Many women remember being in a toxic relationship where they were stalked and harassed by a toxic lover. Here’s how the law can protect you from a jilted lover.
We don’t have to live in dread of a vengeful jilted lover. Instead, we can start letting go of a toxic relationship by empowering ourselves to tackle toxic lovers using legal means, writes Pallavi Bhattacharya.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known”.
Those immortal lines from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens were by the character, Sydney Carton, who sacrifices his life for the happiness of Lucie, the woman he loves deeply.
Sydney Carton is a rare exception as far as unrequited lovers are concerned. But most jilted lovers have a hard time coping with rejection. In fact, some turn deadly when rejected.
On November 23rd, 2007, the story of alleged double murder and suicide by a businessman after a breakup with his model girlfriend hit the headlines of all national dailies of India.
Avinash Patnaik, a 22-year-old wealthy businessman from Rourkela in Orissa met 23-year-old Moon Das, a beautiful model from Mumbai at a New Year Eve’s party in Rourkela in 2006. According to Moon, Avinash was ‘this small-town guy who was curious and excited about life in a big city like Mumbai’.
Before long Avinash and Moon were boyfriend and girlfriend. Moon narrated how Avinash would love to flaunt her among his friends and even ask her to dress and behave boldly.
However, the situation completely changed when Avinash visited Mumbai to stay with Moon. He turned into an overly possessive lover who expressed disapproval in the way Moon dressed and her going out for shoots. They constantly fought.
Moon says that Avinash even hit her in the presence of her friends leaving bruises. Moon, therefore, decided to break up with Avinash. Avinash started suspecting that there was another man in Moon’s life. He had even thought of hiring a detective to follow her. He threatened Moon that he would commit suicide if Moon didn’t take him back.
In November 2007, Avinash drove all the way from Orissa to Mumbai to see Moon for the very last time. He had a gun with him. It is believed that Avinash got into an altercation with Moon’s mother and uncle and killed both of them in a fit of rage.
According to news reports the police have suspected that Avinash was waiting for Moon to return home so that he could kill her too thereby completing his revenge for she had rejected him. When Moon came home late at night she was frightened on seeing Avinash’s parked car.
Fearing that danger had befallen her family she rushed to her apartment door. She took her male friend with her to open the door. When she rung the doorbell, Avinash opened it a crack armed with a pistol.
Moon and her friend promptly latched the door and rushed to the police station. When the police arrived, to their horror they discovered that Avinash had killed Moon’s mother and uncle and had then shot himself dead.
The third bullet which was meant for Moon was ultimately used by Avinash to kill himself. Maybe Avinash had realized that if arrested he could easily get the death penalty for his murders. That is why he may have committed suicide.
Both Sydney Carton and Avinash Patnaik died for the woman they loved. However, there is a major difference in how they chose to die. Sydney was mature enough to realize that he didn’t necessarily have to be with Lucie to love her.
He respected her decision to marry someone else and even gave his life so that she could live happily ever after with her husband. Avinash instead ruined his lady love’s life. “Avinash has killed my soul,” Moon told an English daily.
We all have been following this news. We feel deeply sorry for Moon but how many of us think that we may also be the victim of a jilted lover with a murderous streak?
Many women remember being in a toxic relationship where they were stalked and harassed by former lovers who just can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. But we don’t have to live in dread of a vengeful, jilted lover.
Instead, we can learn how to let go of a toxic relationship and empower ourselves to tackle these toxic lovers using legal means.
Tell-tale signs of a toxic relationship
What are the signs you’re in a toxic relationship? Jilted lovers who turn stalkers don’t necessarily come with a sinister facial expression and robust physical build. In fact, Avinash looks docile and quite handsome in his photograph with Moon.
His parents and friends find it difficult to believe that a ‘nice boy’ like him could have killed two people. It’s true that looks mislead and we should rather be on the watch for some psychological traits that vengeful lovers seem to have.
Psychologist Pransenjit Kamble says: “These kinds of lovers have low self-esteem. The chronic emotional state that these lovers go through is fear. Most of the time this person is scared of one thing or the other. He may be scared of being without a job, then of having nobody with him and then maybe about being found out by someone for no reason at all.”
They may be afraid that the relationship may fall apart and always try hard to salvage it by any means possible. It is this fear that makes these lovers overtly possessive and suspicious. Their insecurity may make them abusive.
Consulting Psychiatrist, Dr Bharati Patil, warns, “Don’t get emotionally and physically involved with men like these as breaking the relationship may be very difficult later from both sides.”
It’s rather dangerous to stay on with an abusive and clingy lover hoping that he will change. Moon confessed that she confided about Avinash’s dark side to his elder brother, Pritam, who told her that only Moon could bring a change in him. In hindsight, we can see how far Pritam’s prophecy was from the truth.
Jilted lovers who turn into stalkers aren’t in the frame of mind to understand that there is something wrong with them. They don’t generally visit psychologists for help. So putting up with a toxic relationship like this and tolerating their toxic love may be simply digging your own grave.
Why do jilted lovers seek revenge?
Prasenjit probes into the psyche that makes jilted lovers commit a heinous crime as murder. “The kind of love these people show is borne out of low self-esteem. When these people fall in love they feel it is a good thing to hang on to. The moment they see the person they love moving away from them they get possessive about it.”
“Murder just happens in a fit. They are so overpowered with rage because the girl has rejected him that he forgets everything else. Their state of mind when they commit murder is similar to someone who is dancing at top speed totally oblivious of what is happening around them.”
Prabha Christdoss, Director of the Women’s Welfare Society of the Diocese of Mumbai says, “The love of these stalkers is not true love. It is just attraction. Maybe they think of a woman as the weaker sex who doesn’t have a choice and the right to say no. So when rejected they want to punish or hurt the girl.”
Don’t show your stalker that you are afraid of him. Prasenjit explains, “Stalkers get all the more encouraged if their victim seems to be frightened. Success at harassing the girl gives them a sense of power.”
Horrific real-life tales of stalking
Kathy was stalked by a listener when she worked in the broadcasting sector. She was flooded with emails from him, which, before long, escalated to sending pornographic photographs with Kathy’s face replacing those of the women in the magazines.
Phone calls by this person to Kathy’s workplace continued, describing her entire day, what she wore, where she ate and whom she spoke to. Kathy informed the police when he sent her a soiled pair of men’s underwear with a shredded rose. The man was found months later.
Kathy recalls, “He had been at my workplace many times when I was co-producing a mid-day show. I thought he was a really sweet guy, he was also a huge help during a charity. Had he asked me out for a friendly coffee, I would not have thought twice about meeting him. To this day, I never recognized his voice on the phone. Ladies should take self-defence classes to protect themselves from stalkers like these.”
Julie Gray (name changed) narrates how frightening it was to be stalked. She says, “My ex-husband who turned stalker sent flowers to my new job as a way to demonstrate that he knew how to find me. He even got a copy of my credit report. He faxed weird messages to my parents’ place of business. When he still couldn’t find me he called up my best friend in another state and described the interior of her new office to which she had the only key.”
Julie warned her ex-husband that she would tell his new wife how he was harassing her. That put a stop to the harassment. “I still remember how scary it was to be under constant observation but never knowing when or how. That is why I am trained in hand to hand combat,” says Julie.
Linda Reeves (name changed) was actually stalked by a woman. Her stalker who suffered from a gender identity crisis was in the process of becoming a male. Linda clearly told her that she was married and not a lesbian.
However, her stalker would still show up at odd hours of the night and leave more than 15 messages daily on her phone. She spread rumours that Linda was getting a divorce from her husband. Her stalker’s brother and Linda’s husband failed in trying to convince her to leave Linda alone.
Instead, the stalker threatened to hurt Linda. She followed Linda to church a Sunday morning and pulled over to her vehicle over three times. Linda then complained to the police and got a restraining order on her from the judge.
Linda says, “The stalking has stopped now but it was a very bad experience for me for a couple of months. People need to remember men and women can be stalked by even their own sex.”
Cyberstalking: A very real threat
Model, Ashleysha Yesugade, was flooded with friends’ requests from weird people on Orkut. She says, “I am on Orkut only to keep in touch with my friends and a few fans but lately there have been too many odd people asking me to add them to my friend’s list. I do not approve them unless I find them genuine.”
“If I reject them, they claim to be my biggest fan, and the height is when then they say they are into model co-ordination, direction and want to meet me rather than my manager. It’s funny when people do this. I have realized that if I reject, they even make fake accounts using my pictures.”
When asked as to why cyberstalking is on the rise, Prasenjit says, “Lives have become monotonous as a result of computerisation. That makes people want to seek out adventure but at the same time they don’t want to be found out.”
Fake profiles infest social networking sites like Orkut. A man may stalk you with the profile name of a woman. Or all the friends in someone’s friend’s list may be fake profiles of himself. A person you rejected from an online dating site may also create a fake profile that impresses you to communicate with you.
Cyberstalkers may repeatedly mail you, post defamatory and derogatory statements about you on message boards and guest books. They may also create fake blogs in your name posting defamatory and pornographic content.
They may trace your IP address to verify your home or place of employment. Or they may hack into your email account. Before long online stalking may turn to offline stalking.
But there are some precautions you can take to prevent cyberstalking. Be very careful with whom you share personal information. Choose a difficult password comprising numbers, symbols and letters and make it at least six characters.
Change your password frequently. Memorise it instead of writing it down in a notebook. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Make sure that only you know the answer to the secret question protecting your password.
If you are a woman, avoid usernames that clearly indicate that you are female. Don’t post your real photograph online without watermarking it as it easily may be misused. Also, a photograph will make it a piece of cake for your stalker to identify you in real life.
Update yourself on how the social network you are a part of deals with charges of stalking and abuse. Register a complaint if harassed. You should report an incident of stalking to the system administrator of both your Internet Service Provider with the ISP of the stalker or harasser.
Stalkers however sometimes try to conceal their tracks by forging their e-mail headers. On receiving an abusive e-mail visit SpamCop. This free service analyzes your unwanted e-mail to determine its point of origin and can generate a report that will be e-mailed to the appropriate system administrator.
CyberSnitch may also be used to report Internet abuse and duly send a report to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Report an abusive stalker to the Cyber Crime Cell of the police.
Save all abusive messages to register a complaint. Even if, by chance, you have deleted the abusive emails, do register a complaint, as they can be retrieved.
Cyberstalking often occurs in cyber cafes, especially if the cyber café isn’t responsible enough to keep a record of the photo identity proof of the user.
So if you visit a cyber café that doesn’t ask for your photo identity proof, register a complaint against it at the nearest police station. That’s what you can do as a responsible citizen to prevent cyberstalking.
Safety precautions to avoid being stalked
Dr Bharati Patil advises, “If you are being harassed by a stalker then don’t travel alone. Inform friends and family that you are being harassed.” If necessary take a different route to your workplace if you think that your stalker will be waiting in the way.
The home security measures that you can abide by:
- keeping the doors, windows and garage locked
- changing window and door locks
- replacing steel doors with metal doors
- fixing fire extinguishers near your doors and learning how to use them as ‘intruder repellents’
- fixing burglar alarms
- getting a dog and
- storing emergency numbers on your home and cellular phone.
Some women have changed their phone numbers, have opted for a private mailbox for snail mail and have even changed their address.
However, the truth is that you can’t go on living in constant fear and trying to hide from your stalker throughout your life. Your stalker needs a strong intervention to stop. And only police or legal intervention may be able to do so.
How to get out of a toxic relationship
As these horrific stories show, staying in a toxic relationship can be life-threatening. But when you’ve decided that you’re finally leaving the toxic relationship and want to end your relationship with a clingy lover, you have to plan this step carefully.
If you’re wondering how to end the toxic relationship, it’s best to tell your former partner, clearly but politely, that the relationship is over. Don’t break off ties abruptly without informing him.
Psychologist Prasenjit cautions, “Silence just worsens matters. Silence means non-responsiveness. Nobody really wants to be given a communication break. Silence makes obsessed lovers even more problematic.”
However, a jilted lover may still refuse to take no for an answer. His loving messages may abruptly change to hateful, abusive, and threatening messages. He may call from various numbers when you aren’t taking his call.
In a situation like this psychiatrist, Dr Bharati Patil advises, “When he calls tell him that you know very well who is calling. Inform him that whether he calls from the same number or various numbers your answer will be the same- that the relationship is over.”
When you’re letting go of a toxic relationship, you should send a polite but firm letter to a jilted lover who won’t give up on you, telling him clearly that you don’t want any communication from him in person and through letters, gifts, emails, SMSes and phone calls.
Prasenjit advises, “The mail shouldn’t be too formal. It should be in the similar style you generally write to him. However, it should come with a little bit of strictness emphasizing that you really mean it when you are asking him to stay away from you. Sending this mail is legal proof that the girl has told him in very clear words that she doesn’t want any communication from him. Second, that the guy is stalking her despite being told not to do so.”
There are various ways in which the stalker may react to this letter. He may stop harassing you or still continue to do so. Prasenjit feels, “The stalker may lie low for a while and later resurface. Or he will burn with revenge.”
According to Prasenjit making your parents talk to them warning them to stay away from you doesn’t really work. Prasenjit advises, “Making your parents talk to him maybe a good option in the initial stages. However most of the time it has been seen that this just doesn’t work. The guy isn’t really in a position to listen to anyone as his psychological state is one of heightened activity. He is very high on his hormones especially adrenaline. That makes him blind to most things.”
“Your relatives may try to keep him away only using language which he may easily turn a deaf ear to. But the police have an aura of authenticity around them that really can’t be ignored. So if the police warn him it may bring him out of the state of reverie he goes into.”
It’s easy to tell someone don’t stay in a toxic relationship. But the threat of violence is greatest when you leave a toxic relationship. That is why many women hesitate to leave their abusers.
Police and legal intervention in stalking
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Prakash Wani, explains the nature of the offence committed in the case of stalking, “Simply stalking is not an offence but if stalking is with the intention of crime is an offence. Stalking can be both a cognizable or non-cognizable offence.”
“Section 354 of Indian Penal Code says whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman intending to outrage or knowing it is likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty commits a cognizable offence.”
“Section 509 of Indian Penal Code says whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object intending that such a word or sound shall be heard or that such a gesture or object shall be seen by such a woman or intrudes upon the privacy of such a woman commits a cognizable offence.”
“Section 504 of Indian Penal Code says whoever intentionally insult and thereby gives provocation to the person intending or knowing that it is likely that such a provocation will cause to break the public peace or to commit any other offence has committed a non-cognizable offence. If the stalker threatens a woman through SMS, phone calls, emails that he will murder, rape, molest or throw acid on her may commit a cognizable or non-cognizable offence or its situation on merit.”
If your toxic lover threatens that he will commit suicide if you don’t reunite with him complain to the police immediately. This kind of blackmail has been glamorised in Bollywood movies, where the rejected lover and society often puts the blame on the girl for saying no and compels her to take her lover back.
But if you do return to your jilted lover in real life the consequence can be deadly. Nor do you want to be accused of the abetment of suicide just in case he causes deliberate self-harm, or in an exceptional case does kill himself.
Take a trustworthy person with you for emotional support when you go to the police station to register your complaint. He or she may be a family member, friend or witness to you having been stalked.
Take all the evidence you have like abusive messages, a record of the exact time of phone calls and maybe photographs of the stalker while in the act. If your stalker is driving behind you or trying to enter your house film him on your mobile phone to record the act.
What happens after registering a complaint with the police station?
Mr Wani answers, “On a complaint being lodged by a woman for being stalked by a man in a cognizable offence way, the accused may be arrested without a warrant. In a non-cognizable offence, the action taken depends on the gravity of the situation of the complainant. The accused may be advised to approach the proper court of law or the police may enforce action by asking the accused to deposit the amount of a fine, imposed as per the provision made under certain sections of the local act.”
“Once the complaint is made to the police officer the police are bound to register the same. At the time of registering the offence, the section of law shall be applied on the merit of evidence or accordingly it shall be decided whether it needs investigation or not. Deleted emails, SMS can be retrieved, verified if the offence is of cognizable nature. This procedure takes official time as per the circumstances and the case.”
If by chance you see your stalker right behind you in a public place with the intention to harass you immediately complain to the nearest police station or policeman on duty. If he is following you in a desolate street late at night, use your self-defence skills.
What can you do if stalking continues even after registering a complaint?
Solicitor & Advocate, Nityaoah S Mehta, advises, “If stalking follows despite the police complaint you need to maintain a police diary. You need to give feedback on whatever messages you receive and other instances of stalking on a daily basis. That makes it easier for the police to take an action. Thereafter, all the complaints together with the daily dairy record can then be converted into an FIR for immediate action by the Police.”
Mr Wani says, “In spite of initial action such as warning or a fine as per the merit of case imposed on a stalker if he continues stalking a woman, a preventive action can be initiated against him under section 107 of Criminal procedure Code which is dealt by Special Executive magistrate.”
“The Special Executive magistrate is empowered to get the executed bond from such a person with or without conditional surety. If such a stalker fails to execute a bond for his good behaviour the Special Executive Magistrate can send him to jail maximum for the period of six months until he furnishes the bond.”
The responsibility of the stalker’s family
According to Moon, she had complained about Avinash to his family but they took no action. Avinash’s family still can’t believe that their son could have committed murder and are trying hard to prove his innocence. Meanwhile, Avinash Patnaik’s profile on Orkut has been hacked.
The hacker has used abusive language to describe Moon. Scraps have come in blaming Moon to the extent of accusing her to be the murderer who framed Avinash. Though police reports point to Avinash’s guilt, a section of society seems to want to believe otherwise. Maybe this shows a lack of empathy Indian society has for girls who have been stalked.
Dr Bharati Patil has this piece of advice for the families of stalkers, “If the family receives complaints that their son is stalking someone they should supervise his activities. They should be on the lookout for changes in his activities and behaviour like being busy with too many calls, not coming home on time, not sleeping well and easily getting irritated. Delusional lovers need counselling and medication to prevent them from continuing to stalk. So the family should take them to a psychiatrist and psychologist right away.”
How to heal from a toxic relationship
Moon has been felicitated by the Lions Club of Mumbai for her presence of mind and bravery in being able to trap her armed ex-boyfriend at her Andheri apartment thereby being able to save her own life.
Moon said that on seeing Avinash with a revolver in hand she pushed him inside and locked the door from outside with the help of her friend Romesh. Despite her tragedy, she is firm that she won’t leave Mumbai and relocate to her hometown.
Moon was one of the lucky ones and she is now free from her toxic relationship. She will make it big in Mumbai as she wants her late mother’s wish to see her as a successful actress come true. But there are other girls like Moon who are still healing from the trauma their stalker has caused them.
Pransenjit describes the fearful state of mind the victims of stalkers are in, “Psychologically they are always on their toes. Anything and everything means danger to them. This is not a state of mind anyone can stay in for a long time.”
“However if adequate care is not taken to rehabilitate the person mentally, the disturbances may continue to haunt them in the future interfering with their normal lives. Hence psychological intervention is a must for such cases along with familial support.”
Healing from toxic relationships is not easy. Victims of stalking may therefore need to visit a psychologist to help them heal. Maybe the stalker may make them fearful of getting into another toxic relationship after a toxic relationship.
But the truth is that not all jilted lovers turn aggressive. There are also many who can accept rejection and move on with their lives. So victims of stalking shouldn’t start mistrusting the whole world, but empower themselves to identify potential stalkers and how to deal with them.
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