Intervention: From “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross

The following is respectfully quoted from “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross:

In Los Angeles, that solution includes mandating counseling as a condition of probation or parole, and diverting some criminal cases to psychiatric treatment programs such as the one John Key cofounded along with psychiatrist E. Eugene Kunzman. The Center Against Abusive Behavior is an outpatient mental health clinic that combines biological, psychological, and sociological approach to treating perpetrators of domestic violence and stalking. The nonprofit organization is staffed by treatment providers with expertise in the area of physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Kunzman provides whatever psychiatric care or medications might be required based on a mental status examination and subsequent testing for any contributing biological factors.

Key bases his therapy on cognitive behavior model and focuses on controlling each new client’s abusive behavior as his initial priority. A movement contract requires stalkers to call in as often as twice a day to report their whereabouts and activities. To help keep track of them every moment, Key also demands a daily itinerary. Spot-checks, he finds, help to keep stalkers honest.

After reviewing police and court records, Key has stalkers tell their side of the story from beginning to end. Then he confronts them with any discrepancies between the two versions. “Because somewhere between the two lies the truth,” he says. A determination about what kind of counseling is required follows.

Whether the perpetrators wind up in individual or group therapy or both, the ultimate goal of such counseling is to get them to acknowledge their actions, in part through monitoring their own behavior, and then to recognize the errors in their thinking that make their actions seem logical to them. Call it a reality check. “These people indulge in fantasy and the suppression of thought. Everyone comes in here saying, ‘I didn’t do it. I just want to put this behind me and move on,’ says Dr. Key, whose background includes working as a hostage negotiator, a suicidologist, and a master trainer for the management of assaultive behavior. “Until they take responsibility for some of what they did and see themselves not as the victim [who’s been inappropriately hounded by the criminal justice system], they won’t make any progress. They’ll just step into the same river twice.”

During this process of cognitive reframing, patients are repeatedly asked to consider and talk about the mental process behind their actions. What prompted their decision to stalk or act out violently? Psychological imbalances, seemingly unrelated traumatic experiences in their pasts, and social conditioning that have contributed to the problem are explored. “My contention is that you can’t move until you understand what has created the path to violence,” says Dr. Key. “So my task is to bring it up in as many different ways as I can to get them to think about it.”

His approach allows perpetrators to deal with deep-seated issues that have provoked their conduct and to challenge ingrained responses and behaviors that have become well-worn paths. Take the work he did with a dark-skinned Hispanic woman who became obsessed with– and ultimately stalked — her former Anglo boyfriend. During the first three months of counseling, she gradually grew aware of her self esteem problems, many of which were tied to negative feelings about her dark skin. Eventually, she was able to recognize that her obsession with her blond girlfriend stemmed from her need for the affirmation she habitually denied herself. In short, by helping her navigate through his cognitive emotional problems, and by monitoring his movements, Key was able to start him on a path to recovery that would include impulse control and techniques to redirect destructive feelings.

The Los Angeles system, however, is not without its glitches. While warehousing disturbed stalkers in overcrowded prisons is certainly not the answer, mental health can’t always help. Alian Petroy, for example, mailed the target a bullet while in counseling, and fully resumed his stalking behavior once his parole (along with her court-mandated counseling) had come to an end. Even when psychiatric treatment does make a difference, there are no guarantees that psychotic stalkers who have biochemically stabilized will continue to take their medication once they’re on their own, especially if the drugs either induce unpleasant side effects or make the individual feel so good that he deems the medication superfluous.

An ideal approach for those recalcitrant stalkers, according to Key, would be to initially work with perpetrators in a locked psychiatric facility. Once the stalker is ready for outpatient treatment, electronic monitoring would supplement restrictions on his movements for as long as necessary. Probation or parole would aggressively monitor the quality of treatment and progress being made. Adjustments to the surveillance, the restrictions, and the counseling sessions would follow accordingly, until finally the rehabilitated stalker would be weaned off the counseling program altogether.

As indicated in chapter 16, procedural disagreements also exist on the Los Angeles law enforcement front. Although the TMU recommends that most of its victims obtain restraining–or protective–orders, a number of experts in the field strongly believe that these only worsen a case. Indeed, because the orders essentially constitute a response from the victim, they can actually encourage a stalker and reinforce his behavior.

“A restraining order can be a valuable tool if it’s used very early on in a case. But later on, it can be the worst thing you can possibly do,” asserts Gaven de Becker, who cited case after case where a restraining order provoked a stalker and led to homicide. Consider Laura Black, Kristin Lardner, Maria Navarro, along with so many others in his book.

An intervention can put an end to certain unwanted behaviors when the stalker never intended harm. But in cases that have escalated and carry the definite possibility of danger, interventions of any kind can aggravate the situation. “It amounts to a form of Russian roulette,” says de Becker. “Even though the odds are good, five to one in your favor, no reasonable person would want to play.”

The alternative? Radical nonintervention, where the goal is safety rather than prosecution. “That doesn’t mean you don’t do anything,” Dr. Park Elliott Dietz explained in a lecture about threat management. “It means that the subject is not aware of the actions you’re taking.”

With this approach, preventing encounters between the stalker and his target becomes the primary objective, rather than trying to control or discourage the pursuer’s behavior. “We need to change the only person we can change,” says de Becker. “The stalker may be crazy. He’s unreasonable. He’s culturally ill. There’s no button that can be pushed to reliably improve his mental state or control his conduct indefinitely. But the victim’s behavior can change in ways that will put him or her out of reach. Eventually, the majority of stalkers transfer their attention to someone else.”

The first step in this strategy involves having the victim cut off all response to what the stalker does (including asking police to warn him off), and then watching and waiting to see what happens next.

That means not even responding to a threat. “Threats are not guarantees of action. They’re not a contract,” says de Becker. “They’re like promises.” Indeed, whether those promises are kept depends largely on how the target reacts. It’s that reaction that gives the threat its value, and the stalker his or her power. “Engage and enrage” is how de Becker describes the dynamic of many cases gone bad.

This doesn’t mean that you do nothing. They key is to protect yourself by taking precautions that the stalker never becomes aware of, and then to try and outlast him. A far-ranging plan can help you live with the situation for as long as it takes the stalker to go elsewhere, which the vast majority will do.

An important step at this stage is to avoid dealing with the stalker alone. Informing your neighbors–as well as your supervisors and co-workers–of the problem can facilitate that, especially if you enlist their assistance. Some victims have set up a pool of neighbors to meet them when they arrive home from work each day. Others summon help by sounding an alarm each time the stalker is sighted. By prearrangement, the neighbors respond at the sound of the siren or bell. These kinds of deterrents frequently discourage a stalker and persuade him to transfer his focus to someone more accessible.

Victims can always opt for direct intervention should their case become extremely dangerous. However, once intervention has been attempted, the victim can never go back to a watch-and-wait policy. It’s like opting to deal with a lesion on your kidney by surgically removing the entire organ. Once that decision has been acted upon, a less aggressive course of action is no longer possible.

Should intervention become necessary, a trespass arrest can bring the same results as a restraining order violation, but with less risk. The city, rather than the victim, becomes the prosecutor, which helps to depersonalize the situation. The stalker is convicted of a crime rather than just the violation of a civil order. And the conviction term is essentially the same.

Los Angeles has also drawn fire because of some of its legal tactics. The ACLU deems the practice of bail enhancements (raising the bail to an amount the defendant can’t pay in order to keep him in jail) an infringement on the Constitution’s Eight Amendment, as well as on state constitutional mandates that dictate that the court consider only the seriousness of the offense, the defendant’s criminal record, and the probability of his or her appearing in court for trial when determining the amount of bail. (Whether the perpetrator poses a danger to his or her victim is often not a consideration.)

In 1993, deputy City Attorney John Wilson was brought up on charges after he grew concerned over a particular case and ordered a psychiatric evaluation of a stalker. “The obligation of a prosecutor who is specially trained is to prevent future dangerous conduct, even when it may have nothing to do with the current case,” says Wilson. So when the evaluation judged the alleged perpetrator to present a clear danger to others, he was placed on a seventy-two-hour psychiatric hold.

Wilson, however, neglected to consult with the public defender who had already been assigned to the case. The public defender’s office errupted. By ordering these psychiatric exams, they argued, the city attorney’s office had attempted to deprive people of their right to have counsel present (guaranteed by the Constitution’s Fifth and Sixth Amendments), and force them into involuntary mental health treatment. Further, they took issue with the reliability of the tests. “Psychological research has shown that the least predictive way to gauge dangerousness is through interviews,” says Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Neal Osherow. He points to studies showing that psychiatrists trying to assess an individual’s dangerousness fail more than 50 percent of the time.

The accurate prediction of physical violence is impossible, agrees forensic psychiatrist Kaushal Sharma, M.D. For though most people–including many in the field of psychiatry–incorrectly equate it with dangerousness, there’s no guarantee that a dangerous individual will act out or that a nondangerous one one won’t. “Nobody can predict the future. If we could, we’d all be playing the stock market instead of working,” he says. “But increased risk or the likelihood of violence can be assessed.”

Maureen Siegel, chief of the city attorney’s criminal division, sees nothing illegal, unethical, or immoral about her office’s attempts to determine either a defendant’s potential for violence or his mental health needs, and then filing a case with the goal of diverting him into appropriate treatment. To the contrary. “A lot of these defendants pose a danger to the victim and themselves, and are in desperate need of mental health care,” she says, adding that drug addicts and batterers are routinely diverted into treatment. “But the role of the public defendant is not therapeutic in nature–it’s to protect the defendant’s criminal justice rights. By focusing solely on those rights, the defendant can often beat the judge home for lunch.”

‘Til Death Do Us Part: From “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross

The following is respectfully quoted from “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross:

Unrelenting harassment consumes your life. Knowing you were once intimate with the person responsible for your misery makes it worse. You ask yourself again and again: How could I have married such a monster?

No matter what you do, the threats and abuse escalate. “The tell me [these obsessions] usually end in death for one or both parties,” said a victim in rural Tazewell County, Virginia. “I don’t like the solution. I think there should be another one.”

Since October 13, 1986, that notion of death has become all too real for Rebecca Watson. on Columbus Day, the thirty-one-year-old divorcée called her boyfriend and colleague–an ex-cop named Andrew Hill–to confirm plans to go in to work that afternoon after meeting for lunch and a video at her place. By 2:00 P.M., the idea of relaxing for the rest of the rainy afternoon sounded more appealing than catching up on paperwork. So she dropped Andrew off at his car, which, as usual, he’d parked in the nearby country-club lot in order to avoid antagonizing Rebecca’s jealous ex-husband. She watched him jump into his green 1979 Chrysler and turn over the ignition. Suddenly, a ball of flame exploded from under his seat, swept over his head with a deafening roar and blew out the rear window. Andrew dived out the door. “That son of a bitch tried to blow me up!” he yelled.

Rebecca, a former Boise, Idaho, probation and parole officer who still works in the criminal justice field, met Damian Crowell in 1976. The local boxing announcer left a definite impression on Rebecca that day. She thought he was obnoxious, “You will go out with me,” he told her after she declined his overtures. In the end, he was right.

Born overseas to Southern Baptist missionary parents, Rebecca spent her first thirteen years in Asia. By the time she returned to the United States, the overweight adolescent felt like an outcast. “I was a big nerd in high school. I knew four people maybe.” Her low self-esteem hung on long after the baby fat had dropped and her popularity had grown. Even at twenty-two, attention from an attractive older man–who could be quite charming once he put his ego aside–was hard to resist.

Within two days, Rebecca had capitulated. Within six months, the couple was discussing marriage. Although Rebecca didn’t admit it to herself at the time, she had been primed to rebel against–and to escape–her strict religious upbringing. Damian offered her a way out.

On January 15, 1977, eight months after their first meeting, she married him. But the relationship didn’t provide the companionship she’d hoped for. She worked during the day, then came home to domestic duties. Damian made little effort to include her in his life or to help her. “I was the little woman, and I sat at home feeling very much alone,” said Rebecca.

She tried to talk to him, but he didn’t want to hear that she was unhappy. “You’re the one who’s fucked up,” he told her when she suggested they try marriage counseling. “You get help.”

Feeling abandoned and miserable, with only her golden retriever to turn to at home, Rebecca fell into an affair during the summer of 1979. Suspicious, her husband borrowed her keys on the pretext of changing the oil in her car, entered her office in the state building, and found letters from Timothy Scott, her lover.

Returning home, he confronted his wife, then called Timothy and demanded that he come to their home to discuss Rebecca’s involvement with him. “Don’t come over!” He has a gun! He wants to kill you!” Rebecca screamed in the background.

Timothy came anyway. Damian greeted him at the door, then moved to stand by Rebecca. “Take this person,” he told him. “I don’t want her anymore.” He then accused Rebecca of sleeping around with colleagues in the probation and parole department. Timothy left after twenty minutes. Rebecca left after Damian belted her across the jaw.

She stayed away for several days, returning only when her husband agreed to counseling. Therapy didn’t help. Although he didn’t hit her again, Rebecca always knew he wouldn’t hesitate. In the meantime, he kept an eye on her twenty-four hours a day. He would call the office and grill Rebecca’s secretary if she wasn’t there. With whom had she left? When was she coming back? He didn’t hesitate to follow up with other parole officers if the answers didn’t satisfy him. His inquisitions raised questions and eyebrows at work.

In a turnabout, the former recluse now refused to leave her alone. If his work required him to leave town, he would force her to accompany him. He cut her down constantly. Whenever she complained about his actions, he flung her affair back in her face. In his eyes, her indiscretion had expunged his responsibility for the failure of their relationship. It was all her fault.

Evidence of her one affair proved that she obviously had had–and was currently having–others, according to Damian. During one of his rages, he accused her of having gotten pregnant by someone and aborting the fetus. When she denied the charges, he forced her to call her gynecologist while he listened on the other phone. Their lack of intimacy was her fault too, he railed. It seemed that no humiliation he could heap on her would suffice.

Rebecca had been unhappy and lonely before. Now she was miserable, and too scared to leave. Damian had a temper, and he had a gun collection. “I didn’t know what he’d do. And I was so insecure, I didn’t know if I could survive on my own. I was terrified that I wouldn’t know how to handle myself.” So she stayed, even though the relationship had deteriorated to the point where she hated coming home and being in the house with him.

When Damian lost his job in 1980, she supported both of them. That year he underwent three major surgeries. She’d been tempted to leave before, but she couldn’t justify abandoning him when he was critically ill. “Every time I got close to leaving, something would come up,” she recalled.

For the next five years, Damian made sure that Rebecca’s life revolved around him. Part of the strategy included isolating her from her friends and family. The latter wasn’t hard to do since Rebecca was too embarrassed to admit her close-knit family that her marriage hadn’t worked out. His goal? To make sure she was totally dependent on him and increasingly unable to function alone.

Finally, on July 10, 1985, after he’d called during the lunch hour with his routine questions concerning her whereabouts, Rebecca decided that she wasn’t going to put up with it anymore. After work, in the company of another woman parole officer with whom she’d become friends, she returned home, packed two suitcases, grabbed her golden retriever, and left. Her colleague let her stay rent-free in her apartment.

Taken by surprise, Damian reacted calmly. “We’ll talk soon,” he said. “I want to go to counseling and work this out.” But Rebecca knew she would never return.

Not that he didn’t try to make her, even after he’d started living with another woman three and a half months into the separation. Despite a barrage of flowers, cards, letters, obscene phone calls, and the charge in federal court that she was responsible for a recent burglary of his house, she held firm. In the meantime, Rebecca’s friendship with Andrew Hill turned to romance.

That October, she moved from the parole officer’s apartment to a house owned by some other friends. On moving day, the phone rang at 9:45 P.M., but the caller hung up as soon as she answered. “Bet you your bottom dollar it’s Damian,” she told Andrew. Fifteen minutes later, someone stood pounding on the front door. Rebecca tried to look through the peephole, but it was covered with a thumb.

“Police! There’s been a report of trouble at this address that we’re here to check out.”

Rebecca recognized Damian’s voice. “You’re not the police,” she countered, “I want you to leave.”

“I just want to give you an insurance check from the burglary,” Damian said.

Rebecca knew that she was still due her share of the insurance settlement. So, when he refused to slip it through the mail slot, she agreed to open the door but left the security chain attached. In a flash, Damian kicked the door in, knocking Rebecca against the wall.  He pulled a small automatic as his forced his way through the door and pointed it in the air.

“Where is he?” Damian demanded.

“Give me the gun, Damian,” she said loudly enough to alert Andrew that he estranged husband was armed. She tried to wrest the weapon from him, but he pushed her against the wall and ran into the bedroom, looking for Andrew. Instead he found the bed neatly made. He returned to the living room and knocked Rebecca to the ground. Andrew had just come out of the kitchen. Damian pointed the gun at his chest.

“Get out of my house!” Rebecca demanded. “This is my house. Get out!”

Amazingly, he did. But he didn’t go quietly. He screamed accusations from the porch. “How can you do this to me? We’re still married. You’re not suppose to be seeing anybody.” In an effort to calm him down, Rebecca offered to discuss the situation with him in the house as long as he was unarmed. Damian released the chamber and a bullet fell out. Then he handed Rebecca the gun and walked inside.

They talked for ten minutes. When Rebecca reasserted that she wasn’t coming back and it was time for him to go, he left. On the way out, she returned his gun to him. “I didn’t want him to come back,” she said.

Unwilling to let Damian get away with what he’d done, Rebecca filed a warrant against him for breaking and entering and for assault. Andrew filed a warrant for assault and brandishing a gun. Then, afraid that Damian would come after her once the warrants were served, Rebecca packed some clothes, put her dog in the car, and abandoned her new home in favor of a friend’s house.

The police didn’t take matters as seriously as Rebecca had. Because they knew that Andrew was an ex-cop, they found the incident hilarious. One detective, realizing that Rebecca really felt threatened, offered to have Damian “taken care of” for a hundred dollars. She refused.

In December, Damian attacked in a new way. Rebecca had been living in her new home for approximately three weeks, when tapes of conversations she’d had on her phone were circulated to various men she was dating. While the wording of the attached notes varied, the theme remained the same: “So you think you’re the only one.”

Rebecca called the phone company. An investigation revealed a tape recorder had been spliced into her phone lines under the house. The phone company advised her that wiretapping was a federal violation and recommended that she take action.

When she contacted the police about the wiretapping, they referred her to the FBI. The FBI, however, didn’t want anything to do with the case. “It’s a domestic,” they said, rolling their eyes. Apparently, that rendered it unworthy of attention.

That same month, Damian went to court on the breaking and entering and the assault charges. The judge gave him six months for one, twelve for the other, and suspended the sentence. As long as Damian didn’t contact Rebecca or go near her, he would do no time.

But Damian couldn’t–or would’t–stop. He traced obscene messages LUV269 in the dust on her car’s rear window. The deluge of letters, cards, and hang-ups and obscene phone calls to her unlisted phone number re-commenced. She’d see his car pass her house at least twice a night. “He’s out there. He’s watching me,” she realized.

Terrified of what his next move might be, Rebecca learned to look into her rearview mirror ten times a minute as she drove. Every time she walked out the door, she looked over her shoulder. She never knew what to expect when she checked mail or answered the phone. Fear made functioning normally at work and at home increasingly difficult. Yet no one, including the police, seemed concerned for her. Instead, people seemed to consider her a tramp.

Damian had been forbidden to contact Rebecca by the court. But shortly before their divorce became final in March 1986, he called her. “Well, would you like to go out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary, or would you like to go out to dinner to celebrate the divorce?” he asked. To a bystander, the words would have sounded downright friendly. But they, along with his tone of voice, chilled Rebecca more than his threats had. “It was like he was saying, ‘I’m letting you know that I’m aware that this is our anniversary, and I’m also aware that the divorce is almost final, bitch!” Rebecca recalled.

She packed her bags and that night got out of the house she’d lived in for less than four months. “You can identify a threat from the intonation as well as what’s said,” Rebecca asserted. “It doesn’t need to be I’m gonna kill you or I’m gonna hurt you to be scary.”

Two months later, another recording device materialized under her house. She’d gone out to pick up a prescription she’d phoned in. “A guy called to ask if it was ready,” the pharmacist told her. “Not again!” she thought as she raced back home. The only way anyone could have known that she’d ordered a refill was if he’d listened in to her conversation with the pharmacy. The tape recorder was right back where she’d expected it to be, just inside the crawl space beneath the house.

No fingerprints were found in the crawl space or on the tape recorder, wires, or the fence, so police couldn’t tie Damian to the wiretap. But they could nail him for violating the terms of his suspended sentence. Instead of being sent to jail, however, Damian was put on twelve months’ probation and told to report to the office where Rebecca and her boyfriend worked as probation and parole officers. “Stay away from her and get on with your life,” the judge told him.

Damian, however, had decided to go on the judicial offensive. He sued Rebecca for not paying the mortgage on the house they had shared. The judge dismissed the suit when she explained she no longer lived there. Damian also tried, unsuccessfully, to sue Andrew for making harassing phone calls.

The summer brought anonymous flowers, clipped articles about female sexual problems ranging from frigidity to nymphomania, letters slipped under the door delineating what an awful person Rebecca was, and a cassette recording of the song “Private Eyes are Watching You” taped to the door. Unknown to Rebecca, Damian had hired a private investigator to spy on her.

In addition, he began to harass those close to Rebecca: the men she dated, even her religious, seventy-one-year-old mother. She began to fear not for herself but for the lives of everyone who cared about her. “That’s how he’ll get to me,” she told herself. The guilt she felt–and the migraines that resulted–almost incapacitated her.

She’d already blamed herself for her own misery. Her self-esteem had plummeted. But this was too much. “I’m fair game because I was stupid enough to marry you. So come after me,” Rebecca wanted to say. “My mother didn’t marry you. The guys I’m dating didn’t marry you. None of these people had anything to do with you. Leave them alone.”

Rebecca developed new daily routines. Most evenings when she came home from work, she checked under the house to see if another tape recorder had been planted. She watched everything she said on the phone and in her house.

One day, Andrew needed to make a confidential call from her home in reference to a presentence report he had to file for work. As a procedural precaution, he double-checked the crawl space under the house before picking up the phone. There was yet another recording device. “Look what’s here,” he announced to Rebecca, who had walked outside with him. They checked the tape that evening, in the presence of a lieutenant from the police department. A conversation they’d shared about the case the night before had been recorded. Although the police dusted for finger prints, both tape and machine cape up clean.

Damian continued to send correspondence to a number of Rebecca’s friends and occasionally to their mates. He tampered with her car, affixing obscene fake tags to her license plate. But the number of episodes diminished.

If Rebecca took any comfort in the five weeks of relative calm, the events of October 13–Columbus Day–shattered that forever. She watched the fireball that Damian’s first bomb triggered with a sense of disbelief. “I felt like I was watching Miami Vice,” she said. Even after all the months of telling herself that she was just paranoid and then having her suspicions confirmed, she couldn’t believe what happened. If she had followed through with her original plan, she would have been in the car too.

The blast–which resulted in permanent hearing loss for Andrew–brought the police and the FBI to the scene. That’s when Rebecca found out that a second bomb filled with gunpowder, BBs, shot, finishing nails, and tacks had failed to detonate because it was wired to a painted surface. The lack of a ground, a prerequisite for current to flow, had prevented the bomb from exploding.

The mistake saved Andrew’s life.

During the investigation, Damian argued that Rebecca and Andrew had rigged the bomb themselves in order to set him up. Within two weeks, however, the list of suspects had narrowed to one. One year after Damian had broken in to her house, law enforcement had finally begun to take Rebecca seriously. The problem now was to put together a case that would stick.

At least that’s how law enforcement saw it. Things weren’t that clear-cut for Rebecca. She’d lived in fear of Damian, but she hadn’t reckoned with the sudden notoriety the fire-bombing brought her. The reactions of those around her just made matters worse. “If I sit here, will the seat blow up?” one prominent attorney joked. “If we’re lucky, it will,” she snapped.

After the bombing, Rebecca stayed with friends. Eventually, she returned to her place. Whenever the police thought they were ready to arrest Damian, they’d call to warn her, and she’d move out. Then they’d reconsider, wanting to gather more evidence before indicting him. And she’d return home, only to be uprooted the next time. Finally, after months of jumping back and forth, Rebecca just got tired. “I’m taking my house back. I’m taking my life back,” she announced. “If he’s going to get me, he’s going to get me no matter where I am.” So she moved back to her house, prepared to stay.

Despite her resolve, the bombing incident devastated her. Coping with the everyday occurrences of her life became increasingly difficult. Anxious, profoundly depressed, and feeling thoroughly guilty about the bruises and permanent hearing loss that Andrew had sustained, she tortured herself with questions about what Damian would do next, and with the knowledge that pure dumb luck had saved her and Andrew. She couldn’t escape the realization that she’d married the man who had tried to kill them. If she’d made such a radical mistake, how could she trust herself to make a reasonable decision about anything else?

People didn’t understand the depth of her pain. She couldn’t explain. Instead, she erected a wall to protect herself and withdrew even more. Finally, she began seeing a therapist. A psychological test rated her anxiety level at 100 percent.

Revealing the intimate details of her married life–and of her affair–to the police and prosecutors made her feel like a city tramp. Anticipating the exposure of her private life that Damian’s trial would bring added to her agony. She dreaded facing Damian in court.

Her therapist understood. He helped her turn the guilt she harbored into anger, and reminded her that the disclosures would strip away Damian’s power to blackmail her. “He doesn’t expect you to through with this because he thinks you don’t  have the courage,” the therapist said. As she walked out, he added a final note of encouragement: “Go in there and nail the son of a bitch!”

Damian’s prosecution taught Rebecca about her personal strength in a way that nothing else could have. “I knew when I walked into that courtroom, he was going to stare me down. That was part of the power he had over me. And I determined that no matter how hard it was, I was going to establish eye contact first thing, get it over with. And I was going to make him look away first. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. But I did it. And it worked.”

In an effort to discredit her, Damian’s lawyer brought up her affair at every turn, even though the prosecutor objected and the judge denied its relevance each time. Damian had illegally taped a conversation in which Rebecca and Andrew joked about enticing her former husband to violate his probation so they could have him arrested. That was used against her. “You tried to set him up, didn’t you?” railed the defense attorney. “Just like you set up the bomb. You did that yourself.”

Press accounts labeling Rebecca as Damian’s wife (instead of former wife) and Andrew as her lover added to the horror. Rebecca chose not to dignify the implications with a response. But she suffered, not just for herself but for her missionary parents and the reactions of their friends.

In the end, the prosecution prevailed. Damian was found guilty on nine counts, including the manufacturing and possession of a bomb and several counts of wiretapping. He was sentenced to fifteen years in a federal penitentiary, with another fifteen years suspended. Which means that he’ll be out by 1996 at the latest. Rebecca’s one hope is that the threat of going back to jail to serve out the suspended sentence will deter him from antagonizing her. Deterrents, however, never worked with him in the past.

Although Damian remarried while in jail, he has not forgotten. Notes to Rebecca’s sister, brother-in-law, and mother–the last after Rebecca’s brother died of a heart attack–are his way of saying that he’s continued to track her family and that he remains in jail because of her.

The reminders are superfluous. “People say, ‘Why worry? He’s married now,'” said Rebecca. “But it’s not love. It’s obsession. It’s: How dare you walk away from me? If you walk away from me, I’m going to ruin you, get yo to the lowest point of your life so that no one else will want you.”

He came close. Two years after Damian was taken off the streets, Rebecca still couldn’t concentrate enough to read a book, watch a television show, or carry on an extended conversation. She would sit and stare at the walls, even on the job. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t do her work. Finally, unable to function, she quit.

The insurance money she received upon her brother’s death allowed her to take an eight-month vacation. The time off helped. But when interviewed for a new position in the criminal justice system, her prospective employers insisted on speaking with Rebecca’s therapist to make sure she had put the incidents behind her.


The assurances must have convinced them, for Rebecca has been working as an investigator since 1991. But the emotional scars remain. Although currently she doesn’t have to wonder if Damian is going to drive by her house or place of employment when she leaves, she remains distrustful of people. She still checks over her shoulder and screens all her calls before picking up. She still can’t believe that all this ever happened to her.

But, after eight years, she’s coming around ever so slowly. When strangers ask about her ex-husband, she tells them what happened. “I’m past the shame of it,” she says. “It’s not my fault.”

 

To Have or To Harm: Joseph Blackstone

The following is respectfully quoted from “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross:

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 former 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 family, and his physical health suffered.

His obsession ultimately ended him in a sanatorium, 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 couldn’t let go. In the process, I ruined two lives,” he said. “I saw her as my emotional fulfillment. I’d invested all my eggs in that little basket. When she left, my basket was empty. I felt a void within myself.”

Some mental health authorities hypothesize that the need to possess someone who is unavailable stems from childhood feelings of rejection and abandonment. The idealized or fantasy relationship is subconsciously perceived as a way to rewrite history, to fill all of life’s deficits. “There is that magical quality that feeds the fantasy of the stalker and makes him feel that this person can fulfill his emotional needs…and make him feel lovable,” says Orange County psychiatrist Bruce Danto. Denial of the opportunity to make up for the damage suffered during the early years can lead to feelings of desperation and panic as well as a sense that the imagined connection must be preserved at all cost.

To Have or To Harm: Why?

The following is respectfully quoted from “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross:

What compels some people to become obsessed with others, to hound, threaten, injure, and sometimes kill them in the name of love?

As with most research into criminal behavior, explanations range from the biological to the environmental. Physiological studies, for example, reveal that sexual attraction and the onset of feelings of love often trigger a surge of natural amphetamine like substances in our bodies. Some professionals in the field theorize that higher than usual levels of these chemicals may lead to the aberrant behavior of love-obsessed individuals.

That’s a tantalizing notion. It would explain the incomprehensible and even offer the possibility of a biochemical solution. Other behavioral scientists, however, postulate that some event or series of events during the formative years provoked the deviant behavior, especially in view of similarities between repeat stalkers and serial rapists and killers.

The fact is that the stalking phenomenon is too new and the studies are too few to determine what causes these obsessive behaviors. There aren’t enough physical and social scientists exploring the issue. So, all they’ve been able to ascertain are the traits that these people share.

Here’s what we know:

Stalkers are above average in intelligence. They usually read a lot and will engage in considerable research — as well as expenditures that reach into the thousands of dollars — in pursuit of their objectives. They know just how far they can go without breaking the law. And they refuse to take no for an answer.

Lack of a core identity also ranks high on the list of stalker characteristics. In an effort to make up for this inherent deficiency, love-obsessed individuals psychologically latch on to another person to validate their own worth. “If I could just be with her, I would have accomplished something,” reasons the stalker, whose identity almost immediately becomes submerged in the other person’s.

Should the obsessed individual fail to make a connection–whether from the outset or after a relationship has been attempted–he or she has no well-developed sense of self upon which to fall back. Without the coveted liaison, they have nothing. Since that emotional void is intolerable, the obsessed person can’t afford to accept the rejection, whether overt or implicit. As long as the stalker continues the pursuit, he can convince himself that he hasn’t been conclusively rejected.

When rejection can no longer be denied, the emptiness and humiliation cause obsessed individuals to act out in ways that destroy them as well as their victims.

 

From “To Have or to Harm” by Linden Gross

The following is respectfully quoted from “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross:

Chicago, Illinois, August 5, 1989
After violating a protective order three times, Sheila Gallo’s former husband kills her. Their divorce had been final for just two days.

Richmond, Virginia, February 9, 1989
Deborah Frost’s old high-school boyfriend kills her while out on bond. The young man, who came from a “nice family” according to the victim’s mother, had never gotten over her. Eleven encounters with the law over a ten-month period did nothing to change his intentions or the outcome.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, March 9, 1992
Shirley Lowery waits in the hall outside a courtroom where she’s applied for a restraining order against the man with whom she’d once lived. Before she makes it inside, Benjamin Franklin stabs her nineteen times, fulfilling his promise to make Shirley pay for leaving him.

Boston, Massachusetts, May 30, 1992
Eleven days after Kristin Lardner gets a permanent injunction to keep Michael Cartier away from her, the twenty-two-year-old bouncer walks up to her in the middle of a busy street during daylight hours and shoots her repeatedly in the head. He was on probation at the time, for the beating of a previous girlfriend. “If the courts had checked his record or spoken to police when she sought help, he would have been locked up rather than set loose to kill her,” Kristin’s sister Helen Lardner, a Washington lawyer, testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Statistics on stalking are limited, principally because the cases wind up being classified as the crimes into which they usually escalate, such as assault or homicide. But most authorities agree that the overwhelming number of stalking victims are women. In fact, 90 percent of the fifteen hundred women killed by their current or former mates each year in this country were stalked before being murdered. However, that doesn’t mean that most stalking victims are killed. But “there’s a far greater chance that an ordinary -citizen case is going to result in a tragic conclusion than the celebrity,” says Lieutenant John Lane, who heads the Los Angeles Police Department’s Threat Management Unit, created especially to deal with stalking cases.

Stalkers don’t prey just on their individual targets. In cases involving family units, children frequently wind up as the victims. In October 1992, for example, Andrew Taylor made good on a prior threat. After his attempts at reconciliation — and his intimidation campaign — failed, he kidnapped his one-month-old daughter from her mother, a respiratory therapist. Authorities found the bodies of the unemployed actor and baby, whom he’d strangled, on a nearby bench. Eight months later, a South Dakota man shot his estranged wife and their two children just before their divorce was to become final.

Obsessed pursuers will frequently harass a third party to whom the actual target is attached in order to gain the intense impact and reaction they seek. “The easiest way to get me is to get to the people I love,” says Sarah Jane Williams, whose grandmother wound up in a nursing home after being knocked over by a prowler — presumably Sarah Jane’s stalker — when he broke into her home.

How did he know where to find the ninety-eight-year-old woman? or for that matter Sarah Jane, whom he continues to harass by phone even though she changes her number so often it takes her a few seconds to remember her current one?

Today’s easy access to informaiton has made us all potential victims. In his book Privacy for Sale, Jeffery Rothfeder explains how the proliferation of computerized records containing information about personal, private lives (5 billion records to date in the United States alone) means that a person with the right skills or contacts can find out virtually everything about us, from our whereabouts to our finances to our purchasing habits and family ties.

Why would one person obsess about another to the point of craving this sort of intimate information?

Anyone who has ever fallen in love or been infatuated knows how close the experience can be to a spiritual or drug induced high. Suddenly, our thoughts are consumed with one single being. Everything we see or do seems to bring him or her to mind. We find ourselves doing things we wouldn’t under any other circumstances. Like calling and then hanging up or using a fake voice just to see if anyone is home. Or driving by the house or apartment again and again for a glimpse.

The truth is that, for most of us, we’re in love not just with the person but with our projection of what kind of couple we’ll make, the needs that he or she will fulfill, and the idealized notion of love in general. Before we’ve even gotten to know what we’re really dealing with, we’ve fallen in love with what this person could represent to our future.

The individual whose life is a void waiting to be filled, however, takes those feelings and amplifies them. The person with whom he’s infatuated becomes his reason to exist. Any contact is better than no contact, any information a way to feel more intimately involved even if no relationship exists. That emptiness also helps explain the explosions that take place during the separations or divorces of many couples, when those who have used their relationships to define their identities simply can’t afford to let go.

In a culture where male violence is highlighted daily in the press and glorified nightly on television, the inability to accept rejection can easily mutate into dominance — particularly if it’s the man who’s been cast aside. “It has been sanctioned in society for a thousand years that a man has control over his woman,” says Michael Faymar, training coordinator for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota.

The social conditioning that most American men receive feeds this distorted view of relationships as ownership and love as a predestined occurrence. Even when they have targeted women who don’t return their affections, the socially accepted notion that men choose women, rather than the other way around, feeds their sense of righteousness. “She’s the only one for me,” says the ardent suitor, as if that should be the determining factor in her decisions.

 

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