|David Brown is a language consultant and journalist, regularly covering stories in Africa, Asia & the Middle East. He has lived in Finland for 8 years.
FEW of us would imagine that any of the men in our lives could be capable of psychotic behaviour, but chances are at least one or two of them quite possibly are. This would have seemed unlikely to me had I not decided to ask many of my female friends whether they had ever been the victim of male stalking or obsession.
TO my surprise, around a third of the women I asked had been. One friend recently had her mobile phone stolen by her ex-husband, who then texted abuse to the hundred people in her address book. Another came home to find her phone smashed by the boyfriend enraged by her refusal to answer his 10th call of the evening, when she was out at a bar with friends from work. Another received an email at work, apparently from herself, from an ex-boyfriend who informed her that he was just showing her what he could do.
THE more women I have asked about this kind of behaviour, the more stories I have heard. One rough and completely unscientific poll I found online suggests that almost one in three women in the US have experienced some form of stalking or intrusion. I doubt that the numbers in Finland are significantly lower.
NO doubt women are also capable of stalking. But amongst my male friends, I know of only one person who has experienced this. Even then, the targeted victim was more his new girlfriend than the dear departed boyfriend himself. Possibly this is because women realise that stalking a man could lead to a violent response, but also because it probably never occurs to women to smash telephones, park outside people’s apartments all night, or follow them to work.
|No one ever developed a loving
relationship by establishing fear,
any more so than any despot ever
earned the love of his people by having
them routinely tortured.
MOST of us – male or female, have experienced the sting of being infatuated with a person who is barely aware we exist, or the utter agony of being left. It’s a part of human life and possibly even an essential part of becoming an adult. I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, but similar to a serious illness or an accident, it comes to most of us sooner or later whether we like it or not. What separates the disturbed response from that of the sane is the ability to reflect. Hacking into an email account is not done in a moment of surreal rage; it is a reasoned, calculated response. It says ‘fear me.’
WHILE I can see the benefits of being feared by teenage hoods, as a relationship tool, I don’t see the point. No one ever developed a loving relationship by establishing fear, any more so than any despot ever earned the love of his people by having them routinely tortured.
THE other question this raises is one for society as a whole: what is our response to stalking? Is it acceptable providing no violence takes place? Is it considered crazy, but not dangerous? I would like to see society in agreement on this issue, beginning the slow process of explaining to children that phoning someone ten times in an evening is highly intrusive and is as unacceptable and unwelcome as any other form of prehistoric behaviour.