midday editorial: It's time we talked about stalking

Mar 13, 2018, 06:30 IST | mid-day correspondent

Amidst an action-packed day when the farmers' march took precedence over all other news, this newspaper carried a report of a man who was nabbed by the Government Railway Police (GRP)

Amidst an action-packed day when the farmers' march took precedence over all other news, this newspaper carried a report of a man who was nabbed by the Government Railway Police (GRP). This man had been stalking a woman for the past month. The report talks about how the man used to follow her on public transport, especially trains, to her destination. He would also stare at her while commuting, and once, even followed her to a mall.

It was prudent of the woman to file a complaint and for the police to take action. Stalking can turn dangerous but is often brushed off as innocuous behaviour. As stalking falls in a grey area, the stalker can always claim to be travelling in the same direction or just happen to be at the same place as the woman is; it is not taken seriously.

Women especially are often told not to 'overreact' if they speak about feeling uncomfortable about a possible stalker, or wonder why a person is following them continually or perpetually heading in the same direction. There is a tendency to downplay the qualms at best, or even simply brush them off. Women are often asked if they are sure about the fact that they are being stalked.

Then, they are told this is just harmless and the stalker is most probably just getting his kicks out of following them but is not a danger. Their misgivings are trivialised in many ways. Sometimes, they are told that they are just imagining things and the person is no stalker.

At other times, the onus to stop the stalking is on the victim. The latter is often told to change one's routine or route to work, place of study and throw the stalker off the track.

Stalking is dangerous, predatory behaviour. Well-meaning friends, family and most importantly authorities must treat it with the gravitas it warrants.

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