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The Stalking Brain: Differences and Similarities to Other Forms of Violence
Ann N. Dapice PhD
2008 Oklahoma Partnership Conference on Domestic and
Sexual Violence and Stalking
Oklahoma City, 10/15/08
Only a few years ago we knew far more about the universe we live in—where we have sent a man to the moon, than the brains that direct each of our behaviors. I remember a physiology lab I had in college in the '50s where I dissected a formaldehyde-soaked sheep's brain. From the outside, there wasn't much there to look at. My main memory is the smell it left on my hands on a Friday when I was to go from several hours in the lab to a date I was looking forward to.
Lack of knowledge of an organ that is unimpressive from the outside has been rapidly changing since the 90's when we began to "see" inside the brain, even the functioning brain, with a variety of scans for the first time. We have learned that, unlike what we had been taught, we aren't given all the brain cells that we will ever have at birth—we can grow new brain cells. We have learned that it's not true that most of us use only a small fraction of our brains—never mind the appearances! In fact, nearly everything we do, demands activity in all parts of our brain.
We are also learning that while some treatments and activities encourage neurogenesis—new brain cell growth in parts of the brain (Saey, 2008), at about two to three years of age, brain cells not being used are pruned—and again in adolescence a major pruning occurs (Thompson, 2004)—the very time when some of the pruning goes out of control, and we see the beginning of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Another cause of pruning out of control is described by Arnold Mandell in Nearness of Grace. He writes that exaggerated pruning of unused neural connections as a result of high levels of stress hormones, leads to an extremely reduced range of potential behavior that results in individuals "who lie without reason, get drunk, binge on promiscuity, steal unneeded things, or withdraw into interpersonal isolation" (2005, p. 30). From these simple facts, we can see why the process of learning and what we learn are important. We also see why high levels of stress in children must be addressed. And beyond that, there is all that we are learning about out DNA and how it predisposes us to certain characteristics and diseases.
Yet, the brain remains in many ways still a mystery. How is it that memories stored in different parts of our brains can be reproduced for our access in ways that make the brain light up the same way as it did when the memory was first made (Interlandi, J., p. 64)? How is it that I can still "see" in my mind's eye the radio in the living room where my parents listened to the announcement of Pearl Harbor? My tribal chief says, "Everything begins and ends with the Creator." Neuropsychiatrist Daniel Amen, after completing many scans on human brains, wrote, "Everything begins and ends with the brain" (Amen, 1998, p. 35). And when pondering the research, I wonder if these two statements are connected in some way. Especially, when I read Amen's words further as he writes, "I have seen how correcting (normalizing) abnormal brain function can change people's lives, even their souls" (p. 7).
After observing so many brain scans, Amen also came to the conclusion that the amount of "free will" anyone has is determined by the health of the brain—that people with healthy brains have a great deal of free will, those with damaged brains (e. g., obsessive-compulsive disorders or drug and behavioral addictions) have significantly less, and those with Alzheimer's disease have almost none (Amen, 2005, p. 15). Some scans show brains that are so full of holes it is amazing that any constructive activity can take place at all. Amen's research also demonstrates how many children and adults with behavioral problems have suffered from undiagnosed head injuries (p. 75). The multiple genetics that predispose people towards any number of conditions—attention deficit, addiction, depression, anxiety, lack of ability to form positive relationships, and violence, mean that we have a very small window for intervention in early childhood—never mind the neuro pruning mentioned previously. Our past knowledge has often been flawed by lack of ability to see the brain as it functions–or doesn't, at least very well.
The science on adaptation is powerful and explains much that we have not understood before. Our brains developed in earlier times based on what was adaptive for the survival of humans and other species (Popkin, 2007; Dapice, 2006; Fisher, 2004). Once our brains depended on the environment to limit our behavior (Saah, 2005; Dapice, 2008). In times of excess, that no longer works. Thus our DNA "want" to replicate—and our overpopulated earth shows how well we have done just that! Our body/brains tell us to eat all we can because we don't know when the next famine will arrive. Our brains respond positively to substances and behaviors that make us feel good, never mind if these are addictive—as food and other "so-called" drugs are. It was once adaptive for survival to take risks—and we do: on the stock marked, in casinos, in our corporations and governments worldwide, to our present economic catastrophe. Foods, drugs, risk taking, work, computer games, accessible sex, pornography have all become major addictions in today's world. Each of us has different preferences. Such behaviors stimulate dopamine in the brain just as cocaine and other drugs do. And dopamine rules—especially in times of stress. Meanwhile, cortisol still makes us want to fight or flee from real or imagined threats (Dapice, Inkanish, Martin, & Brauchi, 2002). When these once adaptive substances and behaviors go awry, major problems occur. (Note: There is much detail in my presentation today. And in an effort to prevent waste of paper, I will be posting this on our internet cite at tkwolf.com, and if you contact me, I will email you the paper and references.)
Myers-Briggs Type and Psychological Development
Even without brain scans, research on psychological and moral development and Myers-Briggs Type preferences has been available for decades. Unfortunately, this research has been largely ignored. Psychological types apply to perpetrators, direct victims—and the large majority of us who are indirectly affected yet seem to be unable to stop violent crime. As I discuss this research, think how it affects your understanding of perpetrators, victims, those who intervene, and the interventions we use. Each of you is sure to recognize people you know in descriptions of behaviors. You may even recognize yourself!
Myers-Briggs (Myers & Briggs, 1980) research demonstrates that we each have preferences on four continuums: Extravert (E) to Introvert (I), Sensing (S) to Intuiting (N), Thinking (T) to Feeling (F), and Judging (J) to Perceiving (P). These yield a total "type" comprised of our preference on the four continuums. For example, you can be an extraverted, sensing, thinking, judging type—the most common type in the US. Or, you can be an introverted, intuiting, feeling, perceiving type—the least common type in the US. There are 16 possible combinations in all. One's type is generally quite stable over time.
Each type has positive and negative attributes. Under stress, we regress to type—especially to aspects of our type which can be negative. Extroverts prefer the outer world of people and things. Introverts prefer the inner world of ideas and thoughts. Extraverts need the stimulation and nurture of the external world and people for their health. Introverts readily become exhausted by the world outside themselves and can become ill if they need to be in public too much of the time. A practical implication of this is that if we really wanted to punish prisoners, we would put all extroverts in solitary confinement and introverts in forced, continuous interaction with people and noise. Extroverts will externalize anger and negative feelings onto others. Introverts will internalize these until the pressure becomes too great and they "blow." Extroverts have more difficulty taking moral stands if it means a lone decision. Introverts may not pay attention to moral issues external to them and avoid moral actions which require interaction with people (Dapice, 1997, p. 103). Extroverts predominate in the US (Keirsey & Bates, 1978).
Sensing types prefer to know the world by focusing on the present—and on concrete information obtained through their senses (e.g., seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching). Intuitives focus on the future, with a preference for patterns and possibilities. Simply put, for sensing types, "seeing is believing." Information must be presented in concrete evidence. Sensing types are bored by broad theories and concepts—about crime for example. They avoid change, preferring the known to the unknown—"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"—and things are not "broke" for sensing types—until "what's broke" happens to them. Intuitives enjoy change and may change things when change is not needed. Intuitives are bored by facts and want to know the overall concept. Sensing types have more difficulty going beyond their more concrete and fact-bound reality to take on the role of the other—necessary for moral action. In the US, sensing types predominate (Keirsey & Bates, 1978).
Thinking types base their decisions on logic and objective analysis of cause and effect. Feeling types base decisions on values and subjective evaluations that concern people. This is the only continuum that shows a difference in gender. Males are more likely to score as thinking types and females to score as feeling types. But, many men are feeling types and many women are thinking types. Societal pressure is strong for men to be thinking and women to be feeling. Thinking types often are insufficiently aware of hurting others and thus have difficulty with empathy. Feeling types may use insufficient reason to project the consequences of their actions. In the US, thinking is the preferred method (Keirsey & Bates, 1978).
Judging types prefer a planned and organized approach to life and having things settled. They see things in black and white with no shades of gray. Perceiving types prefer a flexible and spontaneous approach to life and want to leave their options open. Judging types too often make moral decisions with inadequate information. Perceiving types often do not make decisions at all and have difficulty completing tasks of a moral nature. In the US, judging is the preferred method (Keirsey & Bates, 1978).
Some specific types are of interest in the area of violence. ESTPs do not give automatic respect to bosses and teachers—respect is earned, not given. Because they don't show "proper" respect and extrovert their disrespect, they tend to be early school dropouts and are found in higher numbers in the prison population. ESFPs are adrenalin action types—fire fighters, police, emergency room workers, and in entertainment are known as dare devils. They may not do work that is tedious or time consuming. ESTJs are often bosses and expect respect whether it is earned or not. They like power and control. ISTPs are known for being quiet and cooperative for decades, holding grudges silently, then suddenly doing mass murder with strangers as victims. ISFPs are most often viewed by others as friendly—but lazy. They watch others work and don't feel obligated to help—even when it's their work. ISFJs are easily walked on, taken advantage of and victimized. INFP/Js often work for greater causes, but without sufficient thinking function, may try to help others not realizing when they are being used. INTJs can be verbally critical, making premature judgments inaccurately. Each type needs different kinds of encouragement for development (Jung, 1923/1971; Keirsey & Bates, 1978).
There are Myers-Briggs Type studies for batterers and sexual offenders, but none so far for stalkers. Batterers are consistently ISTJ—especially, introverted and sensing. There were other type combinations found among batterers, but sensing was common to all (Orr & Gusie, 1995; Livernoise, 1987). Studies on sexual offenders found that offenders are most likely to be sensing and judging (Mathes, Hughes-Johnson, & Strain, 1991). In a later study of sexual offenders, judging and sensing were again the most common, offenders could be extraverted or introverted, thinking or feeling, but they were consistently sensing and especially judging. Control and planning are judging descriptions and it was found that sex offenders "meticulously fantasize upon and plan their deviant acts." It was noted that as sensing types, these offenders had the most difficulty with "victim empathy" (Kelly, 1995, p. 342). So batterers and sex offenders are both consistently sensing types, but batterers are introverts—they hold feelings in, while sexual offenders were judging—they need control.
There has been no formal MBTI research on stalking. Helen Fisher, whose research I will describe below, and I have discussed the possible role of psychological type in stalking. Stalkers have sufficient social skills to obtain help from others in their stalking activities, but appear more likely to be introverted, thinking and judging in their stalking behaviors. Since they stalk more in patterns of behavior, they may be distinct from batterers and sexual offenders, and be more likely to be intuitive.
Moral Development. Based on Jean Piaget's work, Lawrence Kohlberg developed three levels of cognitive moral development (1984). The Pre-Conventional egocentric level is normal for children but can be pathological in adults). It includes two stages: the first, avoidance of punishment and deference to power. It is also the revenge stage. The second stage is egoism where one seeks only to satisfy self. Most perpetrators and criminals of all types are found here.
Kohlberg's second level is Conventional and ethnocentric—it is normal for teens (peer pressure) and adults (obedience to behaviors of the group). It has two stages. In stage three, individuals behave for approval from others. Here a culture can impose values related to violence that can become expected cultural norms. The fourth stage is orientation toward authority and fixed rules. The stage four person reasons that the laws may not be just, but they have to be obeyed.
The third level is the Post-Conventional Level. It is not usually reached until after middle age and is seldom reached at all. Its fifth stage assumes that laws can be changed after examination—that they can be made more just. Stage six, the final stage is that moral action is based on individual conscience and self-chosen ethical principle–The Golden Rule and most other ethical theories are based on this stage—even though few people actually develop the ability to reason at this stage.
In Kohlberg's research, most people did not move beyond the third or peer pressure stage of development. Kohlberg and Candee (1983) did research showing that each of these stages could have an autonomous or heteronymous focus. Those who are autonomous take responsibility for action at higher levels than they can reason; those who are heteronymous are obedience focused and only act when ordered by some one else to do so—regardless of their ability to do moral reasoning. Kohlberg's stages were considered by him to be cognitive and conscious in nature. Dapice cross-cultural research (Dapice, 1997, p. 27) has shown that at the less conscious level, 94 percent are egocentric with basic themes such as feeling good, wanting to be liked and loved, peace and serenity, success, etc. People may do things for others, but only as long as their actions are instrumental to obtaining their basic value themes. Some ethicists have argued that no one acts in the best interest of others—that we are all self centered. However, the other six percent of the Dapice study of several thousand individuals were altruistic in their less conscious value themes—and in their lived behaviors.
For some decades, we have had the work of Abraham Maslow (1968). Beyond his important understandings of a hierarchy of needs—which we must remember when our victim clients are without food, shelter and security, Maslow also described some psychological pathologies relevant to our discussion today (Hoffman, 1988, p. 337): 1) an authoritarian personality where an individual has a basic jungle-view outlook that regards kindness and benevolence as signs of weakness to be exploited; 2) people who use deficiency humor which is hostile, cruel, or belittling, laughing at another's misfortune; 3) deficiency love—regard for the loved one's capacity to satisfy our own basic needs. This is the egocentric narcissistic mode of most of our perpetrators.
After scanning scores of murderers and more than 200 convicted violent felons, Amen writes that the brain images of violent individuals are clearly different from those of people who are nonviolent (Amen, 2005, pp. 15-16). Some people express concern that brain scans will give criminals an excuse—"My brain made me do it"—for violent behavior. Others are afraid that perpetrators will lose their civil rights if their brains are scanned. However, brain scan research may allow us to prevent and treat in more appropriate ways than we do now those who are genetically and physically predisposed to violence. Demonstrating that brains of violent individuals malfunction does not mean that we still do not work to prevent, stop and limit the behavior. Here is an overview of the brain research on violence, findings of abnormalities in violent people in general.
1) There is abnormal functioning of the frontal and temporal lobes, anterior cingulate, amygdala, and hippocanthus with reduced blood flow and faulty brain circuitry in the prefrontal cortex. There is abnormal sensory processing related to P300 brainwaves with abnormally low arousal levels (Bauer & Hesselbrock, 1999). There is abnormal serotonin function in the prefrontal cortex which allows for impulsive aggression (Soderstrom et al., 2000; Amen et al., 2007; Davidson et al., 2000; Jean, 1995; Bergvall et al., 2001).
2) There is cerebral lateralization with left hemisphere dysfunction. These lateralization changes in the brain are similar to lateralization found in PTSD research. Essentially, the right brain takes control with negative affect and related behaviors (Hillbrand et al., 1994; Sapolsky, 2000; Bremner, et al., 2000; Dapice, et al., 2002.)
3) There are often previously unrecognized traumatic head injuries that can explain behavioral problems and violence (Amen, 75; Pontius & LeMay, 2003).
4) Aggression is linked to gender. There are differences in men's and women's brains. It is now thought that it is not socialization that makes women less violent, women have larger orbital-frontal volume in the area that makes decisions and tempers emotional responses. On average, men have lower volume of gray matter in the orbital-frontal area and it is this difference, in addition to the different male and female hormones, that is related to the more overt aggression of males. This aggression may have once been adaptive in that the aggressor would have been able to control the resources needed for survival (Gur et al., 2002; Miller, 2008, p. 52), but as so many adaptive responses, they become dangerous in different times requiring different actions. One clue regarding gender related violence is that in one study, a gene (L version of the MAOA) alters this orbital frontal brain structure and function. Men with this variant showed increased reactivity in the amydala and the hippocanthus when remembering emotionally negative information. Smaller emotion-related brain structures with poor impulse control circuitry make them hypersensitive to threats. This gene is on the X chromosome and women have two x chromosomes where men have only one—they have no normal "X" to counterbalance the affected X. It would be interesting to learn if women who are violent have brain volumes similar to males and if they have two abnormal X chromosomes as well.
5) Testosterone and cortisol levels along with the serotonin neurotransmitter system are genetically influenced and these affect aggression and violence throughout life. A longitudinal study of 1,116 pairs of 5-year-old twins with troublesome behaviors—including physical violence, oppositional behavior, lying, stealing, and bullying, found that the children's behavior was heavily influenced by genetics with a heritability estimate of 82 percent—that these behaviors are influenced far more by genes than by home environment (Arseneault et al., 2003). There are no genes for crime as such but there are genes that lead to traits that increase the likelihood of criminal behavior. It is now seen to be more important to address criminal behavior by eliminating the effect of the genes rather than the effect of the environment. The researchers noted that we need new theories of interplay between nature and nurture.
6) Animal studies show that lack of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide may cause aggressive rapists even when testosterone levels normal. Lack of the gene essential for nitric oxide shows that it may be a mediator of sexual and aggressive behaviors (Nelson et al., 1995). Interestingly, I contacted local and national researchers and was unable to find brain scan studies on those who sexually assault.
7) Biochemical imbalances are related to violence. There is a known link between testosterone, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin metabolism, and hormone response (e.g., cortisol and insulin). Carbohydrate intake, particularly alcohol or sugars, may also be implicated in habitual violent and impulsive behavior (Fishbein & Pease, 1994); Walsh, Glab, & Haakenson, 2004). Individuals often self medicate their hyperactivity with sugar and alcohol but the end result is irritability and violence (Amen, 2005; Soler, et al., 2000).
So in the brains of violent people in general we find abnormal structure and function, abnormal wiring and brainwaves—especially in the prefrontal lobes; brain lateralization with abnormal left brain function; undiscovered traumatic brain injuries; chemical imbalances; and gender and genetics as major factors.
Origins of stalking in the brain
Reports on brain imaging from Helen Fisher and Reid Meloy (Meloy & Fisher, 2006) show that stalking seems to originate with once adaptive mechanisms for mating and reproduction —1) the sex drive or lust (testosterone), 2) attraction or romantic love (dopamine) and 3) attachment or companion love (vasopressin and oxytocin). The sex drive motivates people to consider a variety of possible partners for survival of the species. Attraction causes people to focus their energies on a specific individual. Attachment motivates people to remain in a relationship long enough to raise their offspring. However, these mechanisms in an individual with personality disorders such as narcissism or borderline personality combine in dangerous and often lethal ways. Stalking perpetrators often have attachment problems from early in life which may be the result of parental loss, neglect, abuse, or abandonment, and may also be related in some cases to genetic defect (Meloy, 2006, p. 278; Bell, 2008, p. 12). It is important to note that most stalkers are not, as some think, psychopaths, sociopaths or schizophrenics.
Brain imaging studies of stalkers demonstrate elevated activity of the "feel good" chemical dopamine in the reward/motivation system. This activity produces focused attention and unwavering motivation and goal-directed behaviors. These are associated with other feelings including "exhilaration, increased energy, hyperactivity, and sleeplessness. This system can be stimulated by a number of phenomena including food, money and cocaine. Activation of these pathways is most likely related to several traits of the "spurned or unrequited" stalker. This response includes heightened energy and intense motivation to "pursue the victim" (Meloy, 2006, p. 357). Deactivation of other brain responses may be part of the problem. The right amygdala, involved in fear and other negative emotions, is deactivated and this may cause stalkers to be unable to pay attention to the dangers of their actions—"the brain's judgment and fear centers are on leave" (Miller, M., 2008, p. 56.)
Another shared characteristic of lovers and stalkers is their obsessive thoughts about the loved one. They report that they cannot get these obtrusive thoughts out of their minds. This is linked to the suppressed activity of serotonin because research links low serotonin to obsessive thoughts. There seems to be a negative feedback loop between dopamine and serotonin. Low serotonin elevates dopamine activity and elevated dopamine suppresses serotonin. As the stalker feels energy, attention and motivation to pursue the victim, rising levels of dopamine suppress serotonin leading to more obsession and dysphoria. As obsession continues, dopamine further lowers serotonin. Other brain systems combine with these processes to produce the symptoms of "energy, impulsivity, dysphoria, fearlessness, and obsession" (Meloy, 2006, p. 359; Soliman, Haque, & George, 2007). Observers note that these individuals often act as if they are on methamphetamines—even when they are not.
Failed in attachment from childhood, caught in the negative feedback loop of increasing dopamine and decreasing serotonin, along with increasing levels of stress cortisol, continued rejection by the victim sets in motion a frustration-attraction response which may increase and sustain the stalker's ability to stalk. They may also experience abandonment rage which happens when an expected reward is in doubt or unobtainable, stimulating the amygdala in the brain and triggering rage. Both romantic love and rage have a great deal in common. Both produce obsessive thinking, focused attention, motivation, and goal-directed behaviors desiring union—or revenge (Meloy, 2006, p. 361).
Fisher and Meloy point out that stalkers are in a state of addiction to their own chemicals. They are seen to relapse in the same way as addicts to cues such as people, events and songs (Meloy, 2006, pp. 364-365). One perpetrator said, "She was like a drug...that I needed...my high was being with her...I felt like dying when not with her." After the victim obtained a protective order, he murdered her. He said he let his obsession ruin his life. "I lost it all because of my obsession...This obsession was bad...It was like being in heaven and in hell at the same time" (Meloy, 2006, p. 140.) It is important to notice the narcissism that focuses only on what happened to him—not the woman he supposedly loved but killed! Stalking is a form of addiction. Stalkers need to be stopped for their own good—and not just that of victims and society.
In contrast, brain imaging of batterers demonstrates a misperception of sensory cues causing batterers to mistakenly feel under attack and respond in misplaced attempts to protect themselves. Batterers, unlike sexual offenders and stalkers, do not plan their violence (George et al., 2000). Misperception of cues is understood better when it is remembered that it is sensing types who are dependent on their senses for action—based on a "look" or "tone of voice." If their dominant way of perceiving is flawed, their judgment about how to respond will be and is, also dangerously flawed. These differences require different responses to the crime of battering than to stalking. In stalking the perpetrator is responding to a real rejection in a pathological way. In battering, the perpetrator is responding to a perceived attack that doesn't exist. One is reality based, the other is not. Both are pathological.
Characteristics of stalkers
The brain research helps us understand the characteristics of stalking better. H. Reid Meloy, uses the term "obsessive following" for stalking. The pattern of "following" takes many forms: phone calls (landline and cell), home surveillance, following on foot and by car, showing up in the workplace or classroom, sending letters and emails, spreading gossip to family, friends and coworkers, "gas lighting" (an old movie term which means trying to make victims think they are "losing their minds"), damaging property, threatening to harm others, breaking and entering, sending unwanted gifts, physically and sexually assaulting victims, injuring and killing pets, kidnapping, and arson. Stalkers wiretap, attach tracking devices to cars, computers and phones, and engage in systematic mail theft. They break into financial accounts and records through electronic means. They convince others to help them in their crimes (proxy stalkers). Stalkers excel in planning, scheming and subtlety. They use mind games and let the victim know through shifting strategies that they can find the victim anywhere. Stalking victims often report such bizarre behaviors that they have trouble convincing others of what is happening—especially friends, family, law enforcement and counselors. Stalkers now use electronic technology to expand their power. The most violent of criminals, 25-35% of stalkers commit violence (Meloy, 1998). They are usually older, more intelligent, have higher levels of education, and are engaged in higher status jobs than other criminals. These characteristics make them closer to white collar criminals in nature.
People from all racial and ethnic groups are stalked, American Indian women are more likely to be stalked (and by non-Indians) than any other group (17%), compared to white women (8.2%), African-American women (6.5%) and Asian/Pacific women (4.5%). But what is different in stalking statistics, unlike battering, African-Americans and Hispanics have lower numbers than whites. During an academic year, 13 percent of college women are stalked—one out of every seven to eight on a campus. One study shows about a third of students on campus have been stalked during their lifetimes. In addition to partner intimates, victims can be and are stalked by strangers, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, bosses and employees, teachers and their students, counselors and their clients. In fact, 53% of mental health professionals have been stalked by their clients (Meloy, 2006, p. 287).
Here are the consequences of not stopping stalkers: During this 75 minute presentation today, 225 individuals will become stalking victims in the US. More than one million women and nearly 400,000 men are stalked in the US every year. It is estimated that only half of stalking crimes are ever reported by victims. In comparison, according to the American Heart Association (2008) 1.2 million people are diagnosed with heart attacks and according to Mayo Clinic, 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. You are far more likely to be stalked than to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Your chances of being diagnosed with a heart attack are less than your being stalked. Breast cancer, heart attacks—and stalking kill if not responded to. Stalking is a broad public health problem. And for every "designated" victim there are children, siblings, parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and employers who are negatively affected as well. Nearly two-thirds of stalkers have biological children. Stalking is a criminal offense, yet research demonstrates that few stalkers are ever arrested or prosecuted. Compared to other crimes, few justice resources are spent on the problem. Yet, the Center for Disease Control says that the cost of stalking is more than $342 million annually due to the resulting psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress syndrome) and lost work time of victims. These numbers do not include the growing information we have on the impact of the continued acute stress over time where released cortisol attacks not only the brain, but organs and bone mass of victims as well.
Barriers to intervention. To some extent our barriers to intervention rest not in the perpetrators and victims as much as in ourselves. That is one reason I spent some time earlier on MBTI and moral development. There are several sayings we could refer to here. One is about denial and the other is the well worn statement attributed to everyone from Einstein to AA—that doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, is insane. There is also blaming the victim—it's so much easier and it serves to make us feel that stalking can't happen to us.
Remember what I said about "it's not broke" until it happens to us? If about 75 percent of the population is sensing, then concrete evidence, "what bleeds, leads," will be demanded as in battering and sexual assault. But in stalking, the actions continue to change but are part of a pattern. Unless we have intuitives seeing the relationships in those patterns, stalkers will go free. My best guess is that stalkers are not only more intelligent than most as research shows, but that they work as intuitives to plan what they do. They don't suddenly begin stalking one day. Stalkers begin preparing and telling their stories and isolating the victims usually well before the victim is aware of what is happening—never mind family and friends.
A problem some have admitted to is that it takes a lot of time and work to document stalking and as I noted before, it may not be exciting for some types. One attorney friend at a distance told me, when a client was having difficulty obtaining a lawyer to represent her, that most attorneys want the easy cases—they don't want to work that hard. Another difficulty of sensing and judging types is that laws meant to assist stalking victims may in fact limit perspectives of the people who enforce laws. Stalkers commit many state and federal crimes as part of their stalking—breaking and entering, wiretapping, mail theft, money theft from bank accounts, identity theft, and many more. Yet we don't find stalkers arrested for these crimes and thus they are seldom arrested at all. We have also used a "one answer fits all" mentality. It is well recognized and documented that protective or restraining orders often do work in battering, but rarely work with stalkers who ignore them and may be incited to violence when they're filed. You read the newspapers... And several years ago the Stalking Resource Center in DC wrote that "customary instructions may actually be placing victims in further danger."
My other research in moral development has much to say—that at the less conscious level the very large majority of us are self oriented. It is not that we cannot get people to help others, but that we will have to show them why it's in their self interests, cost, safety, satisfaction, etc., to do so. From moral development understandings, we can't afford to ignore peer pressure and societal values towards relationships and sex. Some have estimated that 50 percent of the population is now addicted to online pornography. A recent book hit the market that describes "hook-ups"—easy sex on campus where there is no expectation of dating or continued relationship. This is important to pay attention to since sexual activity between partners is the greatest predictor of future stalking violence should one partner feel rejected.
How do we successfully respond to stalkers and keep victims safe? Most often counseling of perpetrators accompanied by imprisonment does not obtain the results we want. Allowing stalkers to go free clearly doesn't work—we are paying a terrible price for what we are, and are not, doing now, and the message given to the children of stalkers is that stalking is acceptable to society. Nor do stalker's children need the stigma and financial loss of having a parent incarcerated—remember that two-thirds of stalkers have children of their own. In a major research project stalking victims reported that "they were at a loss as to the right thing to do and everything they tried turned out wrong" (Roberts & Dziegielewski, 1996, p. 359). Here are some suggestions:
1) In their obsession, stalkers don't respect the law, protective orders, etc., but they do rely on help and support from friends and colleagues for help in their stalking. Thus peers educated that stalking is neither legal nor acceptable can act as a more legitimate authority to the stalker than law enforcement. Often stalking proxies actually believe that they are helping a friend who is just trying to make a "relationship work."
2) Neighborhood watch groups and other community groups can be educated about stalking and how to detect it and why it is in their best interest to do so. We call that educated vigilantism—being "vigilant" in a good way. Experience says that when neighbors call for help, law enforcement is more likely to respond than when victims call. Neighbors can be taught to call both law enforcement and the media to report the crime of stalking.
3) The hi-tech "ball and chain" tracking devices can be used on perpetrators. We have a new law so this can be done, but we must remember that it won't work for proxy stalkers who are often a number of people convinced or paid to help the perpetrator.
4) A half-way house should be considered for perpetrators—where they can work and earn money, be held accountable, and contribute to family and society while they're monitored and where they can also be treated. Stalkers are intelligent, generally knowledgeable and can be hard workers—look how hard they work when they stalk! It has never made sense to "lock up" the victims and children in shelters since stalking happens over months and years and shelters cannot hold families that long. Also, it is documented that stalkers often know the addresses of the shelters before the clients do—and when they don't we have seen "well meaning people often tell stalkers where the shelters are."
5) Even more important, there are a number of ways to normalize dopamine, serotonin and other chemicals in the brain, as well as to normalize P300 brainwaves—including, but not limited to, pharmaceutical products. Cranial electrical stimulation is FDA accepted, microcurrent that stimulates and normalizes the neurotransmitters and normalizes P300 brain waves to help the obsessive compulsion and depression (Heffernan, 1997; Braverman et al., 1990) and with the brain normalized, perpetrators can learn more appropriate ways to grieve and accept the rejection that sets off the stalking. Counselors need to utilize methods that respond to the Myers-Briggs Types of the client and not assume that what works for some clients will work for all. And, at the cost of stalking to society now, we could scan all the brains of stalkers to learn exactly what is abnormal in their brains—just as we do when do when we scan lungs, gall bladders and other organs for the most appropriate treatment now.
6) Diet and exercise changes will need to be considered as well. Just published research (Saey, 2008) has shown that using medication to enhance available serotonin levels (e.g., Prozac) requires that neurogenesis be occurring. It was once thought that such drugs caused neurogenesis, but now it's realized that when these medicines do not work, it's probably due to lack of ongoing neurogenesis. Exercise is one of the major tools to aid neurogenesis. It also helps in depression. Proteins are needed to produce the necessary neurotransmitters and diets need to include only complex carbohydrates, not sugars. There is evidence nutritional supplements along with diet changes can help reduce violence as well.
7) Early intervention for children will become increasingly possible as we learn more about genetic traits that lead to violence and what nurture methods will help prevent violence. Some educators have become skilled in working with different Myers-Briggs Types in schools in order to develop strengths and improve weak areas as well. Knowing that stress and "use it or lose it" processes affect loss of brain cells in children should encourage us to examine policies for early childhood education and parenting. Amen's observation that many children receive brain injuries that go unrecognized reminds us that the brain is a delicate organ incased in a hard and sharp shell that can be easily injured and do permanent damage if we don't take precautions regarding the kinds of sports activities that children engage in.
8) Society must come to take the crime of stalking seriously—it is not "funny," or a "joke," or the victim "deserved it," or "if we ignore it stalking will go away." Remember, it's not good for stalkers to stalk, and it sure isn't good for victims, their children, their families, their friends, the community, and the rest of us.
With knowledge comes responsibility, but also hope. We have far greater knowledge about factors that increase violence than we once had. We need to use this knowledge, old and new, in better ways to produce healthy brains in order to change our lives—and our souls!
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