Monday morning I heard on my local NPR station that the Oregon Supreme Court ruled against a free speech claim. They declined to allow this constitutional protection to cover stalking behavior.
Check out the story here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=140404459&ft=3&f=140404459
I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard from one parental figure or another that your freedom to swing your arms around ends where your little brother’s nose begins. Or some variation thereof. The point being that your freedoms cannot take away those of somebody else.
While the precise wording defining stalking varies from state to state, a basic definition is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear” (http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org/awareness). Over the years I’ve had several stalking victims in my classes, and it ain’t pretty. It took a LONG time after any apparent sign of their stalker faded for them to feel kinda secure. Even then, if the perpetrator contacted them years later, maybe online or a chance meeting, all the original fear and insecurity came rushing back. Being stalked causes a person to change her or his activities and habits, sometimes even compels them to move to a different apartment, city, state, or coast. The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al., “The Toll of Stalking,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, no. 1 (2002):50-63.] In short, stalking robs the victim of their “pursuit of happiness.”
Two more thing to note about stalkers, and these are traits they hold in common with many other abusers. First, they feel they are the offended party, and will loudly proclaim that they are the real victims here. It is their rights (to smack their little brother’s nose) that are being abridged. And, second, they will exploit the legal system to further perpetrate harm. Or try to.
Thank you, Oregon Supreme Court, for being the good mom and telling a big brat to stop swinging his arms around the playground.