Stalking: The grim reality of unwanted attention
At the time of writing, we don't know the full circumstances that drove Pastor Davey Jones to take his own life.
But one thing that is certain is that he was being stalked. Jamie Jones, who is no relation to the pastor, pleaded guilty to stalking the pastor last week.
His harassment, as is often the case in the modern age, took place online, where it can be trickier to police but is no less damaging.
He uploaded YouTube videos making unfounded allegations about the pastor's practices, both personal and professional, and the pastor's final message appears to suggest that it was these allegations that drove him to his final act.
Can you imagine how it must feel to feel such malevolence from someone, to feel so targeted, that you are driven to such a desperate act?
I certainly can, because it happened to me.
You never imagine you're going to be stalked. You think it only happens to celebrities, people like DJ Pete Tong, who was bizarrely harassed by one-time chart star Shara Nelson of the group Massive Attack in 2011.
I was stalked for five and a half years, between 2009 and 2014, and I can honestly say, with hand on heart, that it almost destroyed me.
In the end, I was forced to move home, far from the one in which I was living when I was targeted, ended up in counselling and having to time off work from the stress, and was never fully able to see justice done on the person who was stalking me.
In that time, I faced members of the police force – not all, by any means, but a significant minority – who didn't take the case seriously, perhaps because I am a strapping 6 ft 4 chap; faced frustration at every turn; and generally had to live with the day-to-day feeling that, whatever game it was that my stalker was playing at, she was winning at it.
My stalker was a woman, a grown woman, who latched onto me early in 2009 and just would not let go. She rapidly became obsessed with me, and in my experience (which is limited to this one person – thankfully, I don't make a habit of attracting stalkers) once the obsession takes hold, it doesn't let go.
Stalking, in my experience, comes in two main phases. There's the honeymoon period, in which the stalker is convinced that their obsession will be reciprocated and feels only warmth and goodness towards you, despite the absence of it going back in their direction.
During this period, my stalker would turn up at my home wanting to be let in (she would normally be drunk during these encounters), or wait at the end of the street, often in the pouring rain, in the hope of talking to me. At one point I had a hand-delivered letter on floral notepaper, simultaneously expressing the desire that she hoped we could be friends, and apologising for her irrational behaviour up to that point.
But somewhere along the way, the rejection and rebuffed offers of entente cordiale curdle and ferment into something altogether darker.
The visits become more and more frequent, but instead of pained entreaties to be let in, you get abuse shouted through your letterbox or if, as was the case with me, your bedroom actually faced out onto a residential street, shouted at your window. Once, she chased me down the street when I was cycling home from work – try to find a police officer who can keep a straight face when you're reporting that image.
You find yourself waking up to long, garbled, clearly inebriate voicemails telling you you are contemptible. You may find yourself getting strange, or more likely plain abusive, messages on social media, even – and this never happened to me, but I know at least one person to whom it did happen – scurrilous blogs entirely devoted to you, or videos like the ones relating to Pastor Jones.
During this second, hateful phase, what tends to happen is that the stalker decides, probably in an attempt to rationalise their own behaviour, that you have done something wrong, something evil to them.
Certainly this was the case with me. When I was forced to go to the police for the first time over my stalker (in total, she was issued with one harassment warning and cautioned for harassment twice – this was before November 2012 when stalking became an actual criminal offence) she made absurd, yet extremely serious, counter-allegations against me which, despite their outlandishness, had to be investigated.
That was in the summer and autumn of 2010, which was the worst six months of my entire life.
The unique thing about stalking is that the onus falls very heavily on you to provide the evidence to support your case against the stalker. After all, it's only you who is receiving the texts and the voicemails, it's only you who can have your cameraphone ready every time you answer the door, only you who can screenshot every message you receive on Facebook that may be from them. You find yourself Google-searching yourself, in case they're out there spreading lies about you.
If it wasn't so serious, being stalked would be the definition of tedium. It's exhausting, forcing you to exist in a constant state of angst.
After all the warnings and cautions, my stalker – who, incidentally, got free legal advice for six months due to the nature of the foul allegations she had made against me – carried on for a while, purely on social media which is, as one officer told me, 'a bit like a foreign country' when it comes to policing. Then, suddenly, she just stopped.
Perhaps she got bored. I'll never know. After over five years of paranoia and wrecked relationships, I'm not really disposed to getting in touch to find out what changed. But maybe, just maybe, she thought, 'Well, I've ruined his life. My work is done.'
In which case, she was absolutely right.
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