Imagine a very real and credible threat so pervasive you must constantly be on alert. It alters your life, forcing you to check the exits everytime you go somewhere and always have an escape plan handy.
Now imagine that you are not a soldier in a combat zone or an undercover operative on covert assignment. Your reality is far less intriguing – you are a victim of a stalker.
Unlike dangerous professions, or their Hollywood equivalent, there is nothing mysterious about stalking cases. Most involve abusers who continue to hover over their current or past domestic partners because they are unwilling to give up the fear-based power they derive from their victims. A smaller number of stalkers are demented individuals whose victims are the object of a twisted fixation.
The latter example may describe the plight of Ken Paulson’s daughter, Jennifer. The twenty-five year old teacher was killed by her stalker, a man she barely knew, three years ago (Trib 3/23). Since then Ken Paulson has been urging our state legislature to pass an anti-stalking measure he believes could have saved his daughter’s life.
It’s been an uphill battle.
Two years ago I attended a meeting at the state attorney general’s office where an anti-stalking measure was being vetted. One of the speakers was David Martin, a seasoned prosecutor who leads King County’s domestic violence unit.
Martin shared a vignette regarding a local stalking-related homicide, then went on to discuss the disturbing trends, all of which managed to convince a disparate group of folks that the status quo needed an overhaul.
That idea led to a 2012 bill which, due to partisan politics among other factors, failed to pass muster. Fast forward to this session – not one, but two versions of the measure, HB 1383 and SB 5452, have passed the respective houses and await the Governor’s signature next month.
This new law could be a game-changer.
A violation of a no-contact order is one of the more routine police service calls, because, as statistics demonstrate, abusers often pay little heed to no-contact orders. Though most of these incidents are nonviolent, there have still been far too many domestic violence homicides precipitated by the service of a no-contact order.
To address that, the new bill Paulson has been urging on the legislature would allow judges to order alleged abusers (respondents) to wear GPS tracking devices. If an alleged abuser were electronically monitored, the victim (petitioner) should, in theory, have an opportunity to keep tabs on their stalker. This is especially important in the critical time period after a no-contact order is served.
A stalking-protection law is not the final solution, of course. There is no guarantee that every judge will embrace the use of trackers, and the stalkers themselves may find other means to insinuate fear into their victims’ lives.
But this measure, if signed by Governor Jay Inslee, would be a good start. I only wish it were around for Jennifer Paulson.
There are, however, plenty more victims out there like her, and they’re getting tired of living in paranoid fear.