Sunday, September 25, 2011

Exposing The Invisible: Stalking In Indian Country by Terri Hansen

Republished.

Ever feel you’re being watched?  

Most Americans don’t pay much attention to their surroundings as they go about their daily business, but that’s not an option for the more than 3.4 million who become stalking victims each year.

Thirty-three percent of those stalking victims are Native American, more than any other race or ethnicity, according to a U.S. Department of Justice 2009 report, “Stalking Victimization in the United States.”

The sample size of Native Americans might have skewed that percentage, Shannon Catalano, a statistician with the DoJ said. “But in victimization that is something we see, a higher crime rate across the board against Native Americans.”

American Indian women suffer the highest rates of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault of any population, reports another study by the Tribal Law and Policy Institute and the Southwest Center for Law and Policy. The majority of perpetrators of these crimes are non-Indian males.

“Stalkers are usually older, more intelligent, have higher levels of education and status, and are the most violent of all criminals,” says Ann Dapice, Ph.D., a Lenape/Cherokee and director of Education and Research at T.K. Wolf, Inc., an American Indian stalking authority.

Tamela Dawson dated, and left, the wrong man. “It started with psychological warfare,” Dawson, of Cherokee descent, says.

She came home to find that her furniture had been rearranged, and the crotches torn from her underwear. She figured her house was bugged when she told a friend she needed a soup ladle and one appeared soon after in her dishwasher. She suffered sleep deprivation when a noise campaign ensued.

“It started gradually, then escalated. Phone calls. Anything in my house that had an alarm feature they’d set at five minutes after the hour several times through the night, which would trigger my startle reflex multiple times,” says Dawson. “Wherever I went, up to 10 times a day, cars would either go by my home or follow me with a very distinct and recognizable pattern of honks,” says Dawson.

“They played songs over and over and wherever I went, I heard those songs. Sting’s ‘I’ll be watching you,’ and Stevie Wonders’ ‘Mon Cherie.’ Cars would park outside of my house in the middle of the night, or would do drive bys, with the songs blaring out their rolled-down windows.”

Her perpetrators worked her in stages. “With sophisticated psychological manipulation, a woman loses her problem solving ability,” Dawson says. “You’re operating at maybe 20 percent. You share the crazy things happening to you with your support structure, and that separates you from them. Once they’ve isolated you, they break you.”

Dawson says someone drugged the food in her home and later returned to rape her.

“I remember on several occasions coming out of whatever drugged state I was in to seeing multiple men in my room, and another time finding a man on top of me. I remember fighting to stay conscious and I couldn’t.” Her physical therapist saw bruises and asked if she was abused. Shocked, Dawson said no.

It wasn’t denial. “You’re so busy trying to stay one step ahead of the stalking, harassment, and noise, for me, there were no words. You just do not think.” Date rape drugs like Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine can cause memory problems and confusion even when used just once on a victim.

Her therapist’s suspicion prompted Dawson to contact police and hire a bodyguard.

“Get out of Santa Rosa,” police told her. “We cannot protect you. Go home to your family.” She moved home to Arkansas after her bodyguard turned to her, furious, asking what she’d done, if she’d testified against any one – because, he said, gang members were stalking her house. Dawson now believes her ex-boyfriend set her up for sexual trafficking.

Stalking is not a single, identifiable act but a series of actions meant to cause fear in the target. Some states define it to include lying-in-wait, surveillance, nonconsensual communication, telephone harassment or vandalism. It takes the form of theft, kidnapping and arson, killing pets, breaking and entering, and gaslighting—when perpetrators steal or hide insignificant items or make changes in a victim’s home to make them think they’re going crazy.

Dapice says stalkers use mind games to make victims ‘feel crazy,’ and successfully obtain help from others, called proxy stalkers. “Stalkers excel in planning, scheming and subtlety,” Dapice says. “They display obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and become addicted to their own brain chemicals. The longer they stalk the more obsessive they become, until they kill.”

Stalkers use technology like satellite global position systems (GPS), computers, and hidden cameras to track the daily activities of one in four victims. “Roving bug” programs installed into a cell phone can listen through its microphone, even when the phone is off.

The DoJ stalking study measured unwanted calls, texts, e-mails, notes or gifts, cyber-stalking, and posting information or spreading falsehoods about the victim on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth. Dapice says stalkers also use electronic technology such as tracking devices, identity theft, mail theft, bank account theft, and wiretapping to expand their power.

Dawson’s stalkers dressed uniformly, like wearing red t-shirts and standing on every corner on her drive to work, or in the aisles at the grocery store, smirking. “A red t-shirt is not enough evidence to bring to someone’s attention, so only the victim knows,” she says.

Victims often report such bizarre behaviors they have trouble convincing others that it is happening—including the professional assigned to help them. “Stalkers are very smart, and the police don’t believe victims,” says Dapice. “Or they don’t like looking for clues, and putting the evidence together.”

T.K. Wolf’s board member Sheree Hukill Hukill listened to a woman who said she’d reported to the police that ‘God’ was talking to her each night when she went to bed. “As you can imagine, local law enforcement did not take her seriously. Eventually, one officer found the stalker had rigged an elaborate sound system under the woman’s house with speakers in her bedroom. Her stalker was the voice of ‘God’ telling her these very bizarre things.”

“Denial of the serious nature of this criminal behavior — and the high risk of  violence — is still endemic among mental health and law enforcement professionals,” forensic psychologist Reid Meloy Ph.D., a clinical professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego says. “Only two percent of victims claim they are being stalked when in fact they are not.”

Dapice had a case where police told the victim if she called to report further evidence, they would lock her up. She’s even seen a case where rogue law enforcement officials cooperated with the stalkers.

T.K. Wolf interviewed law enforcement across the country and found a pattern of passing the buck, from police to district attorneys to judges to U.S. postal inspectors to FBI agents. In turn, Dapice says that social service providers, mental health experts, governmental agencies and private attorneys are unable or unwilling to provide services to victims.

Meanwhile, the physical and mental toll of stalking is staggering.

“Cortisol, meant for fight or flight in temporary danger continues acting, and continuous cortisol results in destruction of brain and body cells and organs,” says Dapice. “We know that post traumatic stress disorder induces cell loss in the brain and is related to depression. Worse is what I have named CATS – continuous, acute, traumatic syndrome, where the trauma continues over years and the victim remains in an acute trauma situation.”

The Tides Foundation funded a video documentary of stalking victims. Almost all have a cortisol “pudgy face” appearance, says Dapice. “Many victims gain weight in the abdomen; it’s nature’s once adaptive way of preparing the body for hard times ahead via a message from the stressor that caused the cortisol release originally. With weight gain comes cardiovascular problems.”

Agencies and the law often categorize stalking as domestic violence, limiting services to ‘known intimates.’ Yet this group represents only 30.3 percent of victims. ‘Known others,’ like co-workers, relatives, classmates, and neighbors account for 45.1 percent. A surprising one in four does not know their stalkers. Some is organized stalking, or “mobbing.” Others hide behind hired individuals who do their harassment for them.

“There are people who stalk relationships, people who stalk in order to do revenge, people who stalk political and entertainment figures,” says Dapice. “There is group and proxy stalking. There are different motives but whatever it is, it is always a power play.”

Stalkers will follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another – making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes. “Often moving makes no difference,” says Dapice. “Stalkers will walk around a neighborhood and tell lies and stories about their victims.”

Dawson thought moving home to Arkansas would provide safety. She learned the campaign to discredit her had followed her when an elderly man, passing her on the street said, ‘You are disgusting.’ At her new job, “One day everyone loved me and I was doing a stellar job. The next day nobody would talk to me. People glared and stared at me, good people.”

“I was so traumatized I didn’t know where to start.”

Dawson’s gas-lighting incidents, slander, the following, and a noise campaign continue. Her story is remarkably similar to that of Vicki Burnett, a Minnesota Chippewa who lives in Nevada, and Elisabeth Buchanan and Diane Dillon, both Metis women living in British Columbia, Canada, who also report having had sonic devices used to ward off animals trained on them from a distance, and radar devices that measure a car or baseball’s speed that cause great discomfort when aimed at humans.

Like Dawson, Burnett’s terror began as stalking. Then came fuzzily waking to men in her room. Suspecting rape, but not knowing which nights the assaults took place, Burnett’s doctor offered to test her hair for drugs. “But they charged $500, and my medical insurance said it wasn’t medically necessary.”

After waking to unaccounted pinpoint bruises on her forearms and legs, and her stalker’s uncanny ability to track her, Burnett suspects her stalkers injected a radio-frequency identification microchip. She woke once to IV apparatus and tubing in her bedroom and called the police, “but all they could do was take a report, because nothing was taken from my house, and there was no physical assault.

Kits that let you inject a grain of rice sized tracking chip into pets with a hypodermic then track them with a handheld radio-wave scanner sell on popular sites such as Amazon. Today’s scanners can locate a chip as far as 30 to 60 feet away, and interface with computers. Chips can also hide in a woman’s purse, but if found would serve as hard evidence.

Burnett wants an MRI to prove her suspicions but faces physicians leery of ordering a scan without medical justification, or worse, ordering her to a psychiatrist.

Human rights advocate Debbie Newhook lives in the picturesque harbor community of Nanaimo on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. She knows seven stalking victims in her community. Two are Native, and one has MRI and CAT scans that prove she has implants.

“Her doctor will not remove them until she has legal counsel, but no one will take her case,” Newhook says. “All doors seem to be slammed shut even when medical imaging proves that there is some kind of foreign object in their bodies.”

Most of the violence in Indian country has been non-Natives against Natives, and not because stalking victims are on tribal lands, Dapice says. “No one, Indian or non-Indian who is stalked gets any help.” Worse, some people blame the victims so they are afraid to come out of the closet.

Men make up 27 percent of stalking victims, and are often doubly victimized “because police will say ‘what’s wrong with you, why can’t you protect yourself?’” Dapice said the police blame the judges, and the judges blame the system. “Everyone blames everyone else and eventually it’s somebody else’s fault, and nothing gets done.”

Dawson’s goal is to expose her stalking and sexual trafficking story. “If we can engage women’s groups, we’ll have success in fighting it.”

“People who go along with this kind of extra judicial punishment because they believe the lies and slander about the victim should be ashamed of themselves for participating in this harassment,” Newhook says. “The people who are misusing energy devices against their neighbors should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Communities that understand stalking and support its victims help to combat the crime. The only thing that’s going to stop it, says Dapice, “is peer pressure.” Don’t accept lies or rumors that generate hate about the victim.

“If we are to stop stalking, we must believe the victims and the statistics and then take action on multiple fronts,” says Dapice. “We must educate each other on the causes and effects of stalking, and bring all players to the table: victims, social service agencies, law enforcement, attorneys, judiciary, mental health professionals, medical professionals, employers, governmental agencies, scientific researchers, media and the faith communities. All must work together and be held accountable.”

If a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member thinks they’re being stalked, encourage them to take it seriously and get help. If you or someone you know is a victim, visit the National Stalking Awareness Month, National Center for Victims of Crime or the DoJ’s Office on Violence Against Women for information and links to state and regional resources. Or contact your local women’s crisis center.

Other Resources:


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by Terri Hansen

[Bolding and italics are Blog poster's emphasis]


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