January Survivor Spotlight: Stalking Awareness
- 1 in 6 women – and 1 in 19 men – have experienced stalking at some point during their lifetime
- 66% of female stalking victims are stalked by someone they know
- 46% of stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next
- 29% of stalking victims fear the stalking will never stop
- 1 in 8 employed victims lose time from work as a result of their victimization
- 1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of their victimization*
For survivor Marianne Bezaire, these aren’t just statistics – she experienced it all personally when an acquaintance became her rapist, and then her stalker.
Marianne was drugged and sexually assaulted at a friend’s party. When she woke up the next morning and drove herself home, her attacker followed her and discovered where she lived. This was the beginning of an awful ordeal that involved the stalker breaking into her home, blackmailing her with information he found while reading her personal journals, hacking into her computer and email, and more. Marianne says she lived in fear of what he would do next, and “one of the worst parts of the situation was dealing with how hard it was to get support.”
Those around her often minimized the danger Marianne faced, or blamed her for not protecting herself more effectively. “I felt very ashamed and responsible, but also helpless to make the stalking stop,” she says. Even when she was able to go to the police in her town, she says they were unhelpful, suggesting that she simply replace her computer or move to a new address. “I felt as though no one would understand how unsafe I was, or what I had to go through to make myself feel safe again.”
Marianne says that in the 10 years since her experience, the perception of stalking has changed significantly. “There’s more awareness now of how serious a crime it is to stalk someone,” says Marianne. Stalking, generally defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear,” is a crime in all 50 states and Washington, DC, and January is recognized as National Stalking Awareness Month.
Marianne wants those with similar experiences to feel supported. “Please do not be hard on yourself. Stalkers often purposely try to confuse you and make you feel as though you are responsible for their behavior. Don’t let anyone talk you out of taking proper care of yourself.” To overcome the after-effects of being stalked, Marianne began seeing a therapist, and also started meditating and journaling. She advises others to try a healing physical activity, such as dance or yoga.
Marianne also recommends identifying resources you have available should you discover or suspect you’re being stalked. For instance, whom would you feel comfortable talking to? Do you know where your local police station is? How much of your personal information is shared on social media? “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be your own best advocate,” says Marianne.
Find more information about stalking here, and at the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org.
*All statistics via The National Center for Victims of Crime.