It's Time to Examine How Stalking and Abuse Affects Mental Health
Illustration by Calum Heath
When 25-year-old Meera Dalal left her boyfriend after years of physical and emotional abuse, her friends and family were initially relieved. But the abuse didn’t stop. Instead, he began stalking her.
He threatened Dalal and her family, repeatedly turned up outside her house, and even withheld her passport so she couldn’t leave the country on holiday. She started transferring large sums of money to his bank account; her family believe that he was blackmailing her.
On February 15, 2016, she took her own life in her home in Leicestershire, UK.
Dalal is not the only woman die by suicide after experiencing domestic abuse and stalking. An exclusive Broadly investigation on Thursday shows that multiple women in the UK died between 2012 and 2017 as a result of self-inflicted injuries after domestic-related incidents involving intimate partners, ex-partners, or family members.
The new figures follow a previous Broadly investigation in July that found that 49 women in the UK were killed by their partner, ex-partner, or stalker over the last three years—even though they had previously reported their attacker to the police.
The two investigations form part of our Unfollow Me coverage, which aims to amplify the voices of stalking victims and illustrate how often they are let down by the authorities.
Following our reporting, women began sharing their own stories of stalking and abuse on social media. We were privately contacted by several women who wanted to talk about the campaign and how they, too, had been victims of stalking. Many said that they considered themselves fortunate to escape their stalker alive, but that stalking had left a devastating impact on their mental health.
Over the next few weeks, Broadly will look into the psychological effects of stalking and abuse and expand its Unfollow Me coverage to the US. We want to highlight the voices of survivors who are grappling with complex mental health conditions such as OCD and post-traumatic stress symptoms as a result of being a victim of stalking. We will also look into the survivors’ guilt that many experience when they leave the abuse and harassment behind—often only to see their abuser find another partner and potential victim.
Stalking doesn’t just affect the mental health of its victims—it also hurts their wallets. Five survivors broke down for us just how much stalking had cost them financially, including leaving behind their jobs, homes, and installing new security systems.
When you’re in a public-facing job, stalking can feel feel especially terrifying and dangerous. We speak to Scarlett Letter Reports host Amanda Knox and ACLU attorney and activist Chase Strangio about what it’s like to be the target of a stalker. Instagram influencer Andreea Cristina also writes for us on how a high-profile relationship brought her to the attention of multiple stalkers.
But stalking doesn’t just affect celebrities or those in the public eye. In the US, Native women are being stalked and killed at alarming rates. Our investigation seeks to find out exactly what lies behind the murder rate—and why no one is answering women’s calls for help.
We’ll also explore the psychology behind stalking, how stalkers are using frighteningly advanced spyware technology to track and monitor their victims, and when and how you can obtain a restraining order against your stalker.
The triggers for mental health conditions and suicide are complex and cannot be boiled down to a simple factor. But by speaking to dozens of survivors, it is undeniable that stalking can play a role in your psychological well-being. Our hope is that by teasing out a fuller picture of how stalking impacts victims in every aspect of their lives, we can begin to better understand how to better support survivors and prevent future abuse.