One of the reasons for my increasing reticence to make blog posts, has been an ongoing problem with a stalker. A consequence of being stalked is sadly, an increased reluctance to go onto the internet.
My stalker is a woman. This is relatively rare, as men tend to dominate the stalking statistics. The fact remains however, that a significant number of cases, still involve women. After months of trying to block all contact and refuse to communicate, nothing seems to have improved.
Anyway, in my ongoing attempts to protect myself from this, I have at least, identified strategies that reduce the risk of stalking.
First, don’t be an academic. If you are an academic, then you be very quickly found at work. As an academic, I’ve presented papers and talks to the public, I’ve done radio an TV interviews, I blog about my research from time-to-time etc. You leave a brightly-lit path back to your university or college for search engines. And to make you accessible to students, university is going to have your picture, email and phone numbers all freely available.
Second, don’t belong to Facebook or Myspace. Of course, I’m not recommending people go out and close their accounts because of some exaggerated risk of stalking. The only real way to avoid stalking after all, is to never go on the internet. The problem is that your privacy settings only offer incomplete protection. I’ve benefited from Facebook in the way if lets me renew, and keep in touch, with relatives and old friends. But even with ramped up privacy (heck, I don’t even let my family members see my phone number or email address), a persistent stalker can still gather information.
Who else has the same surname as me? Do these people have friends in common with me? If you’re an obsessed stalker, putting in the hours to connect people I know back to me, can be done. It’s really just a matter of time. And if you can get one of these people to communicate with you, then any walls you have up as protection, will be easily breached. To block communications properly, you actually need to recruit all your friends and family, not just yourself. You just need one person to break ranks and then your stalker is back in.
There are the more obvious protective things to do. Be very secretive with your personal life. Stalkers are adept at picking up little clues about friends, family and work, to piece together more information about your private life.
Stalkers are actually a very low risk. I’ve been using the internet almost from when it gathered momentum in the early 1990s. And I’ve had very good security over time, not because I’m paranoid about stalking. It’s more that I have a private life also, and I like that to be private.
What this experience has brought home, is that when you do interact with people, you get very little information on what they’re actually thinking. I don’t know what the trigger was for my stalker. Something happened, and without realising it for a few months, an elaborate fantasy was concocted. The key element of this is the irrational and immutable belief that I desire a relationship with this woman.