Friday, January 08, 2010

Stalking Laws Need to be Tougher

by Kim Archer

He seemed to be around every corner. Standing near her. Watching her.

"It's unsettling," said Tulsan Stephanie Lewis, who met the man through her work in coordinating a local arm of a national political group.

The man started calling constantly and sent hundreds of e-mails, she said. Every public meeting she led, he was there. He argued with her and tried to take over. Then he copied everything from her political group's Facebook page and put them on his.

"First, what you notice about him is he doesn't respect social boundaries. He gets real close to you when he talks," Lewis said.

On Christmas Eve, things took a scary turn. He called her again that evening. When she asked why he was calling on a holiday, he went off.

"He got abusive and threatening. He said he was going to teach me a lesson," Lewis said. She spent last Christmas Eve filing a report at a police station.

From there, things escalated. It
got so bad, she filed for a protective order against him I in Rogers County where she then lived. But the judge only admonished the man to stay away from Lewis.

He didn't. One time, he even pushed her down and spit on her. But it was just the two of them, her word against his.

Again, Lewis filed for a protective order. Only this time, it was in Tulsa County, where she moved. The judge indicated it wouldn't be granted, but Lewis pleaded.

"He said it didn't meet the requirement because there was no relationship between us," she said.

Lewis argued her case and got a 60-day order.

"If a judge does not interpret the law to protect people out in the public, that's where the problem lies," Lewis said.

Lewis is not the first person to have filed for a protective order against a particular stalker. She just appears to be the first successful one.

Tulsa County records show at least two other individuals have done so without success.

Stalking is a crime
Stalking is considered a crime in all 50 states, although legal definitions vary.

Oklahoma law is relatively strong on stalking, but courts and law enforcement are reluctant to enforce it, said Tim Gray, attorney advocate with Domestic Violence Intervention Services in Tulsa and vice president of the board for Family and Community Empowered for Safety.

"It isn't taken seriously enough. That's pretty much because society doesn't take it seriously enough," he said.

Judges, district attorneys and law enforcement officers have some discretion in dealing with stalkers. Often, they are hesitant to take action against them, Gray said.

"It is time-intensive for law enforcement and district attorneys to make a case," he said.

Sheree Huckill, an anti-stalking advocate with T.K. Wolf, a counseling and wellness group in Skiatook, said the majority of stalkers go on to commit physical violence against their victims.

"If we look at recent homicides, chances are the victims were being stalked first," she said.
Stalking is pervasive and can be done in person or on the Internet.

An estimated 3.4 million people age 18 or older reported being victims during a one-year period, according to a report released by the U.S. Justice Department in January. The report came after the most comprehensive study of stalking ever done.

The study confirmed that women are at higher risk of being stalked, and that stalking is a gateway to more violent crimes.

"Stalking can absolutely lead to death," Gray said. "Like domestic violence or sexual assault, it all boils down to power and control. The stalker gets a high from doing the stalking. They enjoy putting that person in fear."

Perhaps the state law's only weakness is it does not recognize emotional damage, Gray said.

"Our society and our courts want to see physical damage done," he said.

By the time it gets to that point, it can be too late.

The relative peace Lewis has had since the protective order soon will be replaced with worry. The order expires in early May. And she will have to spend nearly another entire day to get the order approved for another period.

Her stalker has mostly stayed away, but has inched near her at public political events, testing his boundaries. "It's just creepy," she said.

Lewis said when she got the first protective order, the man came to court and argued the law like a pro. "He knows the stalking law like he's a lawyer," she said.

Lewis says she is not about to allow someone else to run her life.

She believes the stalking law should be strengthened so judges and district attorneys can't ignore the pleas of those who are victims.

"I will do whatever it takes to get this message heard."
(NOTE: Many Cyberpaths will ACCUSE THEIR VICTIMS of Stalking them. This is PROJECTION! Take your proof to the police, victims - and demand they file a report and GIVE YOU A COPY. - EOPC)

Eighty-seven percent of stalkers are men. One in 12 women and one in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime, federal data show.
  • Seventy-seven percent of female and 64 percent of male victims know their stalker.
  • Fifty-nine percent of female victims and 30 percent of male victims are stalked by an intimate partner.
  • Fifty-five percent of female victims report their stalking to the police.
  • Nearly a third of stalkers have stalked previously.
  • Seventy-six percent of women murdered by an intimate partner and 85 percent of women who are victims of attempted murder by their intimate partner had experienced at least one incident of stalking by the perpetrator within a year of the crime.
Source: National Center for Victims of Crime


No comments: