The Insidious Abuse of Stalking

Psychological violence or abuse has been described as the systematic destruction of a person’s self-esteem and/or sense of safety. Stalking portrayed as a considerably flattering mode of attention-seeking in Bollywood films, unfortunately for Hindi film directors, has deep under-tones of psychological and emotional abuse, in addition to physical violence that may be inflicted alongside it. 

Stalking is defined as the overt following of an individual; thereby presenting as a threat, and demonstrating more covert, unwanted pursuits towards that individual. Though statistically speaking, a majority of the victims of stalking tend to be women, men too, maybe victims of such a form of ghastly abuse; consisting of behaviors associated with repeated and unwanted intrusions such as writing and calling after being told not to, sending unwanted gifts, making specific threats to damage property, spying, and following.

Stalking, regardless of its nature of being violent or not, can cause lasting psychological damage to its victims. A survey of 128 stalking victims found the actions of the stalker had an impact on all aspects of their lives - from their mental and physical health to employment and social life. Victims reported suicide attempts, anxiety, depression, PTSD, a loss of confidence, and feelings of isolation. 

Research suggests that it is psychological abuse rather than physical violence that appears to instill the greatest amount of fear in ‘battered’ women in relationships. Katy Proctor, a lecturer in criminology says, “There’s a danger that by focusing solely on the physical risk posed by violent stalkers, it allows those who cause emotional damage to continue their behaviour. If we are to support and protect victims of stalking effectively, the justice system needs to recognise the potential of non-violent offenders to cause significant and long-lasting harm.” 

Though some behaviours may not seem criminal or threatening, they, or the possibility of their occurrence, may create a sense of fear and alarm among victims. This aspect of mental trauma seems to be overlooked by the criminal justice system thus, blatantly disregarding the psychological aspect of such an exceedingly abhorrent crime.

The causes for stalking and some aspects of emotional abuse appear to be motivated by attempts to control and intimidate the victim, ignited by the perpetrator’s need to attain dominance. Stalking, particularly in relationships, may take root in angry-jealous emotional reactions to a breakup, the toxic quality of the relationship, the harrowing trait of the anger of the perpetrator, etc. Leaving the abusive partner, too, seems to be too impractical a solution for some women who are more likely to be physically assaulted, and stalked after such a separation. 

non-intimate partner stalking, on the other hand, is characterised by a form of ‘obsessional following’ or a multiplicity of unwanted pursuit behaviour experienced as harassment. Places of employment or educational institutions are areas where stalking is most prevalent - these are areas where the fear instilled in the victim may be so overpowering that leaving one’s job or dropping out of school may seem to be the only alternative to seek safety and solace.

Acknowledging the impact of psychological violence as a result of the insidious act of stalking opens the way to safety planning and trauma recovery. What may seem as harmless may have a great impact? Flagging a situation when it exhibits persistence or escalation can help in examining the risks and the need for specialist intervention via supervision or consultation from an expert in the field of stalking and threat management. This is a substantial mechanism to support those for whom being stalked is a part of reality.

Women who are being stalked can complain to the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Commission will take the matter up with the police. Any woman, in any part of India, can file this complaint. The Commission asks the police to then expedite the investigation. In serious cases, the commission forms an inquiry committee, which makes a spot inquiry, examines witnesses, collects evidence, etc. The Commission also has powers to summon the accused, the witnesses, and police records, to facilitate the inquiry. For details, visit this website.

Written By- Saumya Seth

Edited By- Sravanthi Cheerladinne


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