Kim Zorn studied the impact of intimate partner stalking on women targets
CBC News Posted: Apr 17, 2017 7:00 PM CT Last Updated: Apr 17, 2017 7:00 PM CT
Sixteen women who were all victims of stalking in Regina have poured out their terrifying experiences for a new study.
The study was conducted by Kim Zorn, who is a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Regina. She said many of the participants shared similar stories.
"There was a lot of overlap in experiences," Zorn told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition. "I think generally the stories that stood out most were when offenders targeted children, elderly parents, and loved ones."
"The only thing you can be grateful for is you hope he doesn't torture you when he kills you."- One woman in a study on intimate partner stalking
The study, called The Impact of Intimate Partner Stalking on Women Targets: A Narrative Inquiry Analysis, features haunting quotes from the women.
One woman said, "You've accepted that fact; you're gonna be dead, and you've made sure your life insurance policy is up-to-date, and the only thing you can be grateful for is you hope he doesn't torture you when he kills you."
Another woman said her stalker drove past her in an alley and had a "big smile on his face". She called him to ask what he was doing. "He said to me, 'I just wanted you to know that I knew where you were.' "
One of the women in the study slept with a hammer under her pillow. Another said her perpetrator sent letters to her kids and showed up at their school.
Zorn said the study is different than others related to criminal harassment in Canada because it used a "narrative inquiry" approach.
"We really asked participants to share their stories with intimate partner stalking and allowed them to share that story from beginning to end without us interrupting them or guiding that interview in any way."
She believes that's important because it provides more rich and comprehensive data.
Getting away and finding help not easy
Experts say the end of a relationship can be the most dangerous time for a woman facing domestic violence. That's also when criminal harassment or stalking behaviour can begin.
'I think the findings really highlight the need for law enforcement and the court system to take claims of stalking seriously.'- Kim Zorn
"I can recall one specific story where a woman was in her home with her young children and offender showed up in the middle of the night, pounding on all the windows, pounding on all the doors, threatening to break in, threatening to harm her, threatening to harm her children," Zorn said. "This wasn't one incident but something that occurred for this woman on multiple occasions."
Participants in the study reported being followed to work and numerous other places, but Zorn said they felt most vulnerable at home.
While the study dives into an important topic, Zorn said it was hard to hear so many "horrific" stories.
"For some of the participants within our sample, these experiences of harassment went on for not only months but many years," she said. "The stories were very detailed ... it was really hard. It was definitely overwhelming at times to listen to the stories. But I felt honoured that I was able to hear those stories from the women."
Zorn hopes people will find lessons in the study, especially people in law enforcement. She said some of the participants reported being frustrated with how police handled their complaints and that they were "treated like a joke".
"I think the findings really highlight the need for law enforcement and the court system to take claims of stalking seriously and to really listen empathetically and to acknowledge the dangerous nature of intimate partner stalking," she said.
Files from CBC's Tory Gillis and The Morning Edition