The victims are professors, celebrities and business leaders. A startling study finds that 1 in 4 stalking targets are men.
STALKERS OFTEN GRAVITATE TOWARD POSITIONS OF POWER
The stalker’s techniques were familiar. His gender was not. Jonathan Norman’s letters, verbal threats and unwanted visits were not aimed at a former wife or girlfriend, nor even a woman he wanted to date. Instead, the 31-year-old bodybuilder and would-be screen-writer spent two months last summer stalking another man, film producer and director Steven Spielberg. Convicted last March, Norman is scheduled for sentencing today in Los Angeles. In a surprising finding, a study by the National Violence Against Women Survey estimated that, like Spielberg, more than one in four of the nations 1.4 million annual -stalking victims are men. And despite the impression left by the movie Fatal Attraction, few male victims are pursued by jealous, bunny-boiling females who have been spurned: 90% are stalked by other men.
Experts say the motive can be romantic jealousy; gay men are the
most likely victims of
male-on-male stalking. But man-stalking often is linked to the high-profile
the targets hold in society. Professors are stalked by students. Attractive
celebrities are pursued by lonely men looking for famous buddies. Business and
political leaders can become objects of hate when consumer complaints turn ugly.
Spielberg, whose studio had turned down an unsolicited script from Norman, could
have been targeted both as a celebrity and an authority figure.
"Violence is always a real possibility"
“He who gets the power gets the stalkers,” says Park Dietz, a Newport Beach, Calif., psychiatrist and a longtime student of stalking behavior. Despite the survey, which is the first of its kind, male-stalking remains a relatively unstudied phenomenon. Experts say that men are more reluctant than women to report being stalked, and can have trouble getting police to take them seriously. Public services for stalking victims are still oriented to the most frequent targets — women. Norman’s sentencing and Spielberg’s prominence, says the lawyer who prosecuted him, could draw attention to male victims’ needs.
“Stalking isn’t just for women,” says Rhonda Saunders, a deputy
district attorney in Los Angeles who specializes in stalker cases. “Anybody can
be a victim and anybody can be a stalker.”
For purposes of the study, its authors, Patricia Tjaden and
Nancy Thoennes defined stalking as more than one occasion of close following,
unwelcome conversation or verbal or written threats that would “cause a
reasonable person fear. Extreme examples are familiar. In 1982, movie actress
Theresa Saldana was stabbed by a Scottish drifter who believed he was sending
her to heaven. In 1988, TV actress Rebecca Schaeffer was shot dead by a stalker
as she opened the door of her Hollywood home. She had been followed for months.
Such incidents, and the subsequent stalking of Madonna, David Letterman and
other celebrities, have led all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the
federal government to pass anti-stalking laws in the past eight years.
Even when no violent act is attempted, stalking can be terrifying. “I have had a lot of fans and people asking me for autographs and wanting to send me scripts," Spielberg, 50, told a Los Angeles grand jury last fall before it indicted Norman under California’s anti-stalking law. “But I’ve never had someone stating their intention to do me harm. I became completely panicked and upset, and very afraid to tell my wife.”
"A matter of culture"
In contrast, man-on-man stalking is rarely publicized, in part,
prosecutors say, because the facts often seem mundane.
A typical case involved a bachelor law professor in Los Angeles
who began a platonic friendship with a younger neighbor. As time went on, the
younger man used a ladder to peer into the professor’s apartment, kidnapped his
cat and stole his list of students. Working from the class list, the younger man
called each of the students and said school had been canceled, leaving the
professor to face an empty classroom. The professor, whose name authorities did
not disclose, was so traumatized that he quit his job and left town.
Such male-stalking can have an angry edge.
Later, McCusker transferred his attention to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.,
Ensign’s political rival, and eventually shot himself outside Reid’s office. He
“It’s a lot like domestic violence,” says Ensign, whose
testimony helped convict the 55-year-old McCusker of stalking earlier this
month. “You can see the progression (but) you don’t know where they’re going to
take it next. . . . Violence is always a real possibility.”
Workplace stalkers are similar in type to Ensign’s angry
constituent. They believe they have been wronged — fired unjustly, sold a faulty
product — and carry their rational grievance to unreasonable lengths. California
psychiatrist Dietz has been a consultant to companies in which fired employees
staked out their ex-supervisors’ homes and bombarded them with with angry faxes,
voice mail, e-mail — and, oddly, gifts.
Experts believe males may be more likely to be the targets of
this sort of stalking because they are more likely to hold managerial positions.
Researchers say men stalk other men for the same reasons they stalk women: a
complex mix of mental and personality disorders that can include schizophrenia,
drug dependency, narcissism and anti-social behavior.
California psychologist J. Reed Meloy, who studied stalkers
imprisoned in Missouri, says many lost a parent or other important guardian
before age 5. Many stalkers also suffered a major setback on the job or in a
relationship in the months before their stalking began, Meloy found.
“Their rage is coupled with a sense of entitlement,” says Meloy,
editor of The Psychology of Stalking, a recently published text. “Instead of
feeling sad and hurt (by rejection) and then moving on, their anger turns toward
the object of rejection.”
Research on males stalking males continues. Tjaden and Thoennes,
authors of the federal survey, plan a further study of workplace violence. The
U.S. Secret Service is interviewing citizens who have harassed public figures in
an attempt to predict why stalkers turn violent. In April, Rep. Sue Kelly, R.-N.Y.,
introduced a bill that would make it easier to convict stalkers under federal
law. It’s pending before the House Judiciary Committee.
And in Los Angeles today, prosecutors plan to press for a long
sentence for Jonathan Norman, Spielberg’s stalker. Because Norman has previous
convictions, he could receive 25 years to life under California’s repeat
offender law. His attorneys have asked for a lower sentence, arguing that Norman
is merely a deluded fan.
“There’s a difference between wacko and truly dangerous,” says the prosecutor, Rhonda Saunders. “There’s no doubt which side of the line this guy falls on.”