Predator:  Toby H. Florida State Prison System

Discussion: Take steps to stop the victimization if you or someone you know is being stalked, before someone ends up dead.

“I knew where she was all the time. It was so easy to do. I could track her every move and listen in to her conversations through her cell phone and computer. I had a right to know what she was up to. I loved her. Hell, I still do. Even though she put me in this stinking place,” Toby says about his ex-girlfriend, Kate.

“All I had to do was take her phone while she wasn’t looking for a few minutes. Upload spyware like that mSpy. Pay as you go. Click yes when the message on her device asked if I was okay with the software being installed. Yeah, I was more than okay with it. Then, I deleted the message. She didn’t have any of that fancy anti-spyware protection like Norton. She never had a clue.”

Social Media Stalking: Toby also used clues from Kate’s social media posts to keep tabs on her. Kate didn’t restrict access to her Facebook page. It was open to “public” viewing. Even after the couple broke up for the fifth time, after he broke her nose in an argument, Toby still could figure out a lot about Kate’s life just by viewing her Facebook page and pictures. He also created a fake woman’s identity to follow Kate’s Twitter and Instagram posts.

It wasn’t until Kate went to a domestic violence shelter where her devices under went digital detox that Toby lost touch. The counselor at the shelter advised her to shut off her GPS and Wi-Fi and stay off Facebook. When she cut the connection, Toby went into a real rage.

“Yeah, Kate thought she had me, but I’m smarter than her. I got her work email from one of her co-workers. So I started emailing her at work. I used to watch as she entered work each day. It was so easy to tell her what she was wearing and how I was going to cut each piece of clothing off her. And then how I was going to cut her up.

“I sent her emails with pictures of women who had paid the price for betrayal. I told her I was going to post those nude pictures I took of her all over the Internet, Instagram, every place. And if she didn’t come back to me that I was gonna hurt her family. That got her talking to me again. Of course it did. She needed me.

“What I don’t understand is why she said she was never coming back to me. I mean, all I was doing was taking what was rightfully mine. When I got her to come with me that evening after work by threatening her with a pistol, it was for her own good.”

Rewind: What Kate should have done is become tech smart to block an avenue of growing importance for stalking – electronic communications and monitoring. She should have searched home and work computers and phones to ensure no tracking devices were hidden. Hardware can even be attached to the backs of computers. And blocked harassing emails from work accounts. She should have protected her phone and computer with passwords. Passwords should never be shared with others and changed frequently. Computer programs should have been logged out of whenever the device was unattended. She should have used security software to block spyware attempts through a phishing attack or infected Web page. Limiting information shared on social media is critical. This can be accomplished by using the privacy settings on all online accounts to only share information with trusted individuals. Think about it from the predator’s perspective. Why make it easy?

Kate should not have respond to any of Toby’s messages. Stalkers thrive on attention. Any attention. She should have taken screen shots of any instant messages and retained threatening emails and other communications. Keeping a log also helps document the stalking behavior. Kate should have shared the stalking problem with her company Human Resource department and law enforcement as soon as it began. Kate’s company and law enforcement could have helped Kate if she was willing to break the silence.

Many police departments have units that are set up to deal specifically with stalking victims and intimate violence. The National Stalking Resource Center has great information on individual state laws concerning stalking. The company could have asked co-workers not to share any information about Kate, possibly helped with security and maybe even assigned Kate to a different work location. The company could have also considered taking out a temporary restraining order or criminal trespass warning. Or helped Kate to do so. The challenge with any legal action or visit from law enforcement is that it can either serve as a deterrent or aggravate the situation. That’s why everyone involved should talk through options before taking action.

Fear often prevents victims from acting, but the stalker isn’t going away. 11% of stalking victims are pursued for five or more years. The average stalking case lasts about two years. Over three-quarters of women killed by their intimate partners were previously stalked by that same individual. 85% of victims are stalked by someone they know. Over 60% are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Stalking victims can take actions to protect themselves from their stalkers. They are not alone.

“I still don’t think I should have gotten jail time. She brought this on herself with all her flirting. Then when she told me she was going to leave me, I had no choice. I made sure if I couldn’t have her, no one else would either.”

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