Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stalking, Harassment and Control

Recently, my experiences with being stalked and harassed have been on my mind. I've been making progress in reading The Three Musketeers, which I'll be reviewing whenever I finally finish it, and the way Dumas handles male/female relationships is rather frightening in places.

He follows the idea of men falling passionately in love with their mistresses, and going to great lengths to gain their affections. Of course, not all of the women in the book are fainting beauties, but the men all seem to be downright obsessive.

In one scene, d'Artagnan "overhears" a conversation between his landlord and the woman of his desire, the landlord's wife. As soon as the landlord leaves, he knocks on the window and enters when greeted. He does a lot of "overhearing" in the book.

It reminded me of jealous people stalking their exes and trying to force control over them again in the name of love. That sort of thing isn't romantic in the least. It's all about control.

The song above, "Every Breath You Take", by The Police talks about that from the stalker's point of view. It has a lovely melody and everything, but the lyrics are extremely creepy. It was still one of the most popular "romantic" songs for a while, though.

I haven't dated much, and those I did take a romantic interest in were never of the stalker variety. My husband gives me the room I need, just as I give him his room. We trust each other enough not to need to know where the other is every minute of the day, and respect each other enough to let the other know if something will keep us too late.

Before our neighborhood changed, there were three men who had an unhealthy interest in me. One used to follow me home, another waited on our front steps to talk to me when I left the house before 6 in the morning for work and another would try touching me inappropriately or hit on me every time we saw each other. Needless to say, I didn't feel safe leaving the house. All three eventually left, thankfully. I still get a low level sense of dread when I see someone new in the neighborhood, though.

Before that, a woman with whom I used to work decided she didn't like it when I asked her to come in to cover for me. I'd been covering everyone else's shift, plus I had just picked up a second job. Since she never came in for her shifts, she lost the job, and she blamed it on me.

She then proceeded to call my home at all hours, called my second job, posed as a cop to say someone was coming after me and generally made my life a living hell. All the while, she pretended that I was the one stalking her, and went so far as to get a restraining order on me. I went to represent myself when the court date came along, she didn't show, and I was able to defend myself against the accusations. The judge and court recorder both gave me suggestions on how to take legal action against her.

Turns out, this woman had something against younger women and had pulled the same stunt on others. After talking to another coworker, she stopped contacting me. We actually ran into each other in the transit station not long after that, and she attempted to pretend nothing had happened. I told her to leave me alone and proceeded to ignore her. I may or may not have pointed at one of the security cameras filming the platform to let her know SHE was being watched in case she decided to try anything.

Never saw her again, and as they say, good riddance to bad rubbish.

I can't deny the impact Henry Ford had on the
way the world works today, but he had some
real control issues in his time.
By Hartsook, photographer. [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Thinking back on those incidences, and others, in conjunction with how the classic book I've been reading handles relationships makes me wonder how this mess of interpersonal control got started. It's all over our media, especially when it comes to romance, but it bleeds into other aspects of our personal lives, too. It seems to be yet another deeply held cultural issue.

Bullying is all about control, as is internet trolling, politics, street harassment and all sorts of other social exchanges.

I mean, anyone who's studied Henry Ford much knows that he used to enforce rules on how to live on his employees. He went so far as to send representatives from the company to his emlpoyees' homes to judge how clean they were, the way their wives acted and how well the children were disciplined. If the families didn't live up to his standards after being notified of needed changes, the employees would lose their jobs. How is that acceptable in any shape or form?

Are so many people that insecure in their own lives that they feel they must control others while they're at it? Or are they just so afraid of the lack of control they have over their own emotions and thoughts that they must exert it over someone else?

I don't know. It's an uncomfortable question, but it's still one worth asking.

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