Stranger-stalking is no joke

If you can’t fly, then run.

If you can’t run, then walk.

If you can’t walk, then crawl,

but by all means, keep moving.

– Martin Luther King Jr.

“should have, could have, would have, did not”

Are you an independent professional, self-employed, running a small business?

Did you see the pandemic coming? Did you foresee that one day you would have to shut your shop or gallery? If you provide services, did you expect to see most of the incoming work dry up one day for as long as it did with countries all over the world going into lockdown and people being forced to work from home? Forced to stop doing a lot of what they did? Forced to put all sorts of projects on hold?

I did not.

Did I ever expect to become the target of something devastating that’s called sadistic stalking? Or of some other form of stranger-stalking?

I did not. I did not see that coming at all.

Nobody ever told me that this is one of the risks you run as someone who relies on technology, social media and having an internet connection for work.

But you, you are lucky. Because I have just told you that it may happen to you too.

Because if it happened to me, then it could just as easily happen to you. I was 47 when it began. I had been in business for ten years at that point.

I filed the first police report in October 2008. I stopped filing police reports years ago. Because filing police reports only made things worse and most police officers genuinely couldn’t care less (whereas their eyes light up when you mention “money laundering”).

Investigating stalking is very expensive and complicated, evidence that will hold up and be clear to a lay audience hard to get and successful prosecutions are rare. So, in practice investigations generally only start after women have been injured badly, or killed.

Oddly enough, the police forces here don’t keep records on how much it’s costing them. (I’ve put in an official request for that information, yes. That’s because I wanted to have an idea of whether freeing up that money would be enough to launch a new organisation that exclusively deals with stalking and harassment.)

Here’s the good news. There are simple things you can do that will limit the chance that you become stalked. I can help you with that.

What is stranger-stalking?

Stranger-stalking means that you have been taken hostage by a stranger without there being a clear physical restraint. You are not buried in a coffin underground. Instead, your life becomes your coffin. Your world will shrink. Your life will shrink. Gradually, you will lose more and more opportunities and options. A stranger increasingly takes control of your life and perhaps even of as many aspects of your life as possible, such as your water supply, your electricity supply and whether your car starts in the morning.

Stranger-stalking no longer means that someone is hanging around all the time, for everyone to see. Stranger-stalking does not mean that someone constantly calls you and e-mails you from his genuine phone number and his genuine e-mail address and his genuine IP address.

Stranger-stalking can start out as relatively harmless or even seemingly benevolent. That’s why women often only catch on to what is happening when it’s too late and the damage has started.

It’s not true that you need to a certain type or age to become stalked. Anyone can get stalked. It’s not about you. It’s about what is happening in the mind of the person who is doing the stalking.

It could be the mere fact that you wore a turquoise coat on a certain day or bought a sandwich from a different shop during your lunch break and reminded someone of his ex or his mother. The stranger who starts stalking you can also be someone you shared a train journey with. The stranger can be a mere acquaintance such as a colleague who you don’t even work with directly, someone who sees you at lunch and who often sits down at the next table, or a friend of a friend of a friend.

Nowadays, stalking can come from someone who follows you on Twitter, Instagram or TikTok or who watches your YouTube videos.

If you’re an independent professional or the owner of a small business, you have to be on social media and you cannot ignore e-mails from potential clients. But that PDF with new prices that your supplier sends you or those photos that a happy customer sends you may contain the custom-written code that gets you hacked and will get past your internet security software.

You have to list your contact details online. That makes it very easy for some people to target you. But there are simple things you can do to limit the chance that it happens and affects you. I can help you with that.

Just like rape, stalking is rarely taken seriously by law enforcement, the majority of these crimes being committed by men against women. Stalking is often worse than rape. As soon as a rape is over, you can start working on your recovery. I’ve been raped, when I was in my mid-twenties. My rapist returned, six months or so later. That’s rare. It resulted in strong supportive action, though; I was relocated. Yes, getting raped gets you more support than getting stalked. I’ve recovered so well that I don’t even remember when exactly it happened, a discovery that I found rather stunning. But I remember the people who were there for me back then. And the police (Amstelveen) were wonderful.

With stalking and harassment, it’s more complicated anyway as there is such a wide range of behaviours that are called “stalking” and/or “harassment”. This ranges from relatively innocent spats between lovers or ex-lovers and silly he-said-she-said reports just to spite a person – which get police officers running all over the place to deliver so-called PIN notices without there investigations taking place or evidence presented – to seriously unhinged exes and dangerous malicious psychopaths who stalk their prey as if they are hungry wolves and their targets juicy lambs.

I’ve been arguing for years that stalking and harassment are not a policing matter but a public health matter and that a separate organisation should be set up, national organisations that cooperate internationally. These new organisations should have specialised IT experts, specialised investigators as well as forensic psychologists and psychiatrists but also former stalking targets. Police forces rarely have the required expertise at hand to triage incoming cases and assess the threat level. That is not just the case in the UK, but in other countries as well. This is costing lives, literally (death) as well as figuratively speaking.

To some degree, stranger-stalking is related to diversity and the lack of inclusivity in our society.

Stranger-stalking can result from a mismatch in communication styles. People who are learning-disabled or autistic can engage in stalking behaviours and the police generally merely criminalise and victimise such people. Mediation might resolve a world of fear and hurt. But the only mediation I am aware of serves to explain to criminal courts why the autistic person in question engaged in stalking behaviours.

I believe that alters of people with dissociative identity disorder can also engage in a great deal of mischief including stalking behaviours without the core personality – the person who has legal personhood – being able to do much about it. (I consider DID a form of neurodiversity.)

I advocate for greater inclusivity and for accepting and supporting those who tick differently. So I will always do my best to try to understand and explain where some stranger-stalkers are coming from, to the extent that I can. I do not hate these people. Of course not! They can’t help what they do; this is who they are and they didn’t create their own brain structures.

They usually aren’t after friendship, however, in my experience. It’s hard to build bridges and it’s sheer impossible to find anyone who is willing to mediate. (I hope to get certified to be able to mediate in court for autistic people who engage in stalking behaviours and end up in court. Because then I will also be able to mediate in the early stages of stalking and prevent escalation.)

Compassion and empathy must never be translated in your imprisonment and slavery, into being preyed upon, however. Unfortunately, for some people, the slightest sign of kindness is a trigger for abusing you endlessly.

This sort of thing – including regular modern slavery, which of course is related to stranger-stalking because modern slavery also is the result of strangers preying on people – goes on all around us.

For a few people, modern slavery is a topic that huge companies are legally obliged to write an annual report on. For most others, it doesn’t enter their awareness at all.

The woman who checks you out at your hotel may be one of these modern slaves. She may have been placed in that position in order to supply her “owner” with the guests’ credit card data. Her owner holds her passport and he also takes her wages. He may have forced her to open a joint bank account. It’s not true that all modern slaves are fruit-pickers, meat plant workers, household servants, cleaners and nannies.

Just like the victims of modern slavery, stalking targets too are usually powerless prey. They are like ping-pong balls batted around helplessly, both by law enforcement and by stalkers. The targets often become so desperate that they want their stalkers to attack and/or kill them, just to get it over with and finally put a stop to the stalking. That wasn’t acceptable to me. So I set out to change this.

There are very simple practical things that you can do that will limit the chance that you will become stalked. I can help you with that. I can also support you if you are already being stalked.

In England, the police forces fail the targets of stalking as a rule. They’ve admitted that themselves; they wrote a report on it.

The organisations who claim to be there for you often don’t even have a secure website; your browser may refuse to take you there. Doesn’t that tell you something about how effective and supportive they are in practice?

What stranger-stalking has to do with me

Selfie, 18 November 2021

I am a scientist (resume) who became the target of a combination of sadistic stalking and community bullying after having moved from Amsterdam to England and then moving within England. I’d become self-employed prior to that. For about 13 years, my entire life has revolved around dealing with, fighting off alternating with (powerless) acceptance and compassion as well as trying to understand whatever it is that I have been and still am dealing with.

I still don’t quite know. Nobody in this town has ever wanted to talk with me about it; everybody in this town says that they don’t know a thing about anything, usually have never heard of anyone else in this town, even the ones who know very well what was and to some degree still is going on. This town has a peculiar hostile (strongly insular) culture. Whether that is why everyone refuses to talk about what is going on, or because they don’t want to admit that it’s been 100% community bullying or because they are protecting people who have neurodiversity issues that the locals don’t understand and hence don’t want to talk about, or something else, I don’t know.

(On 27 November 2021,
I got a hint that I was in a Philip Zimbardo-style experiment to prove that
anyone can be turned into an evil person, or prove that I couldn’t.
There’d been a hint about the latter before.
On 2 October 2020, I discovered that elements of what I have experienced
came straight out of Tracey Morgan’s stalking case (see below), although they
were more sophisticated versions.)

The pandemic did not help. Having had come up with all sorts of technological solutions before that I couldn’t implement because of practical limitations (notably the lock-picking), I had finally figured out a way to turn everything around again. The lockdowns then put a stop to that and I came out of the lockdowns with very little turnover left.

Among other things, I have written a book about the new eugenics (a bioethics topic).

My experiences of the past 12, 13 years first caused me to dive into personality disorders and neurodiversity as well as dabble in bioethics for a while. I for example wrote a book about the new eugenics and wrote another book about otherisation and some of its consequences, such as workplace bullying and I also created an online course.

Next, I adjusted this broad focus and decided to make better use of my background as a self-employed professional with a science and technology background.

I have a highly practical analytical mindset. It comes in really handy at times, particularly when identifying other people’s technological vulnerabilities with regard to stranger-stalking.

So now I am putting my accumulated insights to some good use. Particularly if you are a small business owner or independent professional, I can help you limit the chance that you become stalked too. I can also help you deal with it if it has already started.

Stranger stalking. Sadistic stalking. Obsessive stalking. Destructive stalking. Many forensic psychologists and psychiatrists study all the case reports and write papers about the topic, but nothing’s been done yet that actually helps the targets of this phenomenon, let alone prevent this type of stalking.

Again, people who engage in stranger stalking, particularly sadistic stalking, can’t help it. They’re like giraffes, hyenas or panthers in a world filled with rabbits, hares and antelopes. They do what they do because it is all they know. They don’t know how to be different, how to behave differently. Well, okay, some do, and fake it in public very successfully, but at home, they are totally different creatures.

  • What’s missing in society is practical support. I’ve found that the majority of people aren’t even willing to listen, let alone help in any way. There is nowhere you can go for support, no agency or office. In theory, yes. In practice? Hell no. There is clearly no support for the people who engage in these stalking behaviours either, then. There can’t be.

Nowadays, stalking usually includes hacking, which can result in a great deal of loss for the target, loss of all kinds, and is often accompanied by a lot of taunting. Unfortunately, most people’s understanding of what hacking is – and this equally applies to police officers – still does not go beyond “just block the person on Facebook” and “you need to change your Yahoo password”.

Stalking is far too often portrayed as a romantic and flattering behaviour that silly women with anxiety issues make a fuss about. That view is nothing but pure misogyny.

A package with wet and muddied postal mail for me, random letters from a period of about 6 months. Flattering? (October 2017)
This bird got its neck sliced into with a rotary cutter, to spite me. Not the first that got attacked that way. Romantic? (April 2019)
Flattering? Romantic? In the middle of cleaning up after coming home in the middle of the night, finding the locks having been picked again and a mess in my flat, after which I contacted two professors in the Netherlands, asking them to contact the local City Council Leader – Gerald Vernon-Jackson – on my behalf. One did. (28 June 2019)
Romantic? Taunting me about having messed with – delayed – incoming payments, by then for about six months. And apparently, he didn’t think I knew that he’d hacked into my phone too. (March 2020)
Flattering? (This message was only present on my computer, did not actually appear to be online. It appears to be called “beef oven” in hacker jargon, referring to penetration.) (March 2021)
Watch the film that I discuss in the above video. It tells you a lot about some kinds of stalking: Moment of Truth: Stalking Back (1993):
I snapped this photo on 8 September 2011, by holding my phone around the corner and pressing the button. The person I wanted to photograph had just walked into the room where I was, to talk to me, then left again. So I looked around the corner and when I saw him sitting there, in the middle, I took the photo by holding the phone around the corner and pressing the button. (I feel okay with posting this as he is not recognisable and I took the photo a long time ago.) What his story is? You tell me.

Fed up with feeling powerless and not wanting to continue having to live in fear of acts of digital or tangible vandalism, I am now also addressing various forms of stalking as a professional undertaking.

As most people don’t tick the way particularly sadistic stalkers tick, they find it extremely difficult to imagine that there are people out there who do really weird things such as take a number of birth control pills from a woman’s home and deposit them in a coffee cup at the woman’s place of work.

That’s crazy, right? The woman who says that this is happening must be delusional, right? The woman in question, Tracey Morgan, is still highly focused on the urge to prove to everyone that she wasn’t going crazy, even now, decades later. She was working in Gosport and living in Fareham, when her colleague – a Navy communications specialist – began stalking her. He later also followed her when she relocated to a different county, where she moved in with her parents.

Her ordeal ended when her stalker went to prison for life after he tried to kill his next target, a woman called Lorraine. He was in the middle of cutting off her hand with a knife when her son walked in. The name of the stalker’s alleged wife, who allegedly had been posted overseas by the Navy, which he gave as the reason for his loneliness, was also Tracey. It does not appear that this wife actually existed. It seems to have been simply a hook that he used to get his targets to pay attention to him.

While not all cases of stranger-stalking are that extreme, stalking behaviours can be extremely upsetting. Because it is not written on people’s foreheads what they have in mind. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether the person is autistic and has made you his perhaps annoying and puzzling but relatively innocent hobby or whether he may jump out of your bedroom closet one day and attempt to strangle you. But then, people with Asperger’s can also do seemingly cruel things and experiment with people along the lines of “What happens if I press this button? What will the person do if I do this or that?”. This is where that inability to assess how someone’s actions can affect another person comes into play.

I used to live in the city of St Petersburg, a town in which a stalking case took place that became the topic of a film at around the same time. The parents of the teenage victim have said that the film represents their experiences accurately, but when I watched the film, it was clear to me that there were cognitive issues that were clearly not dealt with appropriately at the time – or even recognised. I’ve made a video about it that I posted a little higher on this page.

The anger, fear and powerlessness that the target experiences and expresses can make stalking cases spiral out of control. Police officers sometimes make matters worse and can actually egg a stalker on without realising it. Becoming stalked leaves you on your own. So-called friends of the teenager in the film that I just mentioned abandoned the girl, even made fun of her, leaving her to fend on her own (together with her parents).

Particularly being the target of sadistic stalking is an extremely lonely experience. Not only do sadistic stalkers deliberately seek to isolate their target in any way possible, and destroy her, most people in the social circle of the target abandon her. Or him, if the target is a male, but most stalking concerns men who stalk women.

Ms Morgan’s husband, Mr Sant, left her because of the stalking, the invasion of his privacy, such as being recorded in the couple’s bedroom, being too much for him to handle. He left that up to his wife. He left her to deal with it all by herself. He walked out on her and never contacted her again. That is how devastating sadistic stalking is.

The attempts to isolate the target not only include character assassination towards anyone who does not know the target in question, but also attempts to turn people in the target’s own social circle against the target. Nowadays, anyone can make calls or send e-mails while pretending to be someone else (even the target). A lot of the software that enables people to do that is freely available on the internet, at no charge. There are even YouTube tutorials on this stuff.

I became the target of a combination of instant toxic community abuse after a relocation and sadistic stalking with its typical relentless sabotage of every aspect of my life. Getting messed with relentlessly.

At a workshop at a local business event, I was told that I was being targeted because I am from Amsterdam. Was I? Everyone present seemed to think so, seemed to consider it an entirely plausible scenario. But it’s all been too chaotic, often vicious, manipulative and destructive as well as too “emotional” and, well, clingy, to be dismissed that easily, I think.

In 2017 and 2018, I made four failed escape attempts. I walked into the ice-cold sea in utter despair at the end of 2010. I thought I had nowhere else to go. You know what? I was right!

I learned the hard way that people are far too quick to assume that you’re “making up” a hacker because you don’t know how to use computers. After all, you’re a woman and over 45. Or perhaps you are trying to hide that you’re going senile. In reality, what you are dealing with is probably more like the kind of scenario that James Bond films portray. That’s too crazy to be true, isn’t it? (You wouldn’t believe it either except it’s happening to you right now.)

You really don’t want to know how many times I have screamed my head off and how many times I have cried and cried in utter despair.

Nobody cares.

Hardly anybody cares.

Who I am

Before I left Europe and relocated to England at the end of 2004, which was supposed to have been temporary as I had intended to move back to the States after a few years, I spent most of my life in Amsterdam. That’s in the Netherlands, an EU country. And yes, I also lived in the States for a while.

My main background is in the earth & life sciences. I became self-employed when I was still living in Amsterdam, working with clients and associates from all over the world. The clients? For example university scientists, publishers and high-end engineering consultancies, parties that create and deal with knowledge and technology in the earth, marine and environmental science realm.

I am a Company Director as well but that company currently isn’t trading. (I operate as a VAT-registered sole trader.)

I’ve always been highly versatile and flexible. I used to work in tourism and hospitality in Amsterdam, possess legal insight and experience, and I have recently gained a great deal of insight in otherisation and how it can impact people’s lives. Because I have a shit load of experience in that area now. I therefore often focus on diversity, otherisation and inclusivity as well as the rights of nonhuman animals.

We all share the same planet and we – modern humans – inherited it from species like dolphins and whales as well as parrots and other modern birds. They’ve been around for 50,000,000 to 55,000,000 years. 50 to 55 million years. Modern humans? Only 250,000 years. 250 ka.

Planet, people and other critters, that is bioethics sensu lato. All living beings matter. Without diversity, the world would become a very dull place with almost no innovation and likely also no entertainment whatsoever… This is why we need the world to become less eugenically driven and much more inclusive. We need equality, we need to enable and allow everyone to live life to the full, and in their own way, without any abuse.

We also need to do this in order to preserve the human species. Because if we can’t show compassion for our own species, we won’t have it for other species either. And that would mean that we’re doomed, basically. Because compassion for other species forces us to look after the planet, thus after ourselves. Everything is connected. The earth system is a giant piece of machinery that always strives for balance regardless of whether we humans like that or not.

All kinds of others are still being otherised, pushed out of society, even though we’ve also made a lot of progress and continue to make a lot of progress in this area. That’s the area of inclusivity.

What do I mean? Consider that in 19th-century England, John Stuart Mill called his wife “disabled by society”. Not because she was “disabled” but because she was a woman.

This still happens too often to people who deviate from the “eugenic” ideal of the able-bodied and mentally mainstream, well-to-do white male and to anyone who is otherised because he or she does not resemble us in some way, who deviates, even if it is only the fact that someone has red hair, is poor, has an Essex accent, uses a wheelchair, is autistic, is from a different country or does not drive a car but walks a lot. They can truly become disabled by society.

Inclusivity is not crowding people, obsessing over people, fussing over people as if they are five-year-olds or one-year-olds, however. Inclusivity is about giving people enough space to be who they are. It’s about respecting all people, as human beings, and observing everyone’s human rights.

We’re not there yet, but we are learning. We are making headway.

Success is to be able to live your life in your own way. That is bioethics sensu lato.

“All living beings are entitled to respect and should be treated not as means but as ends in themselves.” This is the bioethical imperative, formulated by Fritz Jahr around a century ago.

Informative highlights:

  • For eleven years, I served as associate editor for the international newsletter of the Geochemical Society, which is based in the US.
  • I was a board member and member of many committees at the NIMF foundation for women in science and technology in the Netherlands.
  • For about a year (from right after my move from Southampton to Portsmouth until it folded), I was a member of the Portsmouth Environmental Forum, established and supported by Portsmouth City Council.
  • I’m a member of the International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG).
  • I’m a former member of the Amsterdam American Business Club and of the Southampton-based SHEA Business Club (BNI-style business networks) as well as of Toastmasters of The Hague (public speaking and networking).
  • Yes, I am a feminist. No, I do not believe that women are “defective males”. No, I do not hate men, but I have become rather wary of people in general in the past decade.
  • I am one of the eleven graduates of “Taking the Lead”, an NCFE-accredited course in community leadership, sponsored by Portsmouth City Council.

How I can help you protect yourself against stranger-stalking

I have made 10 videos for people like me, people who are their own boss. They are brimming with tips for how you can limit the chance that you too become stalked by a stranger. I have uploaded them into a YouTube playlist, with transcript, links and more tips in the description.

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