Below you’ll find three excerpts of real stories from Linden Gross’ ground-breaking Surviving a Stalker: Stay Safe. Get Help. Reclaim Your Life. The stories in the book illustrate stalking’s many permutations and expose the underlying dynamics. Whether you’re a victim trying to stay safe or someone determined not to become a victim, understanding these dynamics is your best defense.
Elaine Applegate* had been involved with Dan Thornton* for just a few weeks. Initially, the handsome, six-foot-five-inch dentist presented himself as kind, gentle and sensitive, precisely the Alan Alda type she had been looking for. Once they became involved, however, he seemed to metamorphose overnight. First, the alcohol problem he had concealed from her surfaced. Then came his irrational jealousy and possessiveness. When he started trying to restrict what she did and whom she saw, Elaine, an accomplished CPA with an unwaveringly high sense of self-esteem, broke off their involvement. Her decision, however, was not one he would accept.
He phoned her day and night. He followed her wherever she went. He vandalized her property. He threatened to hurt those friends she spent time with. He threatened to hurt her.
Afraid of what he might do, Elaine began to fear for her life. She lost her appetite and her ability to sleep, both symptoms of clinical depression. She lost her ability to concentrate. Her performance at work declined. She began to see a therapist, and to take anti-depressant medication.
“You’ve got a real problem on your hands,” the local police told her. “But there’s nothing we can do. We’re helpless.” They encouraged her to keep a log of his calls and to hand over the taped messages he had left on her answering machine. In addition they advised her to obtain a restraining order from the courts that would legally restrict him from contacting her in person, on the phone or through the mail.
“You’re just trying to set up this paper trail so that if he kills me, you can arrest him,” Elaine charged.
“That’s right,” they responded.
Joseph Blackstone*, a fifty-three-year-old lab technician, describes himself as a hereditary obsessive-compulsive and his thirty-year marriage as a business partnership rather than a relationship. For two years, he had an affair with a waitress from the local country club. Then she broke off their relationship. “I went insane over it. Literally and irrationally insane over a period of five or six years,” he recalled. “I felt this need to drive by her home in the daytime, and sit outside her house for hours at night. I’m not sure why, even now. I phoned her incessantly. I sent letters saying ‘You did me wrong. Why? Why?’ For those years, I couldn’t eat or sleep. My life was a black hole.”
Work had always been sacred to Joseph. He’d always held two or three jobs at once. The stalking of his ex-lover put an end to that practice. He didn’t have time for both. Gaining power over his ex-lover took precedence. In the meantime, his work, his relationship with his wife and his family, and his physical health suffered.
His obsession ultimately landed him in a sanitarium, where he underwent extensive therapy. The cloud he’d been operating under began to lift. “I thought I wanted her back. In retrospect, I guess I just couldn’t let go,” he said. “In the process, I ruined two lives.”
Even Children Get Stalked
Eight-year-old Crystal Peterson from Independence, Oregon, also had the misfortune of attracting unwanted attention. For three years, a neighbor – twenty-four-year-old Robert Coker – watched the youngster. He left her posters of unicorns, rings, and other tokens of his affection. And he wrote love letters, which in time became increasingly graphic.
Frightened for their daughter’s safety, Chris and Debbie Peterson began to limit her accessibility by limiting her life. “I had to be taken into school, brought back home from school,” Crystal said. “I only had a little piece of playground I could play on.”
When her parents approached the police, however, they too were told that there was nothing that could be done from a legal standpoint. Only when Robert broke into the Petersons’ home was he finally arrested. Sentenced to sixteen months on a burglary charge, Robert swore to return and find Crystal upon his release. “I don’t think I’m a stalker. I don’t have nothing wrong intended,” Robert claimed when interviewed by phone on The Maury Povich Show. “I just had a case of feelings for her and that’s why I was writing the letters to them. To make them understand.”