FOR A SURVIVOR OF STALKING, WORDS MATTER

You’ve heard it before. Someone casually mentions that they’re “stalking” someone or something. They doubtlessly intend to say that they’re tracking something benign, like occasionally checking a love interest’s social media profiles or the availability of an item they want on an e-commerce site.

Despite their good intentions, they’re misusing a term defined by the Department of Justice as conduct that “would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”

I did not know the hurt of misusing “stalking” until a close friend took a stand. During a group conversation where the term was being misused, he disclosed that he has a stalker and added, preemptively, “yes, a real one.”

We should have honored our friend’s courageous disclosure with respect and empathy. Instead, we laughed. I’m not entirely sure why we didn’t take him seriously, but I suspect it had much to do with the myth that stalkers don’t pursue men.

For more information visit future without violence.