When someone mentions the word “stalking”, you are likely to imagine a woman in a dark parking lot with a guy walking behind her. Some people might think that it’s romantic while others might find it creepy and some people might find it comedic. This all depends on the context but for an actual victim, it’s a horrific experience that they would never want to relive.
The Women’s Aid Organisation (“WAO”), a Malaysian NGO, estimated that over 250,000 domestic violence victims were stalked by their abusers. Do bear in mind that the estimates given by WAO only covers domestic violence victims, which in the Malaysian context means spouses. However, stalking can encompass non-intimate relationships as well, going all the way to the point of having complete strangers stalk you.
This means that the actual numbers for stalking is likely to be much higher than 250,000.
What’s even more frightening is the lack of laws criminalising the act of stalking. You read that right, it is not illegal to stalk someone in Malaysia. While there are laws that criminalise acts that typically accompany stalking, these laws require some form of harm to occur first before action can be taken. It requires the stalking situation to escalate before the victim has methods to de-escalate it.
For an example, it’s an offence to attempt murder under Section 307 of the Penal Code. Imagine how angry people would be if this offence was taken away and the police can only act once the would be murderer successfully murders someone.
We’ve covered the technical aspect of the law and the efforts that certain NGOs have been putting in to criminalise stalking, which you can read about here.
To highlight why criminalising stalking is important, WAO arranged an interview where we spoke to Alicia, a victim of stalking. The names in this story have been changed for privacy purposes.
First, he rescued her
“He was charming and knowledgeable, it felt like he was trustable.” – Alicia, stalking victim, in an interview with ASKLEGAL
Alicia appears to be in her thirties. We exchanged pleasantries and she seemed extra alert; as if she was expecting something to happen. The interview started off intense, with Alicia telling us how she met Kevin.
Prior to this stalking incident, Alicia was a well-known and respectable figure in her industry. She rubbed shoulders with Malaysia’s elite and had their trust. This was when Kevin approached her with what seemed to be well meaning advice. He exposed the shady dealings of the company that she was heading and showed her how the company set her up to take the fall should anything go wrong.
At that point, Alicia looked into it and realised the magnitude of what was going on. She quickly exited the company and, due to the heads up that Kevin gave her, Alicia thought that he was a trustworthy person.
Whatever his motive was for giving her that information, their bond was forged. She found him to be a trustable man, respectable and convincing. It didn’t hurt that he was reputable and well-spoken.
They started dating and established a company together to run a cause that Alicia felt passionately for.
On the business end, things went well (they were even sponsored by a government-linked company). However, on the dating end, Alicia started to pick up signs that alerted her to the fact that Kevin might not be what he seems on the surface.
Then, the emotional abuse started
Kevin would always think that Alicia is cheating on him and find it reasonable to monitor her every move. He would even go to the extent of dictating that she is not allowed to sit next to another guy...even on flights. Alicia describes this side of Kevin as delusional.
This soon escalated to violence...but not at her.
“In the beginning, this was how he was. He would tell me that he can’t hit me but he can hit himself. So he would bang his head on the steering wheel, use his shoe to hit his head. I didn’t buy it because I don’t believe in violence.” – Alicia, [emphasis added]
Alicia says that in the beginning, he wouldn’t assault her but he would throw things in her direction, for example, throwing a printer at her while they were in a client’s office. She described this behaviour as him trying to assert his power over her, to intimidate her.
If you think that Alicia should have read the signs because they are that clear well, she did but the only problem was…
She thought she was alone and felt ashamed
As expected from the pattern of abuse, Kevin soon started to physically abuse Alicia. He would blame her for saying the wrong things and then make a complete 180 and apologise for his behaviour.
Present at the interview was also Alicia’s social worker who explained to us that this is how the cycle of abuse works:
“The cycle of abuse is for the abuser to build the tension, abuse the victim, and then apologise for it.” – Alicia’s social worker
There were many incidences where Kevin physically abused Alicia and left her with blurred vision or multiple bruises. All these incidences made her desperately seek for a way out but the problem was Alicia thought that she was alone and there was nobody that she could turn to. She also felt ashamed over the marks that he would leave on her body, going to the extent of hiding her face from her mother and telling everyone that she fell down.
Alicia started avoiding him, even leaving for an extended trip back home to escape from the situation back home. However, it seemed like the things she did to avoid him only served to incense him.
At this time, Kevin’s started behaving more and more irrationally, stalking her, and even going to the extent of scaling her apartment walls just to get a glimpse of her. But this isn’t the worst of it...
His stalking went into overdrive
Things got to the point where in one instance, Alicia would even stop telling anyone what her plans were. But he somehow always found out.
For instance, as she was leaving a business appointment that she had told no one about, she opened the door and...Kevin was right there. He tried shoving his way but she quickly slammed the door shut and informed the manager that her stalker is here.
The manager graciously allowed her to stay in his room while she called the police. On top of her emotional ordeal, Alicia was worried for her life and it didn’t help when Kevin started writing her “love notes” which he convinced the receptionist to keep passing to her.
He would also stalk her friends and social worker in a bid to scare them off and cut off her contact to anyone else, making him the only person to turn to.
If that isn’t creepy enough for you, here’s another story.
In order to avoid Kevin, Alicia changed her jobs. When we spoke to her, she had already gone through 5-6 jobs in about 3 years. Somehow, Kevin managed to track her down each time, sending her messages that indicate that he knew what she was up to at that exact moment.
“He would send me messages that showed that he knew my work schedule. Telling me that I must be heading home now because my meeting has ended. He even showed up at my workplace once and I ran from him. I also found out that he bribed the security guard at my apartment to inform him of my whereabouts.” – Alicia, [emphasis added]
The severity of it forced Alicia into hiding where she basically jumped around houses for awhile and wouldn’t leave her home without friends or family. If you’re thinking that she should have called the police and let them deal with Kevin, you’re not wrong.
The police were called multiple times but…
Nothing came out of it. Alicia sought help from the police many times and even went together with her social worker but the responses that they received were rather...lacklustre. Alicia recalls the first time she sought police protection:
“We were just done having a meal and I wanted to leave but he refused to let me go...he took away my car keys. So, I started walking to the closest police station. When I reached the station, I approached an officer and told him what has been going on. At that point, Kevin entered the station and I cowered behind the officer because I was terrified.
Kevin told the officer that I was crazy and spewing nonsense and that he was my boyfriend.
Upon hearing this, the officer turned around and told me to settle the problem with Kevin. He refused to intervene despite the fear I was showing because he claimed that this is a domestic issue.” [emphasis added]
Aside from this incident, there are also several things that the police have told Alicia and her social worker when they approached them for help:
“He (Kevin) obviously love you so much, why do you want to leave him?”
“We can’t do anything because we have to follow procedures.”
“Did you have sex with him? How many times did you have sex with him?”
“This is a domestic issue that you should mediate with me. We can’t intervene.”
Before you start blaming the police, we have to highlight that stalking is a tricky issue to navigate.
As mentioned at the start of this article, following someone around is not a crime even though it may cause emotional and mental harm such as distress and fear. Exacerbating this is the fact that without laws criminalising stalking, it’s quite difficult to bring about a change in mentality.
Despite this, Alicia and WAO persevered. They painstakingly compiled every single correspondence that Kevin ever sent and sent it over to the police in order to substantiate their case. After reviewing the documents and realising that severity of the issue, the police followed up on the matter and even called Kevin in for interviews.
However, given how there were no laws on stalking, Kevin could still continue to stalk Alicia and he once even threatened to kill her:
“It was said in the middle of a very normal setting; in a mall, with people around us. He (Kevin) looked at me while smiling and calmly said, “There is no point in you running, you know I will find you and I will kill you”, this was the chilling part; that he was able to say it so calmly.” – Alicia [emphasis added]
The good news is after countless switching between jobs and houses, Alicia appears to have avoided him...
But she is always on the lookout
It took leaving her industry, 2 years, and about 3-4 job changes for the incessant messages to taper off. She still gets them every once in awhile but for the most part, the horizon seems clear. Alicia explains that she does not feel fulfilled in her current job because it’s not her true calling but she does what she must in order to continue on with her life.
We asked if she is worried about ever bumping into him again and she tells us that:
“I am always on the lookout for him. Everywhere I go, I scan the people there. I scan the streets for his car. If I notice his car’s make and model, the first thing I do is check the number plate. I am always ready to carry out the steps that I rehearsed with my social worker if I ever bump into him.
The first thing to do is to get away from him. Get somewhere public. Then I call her, I call the police.
I once saw him in a shopping mall. I recognised him immediately from the shape of his back and the shirt he was wearing. I turned around and left the mall. I was lucky he didn’t spot me.”
Listening to her relate her experience to us was harrowing enough; we can’t imagine the strength needed for her to agree to this interview with us, to replay memories that are best left untouched.
However, she agreed to share her story with us with hopes that the government would see fit to introduce laws that would criminalise stalking and protect people like her. She hopes that by sharing her story, she would be able to help other stalking victims understand that they are not alone.
Help can be found from the various NGOs across the country, this includes the Joint Action Group that WAO is a part of. To contact WAO for assistance or further information:
- Hotline – 03 7956 3488
- Whatsapp (24 hours) – 018 988 8058
If Alicia’s story has given you a clearer picture on the state of stalking in Malaysia and you would like to see a change in the laws, make your voice heard by:
- Tweeting our current Law Minister @Liew_Vui_Keong
- Sharing this article with the hashtag #makestalkingacrime
- Sharing your stalking stories with us in the comments
We ended the interview by asking Alicia how she would describe Kevin now and she said: