Stalkers are creepy people from the movies, or are they? Having heard several accounts from friends and colleagues, StarMetro started questioning a wider audience and found the problem is very real for some women living in the city.
NADIA thought nothing of the friendly greetings from her senior Aziz along the corridor as she walked to class, until he started showing up at her apartment in the following weeks late at night. (names have been changed)
“The first few times, he joined me for supper, but I felt uncomfortable with all the attention and gave excuses like I’m having a discussion or meeting my boyfriend,” said Nadia, 24.
Even with the excuses, Aziz would follow her and watch from a distance. Nadia did not reject her senior’s advances totally because she was a freshman at the time and thought she should show a certain amount of respect to Aziz.
But things got really uncomfortable when Aziz started sending e-mail under the name Abang Asmara and enquired when they could sleep together.
Nadia finally told him to leave her alone when Aziz started sending nude pictures of women in his e-mail messages. But the harassment continued for quite some time before he finally got the message.
Victims of stalkers usually live in fear and have to make many adjustments to their lives to be around people at all times, getting friends to escort them home or have family over at their place to make sure everything was okay.
“How can I not be afraid?” asked Nadia. “I have someone whom I hardly know watching my every move and I don’t know what his intentions are. I can’t go out on my own or do things because I don’t want him to ambush me midway. I can’t even stay alone at home because I’m afraid he could suddenly sneak into my apartment.”
Despite the fear and anxiety caused by a stalker, the police can do little to stop such harassment as long as the stalker does not cause physical harm to their target.
Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation Selangor crime analyst Kamal Affendi Hashim said there was no restraining notice or interim protection orders for stalking cases.
“Anything that crosses the line between personal privacy and beyond acceptable civic contract may be classified as stalking. Those who did all that without the knowledge of the target and with ill intention are stalkers,” said Kamal.
But in the eyes of the law, Kamal said there were two things to be considered: Mens Rea and Actus Rea.
Mens Rea or thinking of doing bad things is not an offence. Only when one carried out the act (Actus Rea), does it become an offence.
“Thinking of doing bad things against the victim itself is not enough to warrant a criminal act,” said Kamal.
“The best thing to do is to train yourselves to be aware of those little details like a missing items or an additional item in your surrounding,” said Kamal adding that currently there were no places a victim could go for emotion support for stalk cases.
Everyone else may see the person as a stalker, but not the stalker themselves, who believe themselves normal.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Yen Teck Hoe said the behaviour is a delusional disorder illness and can affect both males and females.
“The victim is usually someone in a higher position than the stalker and the characteristic of the victim is that he or she is someone prominent,” said Yen.
“The stalker has a certain feeling of affection towards the victim and they believe that the victim is giving them a signal to get closer, even if that is not the case.”
Stalkers can be very much like normal people with jobs and behave normally among other people, but can develop a fascination and obsession for their victim suddenly.
Even when told off and confronted by other people about their behaviour, the stalker is very capable of coming up with excuses to explain the confrontation.
Citing an example, Dr Yen said a woman stalker was confronted by the man she stalked and told that he had no feelings for her in an effort to stop the harassment.
The woman, while accepting all that was said to her at the point, would later tell her friends that the man was pressured to say such things because they were in public view and he only did so to protect her image.
Dr Yen added that some public figures, especially politicians, are easy targets because they have such a high visibility.
Women, Family and Community Development Ministry parliamentary secretary Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok are both high-calibre women politicians who have gone public with their stories of being stalked in 2002.
How widespread the problem is in Malaysia is unknown, as the stalker usually does not see his or her behaviour as a problem and would not seek treatment.
“You and I may see a piece of paper as white, but they will see it as black,” said Dr Yen as an analogy to what goes on within the mind of a stalker. “To them, there is nothing wrong with their behaviour.”
“It could be a chemical imbalance in the brain or some other factor, but it is very difficult to treat because the stalker does not see anything wrong and won’t take any medication.”
The lewd SMS stalkerCase 1
What started off as everyday greetings like “how are you today” gradually became invitations to have phone sex.
Cindy’s experience with a telephone stalker started in December last year when a person who identified himself as Paul sent her daily SMSes.
“He said he knew me but I was very sure he didn’t after checking with all my guy friends just to make sure that they weren’t pulling a prank on me,” said Cindy, 25.
The texts were normally sent between midnight and 3am and sometimes twice a day and were usually lewd in nature.
“I’ve tried calling him back to warn him but somehow the number cannot be reached,” said Cindy.
“I had also asked the service providers to track the user ID and bar him from sending me those vulgar texts but the companies said they could not do it because of privacy issues.”
Rather than get worked up over the matter, Cindy just ignored the matter because the deadline for registering prepaid numbers was coming up.
When Paul did not solicit any replies from Cindy after that, he sent one final SMS that read: “If you dun like phone sex ask your gal frens who like to try 2 SMS me before 15 Dec or SMS me their number and I promise I won’t tell them. Thx and gnite”.
“I thought of reporting this to the police but just didn’t. After a while, I didn’t think it was that serious,” said Cindy.
An abusive boyfriend led Sarah to break off the relationship when she decided she had had enough.
“He would suffocate me with a pillow when we argued because he didn’t want people to hear me scream,” said Sarah.
Both were studying in different colleges at the time, but Peter could not accept the break-up and called up their mutual friends to spread malicious gossip about Sarah.
When that failed to get her attention, Peter changed the subjects he was studying just so that he could be free when Sarah was out from class – free to follow and call Sarah to tell her where she went and what she did.
“Whatever you do, he seems to be there,” said Sarah. “He would wait in his car at the bus stop and call my friends to find out where I was. It was so bad that I had to wear my friends’ clothes, cut my hair and disguise myself just to avoid him.”
There was no avoiding Peter though, who was persistent and resourceful enough to track Sarah down.
“There was one time when he got into the apartment because a friend didn’t know I had broken up with him. We argued very loudly and he asked me to get into the car with him so others wouldn’t hear.
“It was such a mistake because he was driving very fast and he was telling me that he wanted us to die together. I was really scared then.”
For three months she endured the stalking. It ended when Sarah finally told her parents and her family went to meet Peter’s family to tell them that it was over.
“My dad told them that if Peter wanted to kill himself, he could do so and this would have nothing to do with us,” said Sarah.