She had to stop wearing heels. Not because they were uncomfortable, and not because she had a hard time walking in them.
She had to stop because she needed to run faster than her stalker.
Stalking is the fifth most common violent offense committed against women, behind sexual assault and harassment in Canada, according to a report from the Government of Ontario’s Women’s Directorate on Sexual Harassment and Stalking. In fact, women are more likely to be spied on, to be followed, to have their social media accounts hacked, and to have stalkers waiting outside their homes and workplaces, the report states.
This is how one Winnipeg real estate agent encountered his victim at her condominium on the night of Aug. 29.
Last week, the 57-year-old plead guilty to criminal harassment. He faces a sentence of up to 7 months in jail.
Court heard that as the victim stepped off the elevator, the accused was waiting for her in the hallway with “a crazy look in his eyes.” She ducked past him and ran. He chased her, but she managed to lock her door, keeping him out. From the other side, he began to yell.
The hand-written note the accused left under her door the next day had a simple message:
If I say hi, I expect you to say hi.
If you want an enemy, so be it.”
This was not the first time this real estate agent has harassed the same woman. The Crown says there were hundreds of aggressive phone calls, emails, and notes which began in June, a few months after the victim asked the accused to stop contacting her.
But despite his advances being ignored by the victim, he would show up at her building, until 2 a.m. on some nights, the tone in his messages becoming more aggressive, vulgar, and much more frequent, prosecutors say.
“You fucking bitch.”
“You’re so selfish.”
“When do you think this is going to stop?”
“It’s going to continue into infinity.”
“Whatever’s going to happen, it is your fault.”
“This is going to get worse.”
“I’m going to find you something black to wear.”
Fifty-eight per cent of stalking incidents against women are committed by their male partner, while 20 per cent are committed by a male acquaintance, according to the Women’s Directorate report. In Canada, three per cent of women report being a stalking victim, and the number of reported cases is increasing every year.
But what defines stalking? Could it not be a form of admiration? An intense passion? A fiery, unstoppable love? His conduct wasn’t ever violent, so could his reminder to the victim to water the plant on her coffee-table be the genuine concern of a dear friend, or a nod to the possibility he was finding his way into her condo?
“[Stalking] generally consists of repeated conduct that is carried out over a period of time, and which causes you to reasonably fear for your safety or the safety of someone known to you,” says the RCMP. “Stalking does not have to result in physical injury in order to make it a crime.”
Though the accused never physically attacked his victim, and told court, “I never wanted to hurt her,” the psychological and emotional damage took its toll.
She fell behind at her law practice, avoided regular social calls and missed out on time with her 96-year-old mother.
In fact, it was at her mother’s house where the victim’s vehicle was keyed, the tires were slashed, and the wiper blades removed. Though it was not proven that the accused caused the damage, the incident was mentioned in court by the Crown, referring to the fear the victim was experiencing.
For some caught in the stalking cycle, breaking free from the abuser could be difficult and frightening.
Similar to sexual assault, few encounters are reported at risk of violent retaliation against the victim, or the perceived lack of severity of the crime. Not all stalkers are violent or aggressive, and proving that you feel threatened could be difficult.
For this real estate agent though, his stalking was put on hold after his arrest earlier this fall. And though the man was apologetic and timid, through broken sobs in the courtroom, one could clearly make out him saying, “I was addicted to her.”