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Every Breath You Take: Stalking and Stalkers, Explained

What goes on in the mind of an obsessive stalker when they fixate on a victim? What is the motive? Is it psychosis?

Updated
Explainers
5 min read
(Photo: iStockphoto)
Snapshot

Stalking is one of the most under-rated and under-reported crimes in India, and across the world. In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau recorded 4,700 cases of stalking and 674 of voyeurism; only 1.6% of the total crimes committed against women that year.

However, a closer look reveals the truth. Stalking usually comes as an added fact; an afterthought; a contextual detail to a murder, rape or molestation case in India. “The rapist had been stalking her for months...”, add media and police reports casually. Almost 4% of 33,981 murders in 2014 were motivated by unsuccessful love affairs and/or non-reciprocal sexual attraction.

In the face of such rampant violence against women, who are twice as likely to be stalked as men, it is crucial to understand the psyche of a stalker; what goes on in their minds when they fixate on another human being like an object? What are the signs of a stalker’s behaviour that indicate a possibility of real, physical harm to the stalked?

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What is Stalking and the Different Kinds of Stalkers?

Stalking is defined as repeated (more than twice) and unwanted attention, harassment, contact or any other form of behaviour that will cause a reasonable person to feel fear. So, from flowers, emails, letters in your postbox, notes on your car, following you around, standing outside your house or work to threats, assaulting you, physically causing harm to you – all are included in stalking.

While considering the mental health of stalkers, it is important to remember that while most stalkers are NOT psychotic, all of them have some form of mental/emotional sickness: low self-esteem, depression bred out of loneliness, substance abuse problems, narcissism and bipolar disorder.

The stalker is usually an isolated and shy person, one who lives alone, lacks any type of important intimate relationship – not just sexual, but friends or family, too.
John Moore, Chicago-based counsellor and author of the book Confusing Love With Obsession to WebMD

Psychologists have divided stalking behaviour into five types to further study them in detail:

  • The Incompetent Stalker
  • The Intimacy Seeker
  • The Resentful Stalker
  • The Rejected Stalker
  • The Predatory Stalker

What is the Psyche of an "Incompetent Stalker"?

The Incompetent Stalker looks for contact and closeness (much like the Intimacy Seeker) with the the subject of their love, in the hopes to eventually win a reciprocal nod from them. However, this type of a stalker is very aware that his feelings are not reciprocated, and seeks to win affection through socially-stunted ways of communication, which border on asocial and violent, sometimes.

In June 2016, Infosys employee, S Swathi was hacked to death in broad daylight by her stalker who had grown obsessed with her, and tried to unsuccessfully befriend and gain her affection for months.

Representational image of an incompetent stalker. 
Representational image of an incompetent stalker. 
(Photo: iStock)
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What is the Psyche of an "Intimacy Seeker" Type Stalker?

The Intimacy Seekers stalk someone they think they love with the incorrect perception that they are loved back or have a potential to be a part of his/her family. The stalking is usually to satiate a need for contact and proximity to the subject of their affection.

In 2009, country music star Shania Twain was stalked by a fan who thought he was in a relationship with her. He had visited her house more than a 100 times, and even attended her grandmother’s funeral without an invitation.

Representational image of an intimacy-seeking stalker. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Representational image of an intimacy-seeking stalker. (Photo: iStockphoto)

What is the Psyche of a "Resentful Stalker"?

The Resentful Stalker stalks out of feelings of humiliation, anger and spite; they stalk not to seek revenge but vindication. Such stalkers usually have a distressing past and they continuously relive the pain to fuel their actions out of self-pity.

18-year-old Farah in Delhi was stalked by her jilted lover for months in 2014. He went to jail on charges of molesting her; on being released, he murdered her and stabbed her mother as well.

Representational image of a resentful stalker. 
Representational image of a resentful stalker. 
(Photo: iStock)
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What is the Psyche of a "Rejected Stalker"?

The Rejected Stalker stalks after an end of a close relationship; not just romantic, but also friendly, parental, or professional. They stalk in an attempt to continue their closeness to their victim as if in a relationship, seeking reconciliation. When this doesn’t happen, they turn to revenge. Paranoia as a disorder plays a significant role in such cases.

In August 2011, a 23-year-old pregnant Shruti hung herself after her stalker ex-boyfriend and colleague called up her husband and claimed to be the father of the child.

Representational image of a rejected stalker. 
Representational image of a rejected stalker. 
(Photo: iStock)

What is the Psyche of a "Predatory Stalker"?

The Predatory Stalker is all about sexual gratification and control. The act of stalking itself contributes to fulfilling the stalker’s sexual fantasies; they get off on finding information about their victim, and fantasise about physically and/or sexually assaulting them. It’s an unhealthy mixture of voyeurism, sadism and sexual perversion.

Sajjad Mughal, the security guard who murdered Pallavi Purkayastha in 2012, was of this category. He stalked her for days, planning his move meticulously. When he knew her to be alone, he entered by stealing her house keys and tried to rape her. When she resisted, he slit her throat.

Representational image of a predatory stalker. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Representational image of a predatory stalker. (Photo: iStockphoto)
(Photo: iStock)

If you notice any of these signs In your behaviour, get help, and fast. Any of these actions, or obsessive patterns in your personality that lend you to such actions, can escalate very quickly. Seeing a therapist (click here for a collated list of mental health professionals in India) or joining a support group is the best way to eliminate the loneliness and disconnect a stalker feels with society.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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