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Stalking: Are we doing enough to protect victims?

on 12/01/2019

[Trigger warning: This article contains content on violent assaults]

Nanette was parking her car one night after work when she was suddenly ambushed by a man.

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He had been waiting for her outside her garage in the alleyway. He sliced her face, beat her several times, and strangled her so forcefully she nearly died.

In many ways, Nanette knew this attack would happen sooner or later.

The man was no stranger to her, but a former partner who had been harassing and stalking her since their relationship ended many years ago. Nanette had been fearful for her life ever since.

“One of the threats from years before was: ‘If I can’t have your eyes and your mouth then no one can have them,’” she tells SBS’s Insight.

Prior to that attack, Nanette says he repeatedly phoned and followed her and had broken into her bank accounts. And despite having a restraining order against him, she says the police didn’t take her reports of stalking seriously.

“I was also ignored and basically patronised,” she adds, “I had made tapes of the answering machine and I had all my emails, but they just weren’t interested… It was absolutely awful.”

WATCH: “Audrey”, Nanette and “Sarah” on being stalked.

It was only after she was ambushed and brutally attacked that police took notice of Nanette’s situation. The police later made a training video featuring Nanette’s story to teach officers how to better handle such cases.

“We’ve really got to listen to what victims have got to say,” says Superintendent Peter Lennon from NSW Police. “When they first walk into the police station, or make a phone call to say that they’re in fear of something, they’ve gone a long way to get to that point.”

Stalking is repeated, unwanted contact that causes fear, anxiety or stress. It’s a criminal offence in every state and territory in Australia.

[Related: The five types of stalking]

Psychologist Rosemary Purcell is an associate professor at the University of Melbourne who specialises in assessing and treating stalkers and their victim. She believes the laws are inadequate in protecting stalking victims.

“For those of us who work in this area we can understand the frustration because the police will often say get an intervention order and if he she breaches it, we can have intention to prove there,” she tells Insight.

“But it would be so much better if… we started taking stalking as a serious form of violence.

“You can have your life devastated without a finger ever being laid on you from this crime and we need to start treating stalking as the offence here.”

 

Are we doing enough to protect victims of stalking? Catch the full discussion tonight at 8.30pm on SBS ONE. The program will also be streamed live here.

Join the discussion by using the #insightsbs hashtag on Twitter or by commenting on Insight’s Facebook page.

 

WATCH A PREVIEW

“John” began stalking his ex-partner after they separated. He says he was driven by “obsession” and would call her 30 times a day, hoping to rekindle the relationship. He has since gone through counselling and men’s behavioural change courses. In this clip, John is reflecting on his past stalking.


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