A key character in soap operas, films and books alike, the construct of the violent ex-partner is now infamous, with numerous stories of monstrous, disgruntled husbands and boyfriends, abusing and terrifying their former companions, circulating throughout society.
It is all too easy to claim that the frequency of such occurrences is exaggerated – not an entirely invalid claim – but it is almost certainly worth remembering that all exaggerations stem from truth.
But their lives became hell after a band of Irish travellers arrived two years later and built an illegal camp next door to the property at Wickford in Essex.
Many people have found themselves the unwilling victims of callous ex-partners. Bemused at the dissolution of what they thought was a loving, healthy relationship, these individuals turn to aggressive and anti-social behaviour as a means of forcing the relevant individual back into the relationship or, perhaps they are merely looking for revenge. Irrespective of their desire, though, the victim is certain to suffer.
Stalking is defined as “repetitive unwanted communications or approaches that induce fear in the victim and occur over a period of four weeks or more”.
Whilst the act of stalking is more often associated with the stranger who inadvertently becomes obsessed with their victim, recent research has shown that the most dangerous stalkers are actually ex-partners; with The Lancet medical journal noting that stalkers are far more likely to kill or injure their victim if they have had a previous sexual relationship with them.
Stalkers, it is argued, have an immense sense of ownership over their victims – they were once part of their life and feel they have a divine right to remain so, even after the relationship has ended.
Some stalkers have deep-seated psychological problems and, along with many people who suffer from these problems, are often unaware of the severity of their actions, meaning that, whilst their behaviour appears abhorrent to everyone else, they perceive it as perfectly normal. The majority of stalkers, however, are aware of the fact that what they are doing is wrong and continue to pursue their subjects for a variety of reasons – they may crave power, be seeking revenge or convinced that they are destined to be with their victim. Ultimately, stalking, irrespective of the perpetuator’s motives, can leave the sufferer emotionally devastated, with many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to the same degree as people who have experienced an earthquake or airplane crash.
Some of the possible effects of stalking are less obvious. In some cases, stalkers have been known to damage the victim’s property, resulting in financial problems and the stress can often leave them unable to concentrate at work.
Most worrying of all though, is the fact that the majority of stalkers are known by the victim, meaning that they are likely to know where their victim works, their daily routine and numerous other personal details that they could use to their advantage.
A great deal of stalkers are likely to have abused their partner pre-separation and resort to further abuse – psychological or physical - as a means of reasserting power over their former spouse. It is a well known fact that gathering the courage to leave an abusive partner can be extremely difficult – stalking and violence post-divorce can destroy the hope formed by separation - and the promise of a new beginning that this brings - leaving the victim feeling that the horrendous treatment they faced at the hands of someone they once called their companion, is inescapable resulting in feelings of hopelessness.
But, there is help available. An anti-molestation order can make it an offence for the person to cause you any further trouble preventing any pestering, harassment or violence.
If an individual finds themselves being threatened with violence – particularly if said threats are coming from a former partner – then action must be taken. Simply hoping the problem goes away and pandering to those who wish to play down your fears, will not produce tangible results ensuring little more than further stress and anxiety. The issue, according to Dr. Lorraine Sheridan, a psychologist at Leicester University, is not getting the courts to take notice but finding the courage to take affirmative action
Ultimately, Dr. Sheridan’s advice is simple: “If anyone feels that someone is behaving in an inappropriate manner and they believe this to be having an adverse effect on their lives, they should contact the relevant authorities and try to get something done about it”.