“Sometimes, we do bad things for the people we love. It doesn’t mean it’s right, it means love is more important.- Joe Goldberg
How apropos that season two of a psychological thriller centered around intimate partner stalking premiered on the eve of January 2020, which is National Stalking Awareness Month.
You, a popular series on Netflix, has continually encouraged dialogue surrounding the issue of stalking within the context of romantic relationships since its premiere in 2018. In sum, Joe Goldberg is the main character and antagonist who displays increasingly erratic, obsessive and homicidal tendencies all in the name of love. The word love, in this sense, is made to represent infatuation or an unhealthy obsession with another. Exemplified by the quote above, Joe routinely characterizes his toxic, criminal behavior as necessary to demonstrate his devotion to and willingness to protect a romantic partner.
Critics of the show argue that the show’s portrayal of stalking has effectively romanticized the problem. Proponents counter that the show accurately captures stalking, specifically the patterns of escalating behavior and how this behavior can ultimately lead to the death of the victim.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 16-5-90(a)(1) defines stalking as “when [a person] follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.”
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), roughly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men in the United States experience some level of stalking in their lifetimes. Most stalking victims are familiar with their stalkers in some capacity, usually as a current or former romantic partner. More than half of stalking victims report that they have been physically abused by their stalking partner.
The methods employed by intimate partner stalkers to surveil their victims often involve some sort of technology. Viewers of You routinely observe Joe Goldberg hacking cell-phones and monitoring e-mail and social networking websites to track who his victims interact with. Additionally, intimate partner stalkers may use video cameras and GPS trackers to keep tabs on their victims.
The risk of obsessive and violent behavior dramatically increases after the relationship has ended. This behavior tends to escalate in frequency and intensity more often than what is observed in non-intimate partner stalking. Due to the rate of escalation, stalking is widely regarding as a risk factor for murder. In the majority of intimate partner homicide cases, there is at least one instance of stalking in the year preceding the murder.
The theory behind why stalking behaviors intensify towards the end of a relationship lies in this belief commonly held by stalkers like Joe Goldberg: Well, if I can’t have you, no one can. Stalkers operate on the power and control ideology. When victims leave an abusive relationship, stalkers are uncomfortable with the sudden shift in power, which pushes them to follow and surveil the victim in an effort to regain control. Stalking victims are often pressured to stay in their relationships out of fear that their partner would get increasingly violent should they pursue separation. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
It is important for victims of intimate partner stalking to understand that engaging with your stalker is what fuels his drive to continue the behavior. Block their phone number and e-mail. If needed, change your phone number and e-mail. Block them on social media. Update your home security system. Always have a safety plan. Do not hesitate in seeking the help of the police, other authorities and judicial intervention.
You are not to blame in this. You have had enough. It’s time to reclaim your space.