Tuesday, March 5, 2024

One (wo)man’s stalker is another (wo)man’s hopeless romantic

Stalking is a word most Batswana millennials often use jokingly, such as teasing a friend that they “stalked” your social media profile. But according to social scientists, stalking is not a joke.

Dr Sophie Moagi, clinical psychologist in Gaborone says, “Stalking is dangerous to its victims on both emotional and physical levels. The effects of stalking include fear, trauma, and a reduction in quality of life. A victim of stalking might become full of fear and scared to leave their home, make phone calls, or conduct other normal activities. They may fear for their safety and their life. Stalking is a form of abuse. A victim may develop PTSD from the stalking event(s). They may experience flashbacks afterwards, difficulty getting close to new people or being intimate, and may become depressed or hopeless.

Because of their fear or PTSD, a stalking victim may not feel safe or able to do everything they did before being stalked. This could cause life issues such as job loss, or ruin a person’s romantic relationship. One way to deal with stalking is, it may be tempting to tell the person stalking you to leave you alone, but it’s best to refrain from communicating with them. Oftentimes, they might feel more encouraged by the fact that you communicate with them. In other words, they may feel that their stalking means that you’ll speak with them.”

It is however easy to understand why most people make light of stalking. Typically, stalkers are not strangers lurking in some dark bushes and looking into your home with evil intentions.

Stalkers walk the thin line between love and hate. A stalker is usually someone you know who comes in peace and means well, often a former partner. You may be stalked because the stalker wants to maintain/build a relationship or seek contact – no violence intended. In fact, one man’s stalker can be another man’s “steady buff” or “determined suitor”. If you countenance their persistence then they are either “constant admirers”, “loyal fans” or some agreeable epithet.

However, if they do not catch you fancy, then their behaviour can be spooky. A flower bouquet surprise or repeated text messages that would otherwise make him a hopeless romantic instead make him a pervert.

While this behaviour may appear harmless on the surface, it can be both intrusive and offensive. Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “There are several reasons one person might stalk another. None of these reasons are an acceptable excuse, since stalking is a behaviour, or pattern of behaviours, that leads someone to feel unsafe. People who stalk often suffer from delusions and/or delusional thinking. Rejection; If a person has been rejected romantically, they may find it difficult to get over, to the point that they take to stalking a victim to win them back. They also may be seeking revenge on the person who rejected them, and stalk them in hopes of scaring or hurting them as payback. Fantasy;

When a person stalks someone they’ve never met, they may be trying to get that person to see and validate them, in the hopes that the stalking victim will become interested in them. This reason for stalking may also be associated with delusions or delusional thinking. Someone who stalks might be genuinely surprised that their behaviour is stalking if they have difficulties understanding social cues and societal norms. When this is the cause of stalking, they may be very surprised to learn they are causing harm to the victim.”

No one has the right to contact anyone after their advances have been rebuffed. Most often, people who stalk have a range of distorted beliefs about relationships ‘I need to pursue someone for them to love me’, ‘I am entitled to a relationship’, ‘chasing him is romantic’. They feel some sort of entitlement to contact someone to pursue them or to resolve a grievance, high levels of hostility, difficulties with attachment (they have high levels of anxiety about relationships and a worry about rejection), problems with assertive communication, difficulties accepting negative emotion, poor social supports and over-reliance on a relationship, difficulties with problem-solving, difficulties with managing strong emotion and anger, and substance use (though the latter is a facilitator, not a cause).

Stalking can be quite dangerous and unpredictable and can cause fear, anxiety and depression for the victim, it has become a real mental health issue, as well. Stalking can become quite devastating and can have long lasting physical, emotionaland psychologicaleffects on the victim. Also, when it comes to the person’s mental health, stalking can create anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, depression, and social dysfunction – when people are scared to go outside because the stalker might be stalking them at any time. Although there is a certain ‘profile’ for stalkers we need to understand that anyone can be a stalker.

Anyone has the potential of being a stalker, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. Most stalkers are young to middle-age with above-average intelligence. They also tend to exhibit the following traits, poor social skills and obsessive behaviours, don’t believe they are being threatening or intimidating, think they are trying to do something nice for the victim, think they are trying to gain their love, don’t understand they are producing more anxiety and they may have some type of relationship with the victim. Most stalkers are not psychopaths, because stalking most often hinges on wanting to form a relationship with someone, which is inconsistent with the harshness and lack of emotionality that characterizes psychopathy. Some stalkers demonstrate narcissistic traits, such as entitlement. There is no single reason why someone stalks.


Read this week's paper