and Stalking
Abusers will often guilt survivors into bypassing normal boundaries around privacy early in the relationship providing multiple opportunities to stalk the survivors during and after the relationship. For example, an abuser may convince a survivor that all his or her social media should be joint accounts. This allows the abuser to monitor online activity as well as create new profiles in the survivors name. If the survivor uses the same or similar passwords for everything the abuser is now able to continue cyber-harassing the survivor for months or years creating fake accounts, ruining the survivor's online reputation, and sometimes abusing them financially. This is well described in a memoir by Zoe Quinn called Crash Override.
Abusers And Getting Caught
Not all men who have been abusive threaten or harass their partners once the partner leaves, but many do in some form. They may leave dozens of threatening text messages,
It was my job as a facilitator at a batters intervention program to figure out each participant's pattern. Men whose tactics included stalking with little if any physical violence were primarily emotionally abusive. They were often more obsessive.
Sometimes when abusers would near the completion of their court requirements they would begin to backslide and escalate in their stalking behaviors without telling we facilitators. We would find out through the community or their probation officers that they had violated a protection order or probation requirement. If on probation or sometimes awaiting trial, this would result in a revocation hearing. The courts would then collect evidence of their attempts to contact the victim again, usually that evidence included cascades of text messages and logs provided by the victim of when the abuser-stalker began showing back up. The victim often had the opportunity to read statements wherein s/he would describe how the abuser's return had re-triggered the trauma. I've listened to survivors say that they had lost new relationships with partners who felt scared for their own safety. Survivors might explain to the judge and the court the magnitude of the crime by describing her PTSD symptoms, experiences like phantom pain left by her stalker's assault, healed wounds that still physically hurt with no other explanation but that the body remembers. The Victim Impact Statements were often important moments for judges to understand why stalking is serious and requires extensions of protection orders.
If this has happened to you or someone you know, and you think therapy may help...
Then Call me for a Free Phone COnsultation
Sexpert & psychotherapist, Quandra Chaffers, presents Sass-y comments on love, health, and relationships--Comments too tangential or racy for the therapy room.