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When A Stalker Doesn’t Get the Message: I Just Want to Be Nice

September 04, 2013

By Leslie Durr, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC
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“He just keeps calling me to talk and he’s asked me out each time. Now, he’s sending text messages, too, and yesterday, he showed up at my door with flowers.” 

This was a patient* I had been working with for several months. When she started therapy, she had just gotten out of a bad relationship with a man and was exploring the reasons she always seemed to select men who treated her badly. She was making progress and was putting new behaviors into play that signaled her increasing confidence. 

Recently, she’d met a guy at a party; she said he struck her as nice but pretty awkward, which she hastened to say was not a bad judgment of him.  She’d been friendly to him, but she thought she’d clearly signaled that she wasn’t interested in him beyond that party.  

Now, she was finding she was wrong. She kept trying to be nice whenever he called; she’d talk to him for a few minutes, hoping he’d realize she wasn’t interested in him. She would deflect his suggestions about going out, but he wasn’t getting the message, and now his behavior was bordering on stalking. 

A few years ago, I attended a session on stalking at Psych Congress by Phillip Resnick, MD, of Case Western Reserve University. At the conference and in subsequent publications, he delineated the so-called “types” of stalkers [1,2]:

  1. Rejected
  2. Intimacy seekers
  3. Resentful
  4. Predatory
  5. Incompetent 

To me, it seemed my patient’s admirer was of the last type: the so-called “incompetent.”  This type of stalker typically engages in behaviors such as repeatedly asking for dates even after being rejected, repeatedly calling on the phone, and trying to hold the victim's hand or kiss the victim. 

This man may have realized he wasn’t making headway, but my patient’s efforts to “be nice” were fueling his hopes for a relationship with her.  At our next appointment, we discussed her rationale for “trying to be nice,” a common socialized behavior-set for girls and women in our society. Then I talked to her about telling him once more, very clearly, that she was not interested in him and then stopping all contact with him. She was not to be mean or aggressive but just stop answering his calls and other attempts at contact. 

I hastened to explain that I was not blaming her for the man’s actions but that continuing contact reinforced his idea that, with enough time, she would come to want a relationship with him. 

Fortunately, with a little time, her suitor stopped calling and making other contact. Chances were that his attention had shifted to another woman, and my patient and I spent a moment talking about her guilt about foisting him on someone else. 

But we concluded with a bit information for victims of stalkers that I’d gleaned from Dr. Resnick’s talk and subsequent reading on stalking:  She’d done nothing wrong; she'd trusted her own intuition, and she was in good company. In fact, according to Dr. Resnick, 1 in 12 women is stalked at some point in her life. 

In addition, an estimated 12 to 13% of stalkers are women. 

This case of stalking was comparatively simple. The other types of stalkers can be far more scary and dangerous. Here are some recent headlines I found [3-6]: 

  • Delaware man accused of stalking ex-girlfriend
  • Woman locked up in Alec Baldwin NY stalking
  • Man stalked woman he believed was ex
  • State trooper charged with stalking woman 

Have you worked with a patient who was being or had been stalked? How did you help him/her? 

 

*All patients I mention are an amalgam of various patients.

 

References:

1. Resnick, P. Stalkers: Risk assessment issues. 12th Annual US Psychiatric & Mental Health Congress. Nov. 11-14, 1999.
2. Miller, M.C. Stalking. The Harvard Mental Health Letter. Vol. 17, num.9, March 2001.
3.ABC Action News, December 10, 2012
4. ABC Action News, November 27 2012
5. ABC Action News, July 26, 2012
6. ABC Action News, April 8, 2011

Leslie Durr, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC is an advanced practice psychiatric-mental health nurse with a private psychotherapy practice in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The views expressed on this blog are solely those of the blog post author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Psych Congress Network or other Psych Congress Network authors.

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