In many cases women find themselves being stalked by people they know, including men or women they have dated, were married to or were intimate with.
Joburg-based forensic and clinical psychologist, Dr. Giada Del Fabbro says that an obsessive partner might not present until after a break-up.
“Initially, it may depend on the nature of the break-up. If it was more civil, it may be flattering at first – my ex is still not over me, for example," she says.
In cases where the relationship was characterised by abuse, it will feel like a continuation of the abuse, in spite of the decision to end the toxic relationship.
"As the stalking behaviour increases though, regardless of the break-up, it will start to feel less flattering and more intrusive, invasive and abusive,” she says.
It must be noted that complete strangers, friends, and people you've had contact with could become stalkers - it is not confined to former partners.
THE EX WHO BELIEVES HE OWNS YOU
Yvette James* showed up at work black and blue. Thirsty for water, the 29-year-old woman begged her colleague to take her to the police. After thinking he didn’t know where she now worked, he had found her on the previous night.
Her ex waited outside the office, grabbed her as she left work after dark and took her to his apartment. There, he beat her, finally letting her go early the next morning.
She is always hypervigilant. Like a lamb to the slaughter, she's always tried to outsmart him. He has done this on and off for the last year since she broke up with him. He owns her mind now, she says.
This is just one case.
THE POSSESSIVE EX
Jenna Jones* was engaged to a man when she lived in KZN. After a while she noticed that he was very controlling and possessive, so she broke off the engagement.
"He didn't take it well. After the breakup, he would still show up at my place of work, and he had this way of spewing out threats with a smile on his face. So, even though to my colleagues it looked like we were sitting and having a normal conversation, in reality he would be squeezing my hand and telling me how he is going to kill me for leaving him," Jenna shares.
One day he forced her into his car and drove her to his home. There, he locked her in, and left for work.
"Luckily his mom was also home, and I managed to persuade her to let me go. I eventually got a restraining order against him but he just ignored it," she says.
"He would show up at my home and peep through the windows or come around at night and tie up our dog. We would often wake up in the morning to find the dog chained to a pole."
Eventually Jenna decided that she needed to move to Johannesburg to get away from him.
"Thankfully he never found out where I was, but for the longest time I would look out for his car in traffic. I once had a panic attack in a queue in a bank. He used to be a bank teller, and I was so terrified that I would get to the teller, and it would be him. Many years have passed, but I still wonder how I would react if I ever bumped into him."
A STALKER FROM HIGH SCHOOL
Phumi Zungu* has been stalked from afar for over 20 years.
“There was recently a period with lots of contact, but before then 4 years went by with no episodes. I live in hope that I will never hear from or see him ever again,” says the 38-year-old.
She has a strong suspicion that it is her ex high school boyfriend as the stalking started soon after they broke up.
“There are years of radio silence; and then periods when messages/calls flood in over short periods of time,” she says. During these ‘episodes’ she is plagued by acts of tele-terrorism: phone calls with no response on the other end, messages from unknown numbers, emails from fake addresses and WhatsApp texts.
“I did try to file the most recent messages, but he deleted them all before I could take screenshots of his messages,” Phumi says.
TOO MANY UNWANTED COMPLIMENTS
Bongiwe Mpulo* says her ordeal with a stalker happened when she was a second year undergrad student in Cape Town. This was 10 years ago but the memory of that terrible time is still vivid in her mind.
"I had met this guy through a girl I was friends with at the time (we stopped being friends for a completely unrelated reason sometime later). She introduced him as her lab partner, so I thought he was harmless.Then one day he called me on my phone and called me 'madam', and that became his name for me," Bongiwe explains.
He never divulged where he got her number from but Bongiwe suspects it was from her friend. From then on, he started making a nuisance of himself, trying to get Bongiwe's attention, be it on the bus, on-campus, and sometimes at res when she was visiting her friend.
Bongiwe says, "He would be very over-the-top, and everyone joked that he had a crush on me, which was cute at first, but after a while it just got uncomfortable. He would call and compliment me on specific items of clothing I was wearing on campus that day or ask who I had been walking with?"
She would always ask where he'd seen her, and he would never tell her, claiming that it is part of the mystery.
"The last straw came when, one day, I was walking back to university and I saw him running towards me shouting: 'madam, madam,' I got such a fright and ran onto on-coming traffic to get away from him," she says. "I told my friend to ask him to stay away from me, and then he stopped making contact. Years later he called me saying he missed me."
THE ONLINE DATING STALKER
And what about Facebook, Tinder and Instagram stalkers’?
Alex Smith*, a 31-year-old woman became the target of a 24-hour online stalker after matching with Kyle on Tinder one Monday morning. They chatted for a while, then she headed off to work. In a meeting for an hour and a half she didn’t even as much as glance at her phone.
She later stepped out of the meeting and had 13 new messages on Tinder. Her phone was literally lit. He’d sent her a message on her Insta stories and a DM, saying “Why are you suddenly so cold?” His tone was aggressive to the point of being possessive.
By now, he had found her Instagram handle, and added her on Facebook. Messages were flooding in on all channels.
“Sorry, I was in a meeting,” she replied to one of his flaming messages.
He asked her about her workplace as he had seen where she works from her Instagram bio.
Alex started to feel very threatened, so she blocked him everywhere.
Our social media accounts have so much information about us: where we hang out, work out and even where we live. Stalkers are not just a celebrity problem, truly, we are all vulnerable.
Prof Gerard Labuschagne, director of L&S Threat Management, spoke to Pabi Moloi on Power Life about stalkers last year, and confirmed that it is particularly difficult to report and convict when there is no concrete evidence.
It is always best to alert the police if you have a stalker. Do not keep the stalking a secret, rather let your loved ones know so they can be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
Installing additional security at your home is also an option to help you feel more secure. Get in touch with a therapist or counselor to help you deal with the emotional effects that come with being a victim of a stalker.
Listen to this Podcast for more info on your rights and laws that can protect you if you feel you are the victim of a stalker.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the women who have shared their stories.
Have you been in a similar situation? Share your story with us here.
Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.