Stalking and Domestic Violence
by Gerald MacCauley, P.P.S. (class 25)
Much has been written lately about these two volatile and terrifying crimes. To say that the O.J. Simpson trial is finally bringing it out in the open is a gross injustice. In fact, this type of violence has been going on for centuries and is often treated as a nuisance crime more than the actual terror that it is.
Stalkers and abusive spouses/partners, have many of the same traits in common. For example, both use fear as a powerful tool to control their intended targets. Since many victims do not report these acts, the perpetrators get bolder and more forceful in their acts. Embarrassment causes many victims to avoid getting the help they need, until they have no choice. Ineffective laws and sometimes unprofessional police response also compound the problem. If the victim happens to be a male, there are even more personal factors to deal with, mainly pride.
Regardless of the stalker's/abuser's motives, the one fact that can be counted on is that it will increase in intensity if it is not addressed immediately and firmly. Police and social services need to be informed and the victims must DEMAND action be taken. Depending on the jurisdiction, the police may have their hands tied by bureaucratic red tape, but the harassment and violence needs to be reported and documented each and every time.
Crime victims of every kind feel violated. From a home burglary to a carjacking, an assault to auto theft, there is often a feeling of isolation and helplessness in the victim. The sense that someone could penetrate your defenses, however meager, is an emotional ordeal as well as a physical one. If you have never taken any crime prevention steps to safeguard your life, these criminal acts can be devastating, and even those of us who teach preparedness and awareness for a living can sometimes let our guards down.
Anti-stalking laws and domestic violence protection acts do little to actually discourage the criminal act itself. They are designed to punish the offender after the fact. They cannot protect you before or during the acts. Personal protection is your responsibility and your right. This means planning far in advance of a problem. In the case of domestic abuse, where emotions can be explosive and erupt without warning, early awareness is the key. Knowing that a spouse has a violent temper, or maybe abuses alcohol or drugs, can be the first signs to watch for. Admitting that you may one day be the victim of an assault may be the most difficult thing you can do, but it is imperative that you be alert to the possibility.
In the case of being the target of a stalker, again early detection needs to be followed up with a plan. A simple and far from complete checklist, would include:
- Documentation of each and every incident, regardless of how minor.
- Early police involvement, including notifying attorney
- Develop a support system of friends and family for both physical and emotional protection.
- Make your home a "hard target" to intruders by using common sense security techniques-locks, lights, alarms, etc.
- Consider personal protection training, including the use of weapons. This is as practical as any other form of health maintenance, and to be honest, the training is like a good insurance policy; you hope it's there when you need it.
- Learn the laws of self defense in your area. Generally, you have the right to defend yourself from harm, but understand the limitations.
- Consider putting together an emergency escape kit. This could be an overnight bag filled with items you would need to get you through a couple of days from your residence. Include emergency phone numbers-a cellular phone is not a bad idea-and copies of all restraining orders or injunctions. Have a pre-arranged destination.
- If possible, notify your employer that there is a problem and alert security. Most people don't quit their jobs when they are the victims of violence, and an offender would know where to find you.
- Sociologists and psychologists can study and debate the causes of violent behavior for years, but those discussions will have little to do with your survival. When under the threat of violence, you should be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect yourself, even if the legal system seems to be unable to.
It's amazing how resourceful stalkers can be. The newspapers report high profile cases involving celebrities and politicians, yet, the vast majority of cases go unnoticed by the media. Even the famous cases seem to reflect how helpless we all can be when terrorized by someone with the intent to make our lives miserable or put us in danger. The best defense remains: HAVE A PLAN.
About the author: Gerald W. MacCauley, class 25, is President of his own training company in West Palm Beach, Florida, (561) 433-3035, involved in self-defense programs.
Copyright © 2003, Executive Protection Institute