Stalking is not just a mischievous act, it’s a serious crime

27 Jul 2022 12:20pm
Photo for illustration purpose only - Source: 123RF
Photo for illustration purpose only - Source: 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Be it online or in person, stalking is not a joke and it comes in various forms.

Experts said some may see it as an act of just “fooling around” and that the stalkers would eventually go away if they were ignored.

But that was not always the case.

Cyberlynx International College School of Law and Enforcement Programme leader and lecturer Norashikin Othman said stalking should not only be deemed as a mischievous act, as it was more serious than that.

She said such acts would cause a reasonable person to feel uncomfortable.

From the Malay culture perspective, she said people often thought stalking was an act of a “jokester” and that it was harmless.

“They think if they ignore them (stalkers) and not give them any attention, they would go away. But that was not always the case.

“Stalking refers to a conduct directed at a specific person that involved repeated visual or physical proximity, non-consensual communication (verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination) that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid.

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“It could fall under an act of crime of wilfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person that would case the latter to feel uncomfortable, feared that they would be injured or die” she told Sinar Daily.

She said stalking also involved persistent patterns like sending the victims unwanted items or gifts that may range between romantic and extreme besides following and waiting for the victim.

It could also be in a form of a threat, spreading rumours about the victim and sharing the victim’s personal information on the internet, Norashikin added.

In light of Malaysia’s plan to table the Anti-Stalking Bill, this year, she said stalking must be defined as a crime in the country and that a report lodged by victims must be taken seriously.

“While photographing or recording someone without consent are not acts of stalking, these things need to be highlighted in the bill as it might be one of the modus operandi of stalkers,” she said.

She said stalking and harassing were different elements but were interrelated as both acts would make victims feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

Stalking, she said could be serious when the perpetrator felt that they have control over the victims which would then lead to a dangerous situation as the stalker might have access to be alone with the victim.

“It could be dangerous if the stalker feels provoked or rejected, because they would most likely assault the victim.

“Victims tend to think that by calling out for help when they are being stalked would cause more problems to them and the people around them especially their family,” she said when contacted.

Norashikin said among the ways to deal with stalkers be it online in person, was to avoid all forms of contact, be alert, enhance security measures like installing alarms and security cameras at home.

She also reminded the public to avoid oversharing on social media by not providing too much personal information on social media platforms.

“We need to remember that the pictures and personal information shared on social media are our digital footprints,” she said.

Meanwhile, senior partner of law firm Messrs Anton & Chen, Alex Anton Netto said the implementation of the Anti-Stalking Bill was a step towards the right direction for the country as stalking especially online was rampant.

He said stalking could be a psychological disorder which warranted treatment at a facility adding that incarceration would likely worsen the perpetrator’s condition.

“Perhaps there should be a more rehabilitative sentence for first time offenders and harsher sentences for the repeat offenders,” he said when contacted.

However, although the safety of the victims were yet to be ensured with the implementation of the bill, he said it would definitely work towards prioritising the safety of the people once it takes effect.

Restraining orders should also be included in the bill, said lawyer Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader.

“Appropriate actions should to be taken against the stalkers such as a minimum mandatory custodial sentence of not less than a year,” he said.

He also said the safety of the victims will be ensured with the implementation of the bill with a deterrent sentencing to prevent reoccurence of such acts.

“The bill is expected to protect victims, especially women, from harassment online or in person and it would give a sense of security and hope to the victims,” he said in a brief message.

A victim who only wanted to be known as Jasmin said one day as she was scrolling through Instagram, she came across an account with a slightly similar username as hers.

To her surprise, pictures of her had been posted on that Instagram page.

“As I was scrolling the followers’ list on Instagram, I came across an account with a slightly similar name as my profile.

“It happened a few years back. The user whose profile was public had also posted most of my Instagram stories. She (user) just changed the fonts and captions and posted it on her account," she said.

The 25-year old said she had confronted the Instagram user and the latter had apologised and admitted that she (user) had created the fake account.

“I felt extremely uncomfortable knowing someone had used my pictures and pretended to be me,” she said.

As a victim of a stalker, Jasmin said she hoped that Malaysia would enhance its cybersecurity policy.

Another victim, Rachel, 26, said the her stalker had created multiple social media accounts such as WeChat, Facebook and Instagram to communicate with her.

She said she realised that it was the same person as the start of the conversation was the same.

The stalker had even sent her a photo of his genitals, she said.

“The person kept asking me if we can meet up until I could not take it anymore.

“He said he knew me from high school and gave the names of my friends, he knew my birthday, my favourite colour and flowers, where my parents work and he also sent me a picture of his penis and asked me to meet him and have sex with him,” she said.

Asked about whether she talked to anyone about the incident, Rachel said she told her friends about it, but they all did not know who the person was.

She said with the Anti-Stalking Bill which will be tabled, she hoped that victims could be protected from stalkers.

The bill is expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat this year, according to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin.

She said the bill was in the final process of being refined at the Attorney’s General Chambers.