A quick look at the comments under Adam Levine's 'Animals' video will leave you in no doubt about how 'sexy' the stalker look is perceived to be. In it, Levine is playing a butcher who doubles as a stalker, secretly following an unsuspecting customer's every move (Behati Prinsloo, played by his wife). Levine sneaks into her house, takes pictures of her, lies next to her while she sleeps and has Halloween-style wet dreams about having sex/butchering her. 'Baby I'm preying on you tonight/Hunt you down eat you alive,' he serenades in his trademark nasal voice, in case you were unclear about his intentions. This is not even the first stalking song by the Maroon 5 singer. She Will Be Loved was kind of stalky too. I'll make a wild guess here when I suggest the people who find this sexy have never been stalked in real life.
'I wish someone would love me so much' was the sort of comment I'd get if I mentioned being followed. That is what we're told after all; the music industry and Hollywood clearly think stalking is romantic. Don't believe me? Think back to some of your favourite romcoms; While You Were Sleeping, There's Something About Mary, Twilight or Love Actually. In fact, my first stalker (yes, I've had more than one) took a page out of this last movie when he stationed himself outside my job with a series of love messages written on cardboards. When a colleague gave me a ride to help me escape, he followed us in a cab, waited for me hidden outside my home and grabbed me as I tried to walk in, holding me in a suffocating embrace that he hoped would somehow ignite in me reciprocal feelings. Unnerving as that was, it didn't take long before he realized he was acting irrationally and gave up. I call that temporary insanity.
The second time I was stalked by an ex, he could see nothing wrong in his behaviour. After a year of relentless pursuing and begging interchanged with swearing and threats, I was forced to leave my job and rent a second flat, as my contract hadn't expired. I was soon broke. I only contacted the police once during that period; on a night when I received over 200 texts including murder threats. I had not called the police before because my ex was constantly threatening to kill himself and I was laden with guilt. I didn't know then that 62% of stalkers threaten to commit suicide to manipulate their victims into meeting them.
When registering with a GP in my new address, the nurse took one look at me and sent me straight in to see a doctor. At 7.5 stones, sleepless and shaking I must've made for a sorry sight. The doctor asked if I was thinking of killing myself and I said 'sometimes'. She gave me a prescription for antidepressants and a list of domestic violence services. I didn't want the pills and I already knew all about DV services; I work in the sector. My friend and anti-FGM campaigner Leyla Hussein, once told me 'abusers go on with their lives and leave you to cope with the shame.' Back then, I'd rather hide my shame than ask for help from the people I worked with. Instead, I asked if there was counseling, already knowing the answer. There was, if I managed to stay alive for the year-long wait.
Luckily, my ex gave up after I disappeared and all this now seems like a distant memory. That doesn't mean I didn't have to stop myself from breaking my screen after watching Animals. According to the government, 20% of women and 10% of men over 16 experience stalking. A third of victims lose their jobs, their relationships or are forced to move. A national study by the University of Leicester found that only 41% of stalking victims contacted the police. The types of harassment I experienced are very common; suicide threats, hacking, spying, persistent calls and texts, breaking in, threatening the person or their loved ones. Stalking also often leads to murder. Some 76% of women murdered by their ex partners were stalked in the lead up to their deaths.
I'm not here to lecture. There's probably no research linking music videos and romantic comedies to stalking; it'd be too difficult to control all the variables to prove a causation. However, such films and videos blatantly demonstrate how little we think of such a life-destroying crime. You may say that I, and everyone else slating Animals, are ruining your fun. But that's okay. Reality checks are important.
If you are affected by stalking you can call the National Stalking Helpline on 08088020300. If you are in immediate danger always call 999.