Newspaper: Tips for surviving a stalker - Are you prepared?

Commentary by John Salyers

The Sandusky Register ran a story recently on what it takes to survive a stalker. Unfortunately they left out the one best defenses that law-abiding
Ohioans now have as an option. That is the right to obtain a license and carry a concealed handgun for self defense.

While stalking cases may not make the news and be as high profile for everyday citizens as other crimes. There are cases like these happening to average people quite often throughout the country.

From the story:

    One in 12 women, and one in 45 men, will be stalked at some point in their lives, according to statistics from the National Center for Victims of Crime."

It seems that when most people think about stalking cases they tend to believe that those types of things only happen to movie stars or other highly visible people.

Again from the story:

    When actress Rebecca Schaeffer was killed in front of her Hollywood home in 1989, by a mentally ill man who had obtained her address from state motor vehicle records, it sparked greater public awareness of stalking cases.

    It also spurred the Los Angeles Police Department to launch its Threat Management Unit, which focused exclusively on stalking crimes and prevention.

    Linden Gross, author of "Surviving a Stalker" and creator of the Web site, said that when the unit first started it expected 90 percent of their cases to center on celebrities, and 10 percent on the general public.

    "As the guy who started the unit told me, 'We had the numbers right, we just had them backwards,'" Gross said.

In Ohio these days it seems ironic that a news paper would mention the Rebecca Shaefer incident. Rebecca Shaefer was an actress who was stalked and murdered by Robert John Bardo because driver's license information was easily obtained for a small fee. This prompted federal legislation making the dissemination of such information illegal if the driver opts to protect it.

Even with the knowledge of that case in hand as well as several other warnings about publishing CHL-holder information, legislators allowed Bob Taft's dangerous media access loophole to be included in the current concealed carry law.

The story goes on to say:

    Stalking is not a new crime, but victims who seek help through law enforcement and the court system often discover it's still a young and often frustrating legal issue to deal with.

    In Erie County last year, 50 people went to Pam Colbert, victim's advocate with the Erie County Prosecutors' office, seeking her help to obtain a stalking protection order through Common Pleas Court.

    Only 14 of those people followed through, Colbert said.

Perhaps the stalking victims in Erie County would be better served if they were advised of ALL of their options. This includes the option of obtaining a concealed handgun license and carrying a handgun for self defense purposes.

    People sometimes think they can just come to me, that I'll go to the court and they'll write out a piece of paper that solves their problem," Colbert said.

    "Oftentimes, once they find out what the process is, that can deter them. They'll decide the problem's not bad enough to go through with it, but then sometimes it just gets worse."

Maybe it is time to take a long look at and fix the process. As is often reported, people have many obstacles to overcome when dealing with the criminal element in our society. Obviously, dealing with stalkers is no different and the police and prosecutors cannot be at your side 24 hours a day for your protection. Even if a person follows through and obtains a piece of paper, what are the guarantees that it will solve the problem?

The story continues by mentioning that a perpetrator doesn't have to have been charged with a crime for a victim to obtain a stalking protection order but there has to be evidence of at least two acts that qualify as menacing by stalking. It is also mentioned that stalking cases can be difficult to prove.

    Often, Colbert said, victims run into problems proving a pattern of behavior because the problem can be multi-jurisdictional.

    "One time an incident could happen at the mall, the other time it could be at Rock on the Dock, or they could follow them into Huron," Colbert said. "I can understand why people get frustrated, doing all the leg work and calling to keep up on their case."

    Most times, however, the biggest problem is evidence.

What's even more frightening about this story is the person's being interviewed state that even a conviction may not be the solution to the problem.

    Web site creator Gross said that getting a conviction isn't always the solution to a stalking problem.

    "When a stalker goes to jail, they usually lose everything," Gross said. "When they come back, now they have nothing left but their obsession."

    After a victim obtains a protection order, both Gross and Colbert said the most important thing is to ensure that they have support from others -- and a resolve to keep evidence of any transgressions.

    Both advised victims of a stalker to:

    Tell relatives, neighbors and co-workers about their problem. "It can be hard for people to admit that their lives have been so affected, but it's very important," Gross said.

    Vary their routines -- travel routes to work or errands, when they take their garbage out, exercise habits and other activities.

    Carry a camera, get a sophisticated answering machine and/or caller ID, and, if necessary, a second phone line so that the first can be exclusively monitored.

    Most important, keep a log of any and all menacing activity.

    "Dates, times, places and names -- it's very critical," Colbert said.

Again they failed to mention the most important thing a stalking victim needs to do. So we will be happy to do it for them.

Be prepared. Purchase a firearm. Get training, and get your CHL today!

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