Trying to evade violent stalker, seeking feedback and advice
January 3, 2013 6:02 AM   Subscribe

A woman I'm seeing has an ex who was abusive, and is now back in her life and an active violent threat. Help us respond appropriately.

I'll try to keep it calm and concise...

I've been seeing W for a few months and she told me that she was in a relationship that became abusive and ended with police intervention, but it was in the past. Recently her ex came back into the picture by somehow talking his way into her flat and then assaulting her (thankfully this time no lasting injury resulted, but it easily could have, she was violently thrown to the floor before it ended). She called the police and got some kind of provisional restraining order, she is in the process of getting a permanent one right now. This is in Berlin, and W is a German citizen, while ex is an expat from another 1st world country.

Since she got the temporary restraining order, ex, who is educated, has a known name in his field and a reputation to maintain, has started harassing her digitally and publicly (example: WARNING - very much triggering, anonymized, sexually violent language here) and showing up at the homes of common friends who live too close to not run afoul of the restraining order. We think that the nature of these outbursts indicate that he is having some kind of psychotic break.

Ex is not aware that I exist, something that W made sure of because she thought my safety would be endangered if he knew of me. We've documented and reported every online outburst, and we're in the process of moving through the legal steps and considering pressing criminal charges to get him deported, but we're worried about what may happen before the legal system reacts.

We're getting W out of her apartment and into a sublet until this blows over, communicating the situation to every bystander we can think of that may also be in danger, and so on.

Things we're considering that I'd like to get some feedback on:
- Being armed with basic defensive stuff like pepperspray.
- Contacting all family and close friends of ex and asking them to intervene, because he seems mentally ill and if criminal proceedings actually go through, his life may be damaged. He has no real life to speak of in this country and we would ask them to try to get him back to his native country. We're not sure if this is a wise course of action because we think it may set him off even more.
- We're worried about any direct communication with ex (phone or email) because, although he should not be able to physically locate myself or W, he may lash out at the next best target. Then again, we would like to put him on notice and ask him to leave the country.

I think in the next month or so this problem can be solved within the legal system. But, we want to make sure that we do everything properly in the next few weeks before the legal system can react, so any feedback would be very welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a domestic violence liaison officer attached to the court or police station? Being Germany, I would think there should be. (Just because he's an ex, does not make it not domestic violence. Although, it's straight up violence now, there's usually more support for victims of domestic violence.)

Also....perhaps talk to a lawyer. I'm not a fan of that advice generally, I'm Austrailan and it's not a thing in our culture so much as it is in the US, but this is a true lawyer-advice area, to me.
posted by taff at 6:10 AM on January 3, 2013

Also, I would support your partner getting some counselling. She's sure to be very upset but it may have lasting PTSD-like ramifications if she doesn't get this sorted now. I'm so sorry for both of you. (And if he's having a psychotic episode, sorry for him too.)
posted by taff at 6:14 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

"we would like to put him on notice and ask him to leave the country"

Do NOT have any contact with this man. He is somewhere between deeply troubled and outright irrational and nothing you say to him will have amy effect. To be honest, I doubt anything anyone says to him will matter, but certainly not anything from either of you. There is no reasoning with someone like this so let the legal system -- and its considerably more authority -- handle this for you.
posted by _Mona_ at 6:29 AM on January 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

It's worth having/doing the following:

- A script. Well, several scripts, depending on where he is and where your partner is. E.g. if he calls, she reads out the script (e.g. I have a restraining order against you that prevents you doing this. After this call I will contact the Berlin police and report this incident. Do not contact me again.) The aim is both to stop her being perceived as a soft victim, to enable her to function when she is emotional, and to stop him getting an emotional reaction from her). Agree this script with either your lawyer or police liaison.
- Keep a diary, which it sounds like you are doing.
- Not being armed, unless you get clear guidance on how and when you may use defensive measures. The last thing you want is to see a clear situation of stalking and assault become complicated by counterclaims of aggression.
- I would not contact the ex's friends and family. If you do it, ideally have someone else do it, and only do it on the advice of a lawyer/police. It needs to be impersonal and ideally not from W.
- Don't ask him to leave the country. It's none of your business and unless officially sanctioned is just aggravating to him.
- Do not contact him.
- Go back and look at your personal routine re security. For example, do you frequent specific coffee shops etc. Are your friends broadcasting your whereabouts via social media. I'd personally suggest a hiatus from social media and looking at making it as hard as possible for him to find W by any means.

In his mind, I suspect, his behavior is justified because he is the victim. You need to work on W not being the apparent root of his problems by removing her from his personal narrative of victimhood and rejection. She does this by restricting any and all direct and indirect contact with him where possible.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:31 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

If W is employed and/or Ex is aware of other places she frequents, then make sure she is not followed: moving somewhere he doesn't know of is a great idea, but don't negate it by leading Ex there. If possible, don't go to her usual coffee shops, shopping venues, etc., and perhaps even avoid going to her families' homes --- try to avoid any and all places he can possibly find her. Don't let down your guard, and if at all possible, don't even let her friends & family know where she is living: what they don't know they can't accidently spill.
posted by easily confused at 6:32 AM on January 3, 2013

if he calls, she reads out the script...

No no no. There shouldn't be any contact -- in a scenario in which she accidentally answers a call from him, hanging up is the correct course of action, but ideally there's no way for her to be accidentally answering calls from him [etc]. Do not respond or engage at all. Any communication from her will encourage, not discourage. If he wanted a pleasant response from her instead of merely a response, he wouldn't be assaulting and insulting her.

Kind of you to think about damage to his career or similar but that's his worry; you and your partner have your own concerns here and his well-being isn't something you need to trouble yourselves with.
posted by kmennie at 6:39 AM on January 3, 2013 [25 favorites]

You already have a temporary restraining order. Use it. Every time he contacts her - including contact through a third party- you call the police and report it.

Don't talk to him. You already communicated "don't contact me and go away" by getting the restraining order, and there is nothing else you have to say. Whether he leaves you alone in the USA or moves to another country is beyond your control.

Your state law may vary but in the states I am familiar with violating an emergency protective order is a criminal offense and the severity of the offense escalates based on the number of violations. Eventually it's a felony. If you do this at some point he will stop, go to jail for a long time, or get mental health treatment.

By all means keep records and go to court and get the plenary protective order but once you get it you're going to have to use it the same way you would use the emergency order - by calling the police every single time he violates it.
posted by steinwald at 6:58 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Also: digital contact like Facebook, email, texts, etc. probably counts as a violation of the order. Contacting your mom probably counts. Contacting your neighbors probably counts. Every time he contacts her call the police. Even if it is trivial or not an explicit threat.
posted by steinwald at 7:04 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oops, I missed that you are in Germany. Please disregard everything I said if it conflicts with what your lawyer or the police have to say, since I am only familiar with US law and procedure.
posted by steinwald at 7:05 AM on January 3, 2013

- Being armed with basic defensive stuff like pepperspray.

You are in the EU. Carrying so much as a screwdriver for "defense" would be a violation of criminal code and will get you into trouble. In Germany, you may carry and use pepper spray as a defense against wild animals, but you may not carry or use pepper spray as a defense against people. The law is very clear: Putting a golf-club next to your bed - if the intention is to use it as a weapon against an intruder - would also get you into trouble.

In other words, you need to go to the police.
posted by three blind mice at 7:07 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

You are still in some sense acting like He is a reasonable person. "considering pressing criminal charges" "his life may be damaged"
No. He is a rabid dog who is capable of killing your girlfriend, the assault and written rantings are proof of that threat. Contact several victims groups to get advice, Persue all legal action without restraint and write up the best advice in a factual info sheet that you can give to HER friends so that they can protect themselves. His friends and family will likely protect him and see her as the threat so no contact is probably the best course of action.
Getting security cameras for both apt, car, and wearable on person would hopefully give evidence of physical contact.
posted by Sophont at 7:42 AM on January 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

Instead of pepper spray, I recommend a can of wasp spray kept near the door. This is not a portable solution, but will incapacitate any would be intruder.
posted by Sheppagus at 8:58 AM on January 3, 2013

I don't understand why he is not in jail right now for entering your girlfriend's apartment and assaulting her. Can you please clarify how/why this person is not in jail?

The solution is that you get this person arrested, convicted, and deported.

Stop playing games. Poster above has it, you're talking as though this person is still a reasonable human being, and this is NOT the case.

If your girlfriend is wary of "ruining" this man, then she needs a reality check, ASAP. Hoping things will work out won't solve the problem or save her life.

Yes. She needs a lawyer.

Stay safe.

(Oops. Just noticed you are anonymous. You can post follow-ups to questions via the mods.)
posted by jbenben at 9:11 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

W can call the BIG hotline 030 - 611 03 00 - she can remain anonymous if she likes. I would ask them if they recommend a new phone number & e-mail address for W.
Your goal here is no contact with the ex whatsoever.
Moving to a different apartment is good, think about other places that she frequents and her ex would know about. If she can not cut those out for a while, alert the people there to the situation so they are prepared if ex shows up.

Get her a key chain alarm.

It really helps to distance oneself from a situation where contact could be possible - for one for W's mental/emotional well being and second because most people tend to go by "out of sight, out of mind" so it is possible for an angry ex to calm down once there are no means to reach the ex-lover/victim. What I am trying to say: could W take a trip somewhere for a week or two?

Don't play it down, he crossed the line and it's on him to take responsibility (police/court/deportation), it's not your job to protect him. But don't contact or confront him either.
Stay safe.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend should take steps to make sure she isn't easy to follow or spot in a crowd.

An oversized winter coat in a popular color everyone is wearing, but in a style your GF would normally not wear, hats and sunglasses that shield her face.

She should be difficult to identify as she leaves her place of employment, a family member's home, etc.. It's easy to blend into a crowd and disappear in a big city in the winter, your GF can take advantage of the season to make herself difficult to follow.

Not to go overboard, but if your GF has a smartphone with a "locate my lost phone" app, and her ex has her current phone number, or has had physical access to this particular phone, then your GF should take steps to make sure her cell phone can't be used to track her. Pop out the battery and the sim chip. Use a pay-as-you go phone. She can probably contact her service provider to have calls and texts forwarded to her new temporary (permanent?) phone number.

I hope my first comment wasn't too harsh. If the ex was incarcerated for assault and successfully posted bail, then perhaps a lawyer working on your GF's behalf can get that bail revoked?

It's difficult to understand from the way your question is worded precisely where the situation is at. I'm worried this might be interfering with the quality of the advice you're getting. A lot of people here (sadly) have experience with harrassment and stalking, but the recent assault on your GF raises the stakes on this situation into Professional Advice Only territory. It seems thus far your GF has not contacted a lawyer or other resources that specialize in Domestic Violence, but hopefully others will pop in with Berlin-specific resources for you to follow up on.
posted by jbenben at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2013

Ex is an immediate and very real threat to your partner's safety and several other people as well. Screw his future, reputation, career. Are any of those things worth her safety? His mental state cannot be her concern any longer.

Every time he contacts her or anyone he shouldn't be contacting, contact the police immediately. Full stop. I support what others have said (repeated for emphasis): ANY contact, positive or negative, violent or otherwise, validates his choice to continue his threatening and violent behaviour.

If there is a delay in carrying out any of these steps for whatever reason, she should consider staying somewhere else while you are pursuing your various legal actions (your place since he doesn't know about you? Another friend he doesn't know about?), and she should avoid providing ANY information as to her whereabouts on social media such as Facebook. Come to think of it, there are steps she can take on most social media platforms to prevent him from contacting her or seeing any of her information. She should do that as should their mutual friends/contacts. If the two of you can't navigate the websites to do that yourselves, contact the site administrators and explain the situation.
posted by dry white toast at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a case for safety planning, from all angles, not for communication directly/indirectly or physical attack.

I know the U.S. system, not the German one, but would be surprised if the permanent restraining order process didn't include access to victim advocates who can give good advice about safety planning.

If she were in the U.S., I'd advise the following, which perhaps you can adopt to your environment:

1. Give a copy of the restraining order(s) and the ex's photo to everyone that might see him coming -- doormen, receptionists, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Ask them all to call the police immediately if they spot him. Do that yourselves, of course, at any contact. Do not engage -- contact the police.

2. W should change all passwords, locks, access codes, phone numbers, etc. If I were her I'd get off Facebook, and dramatically change my username/password at any other internet forum and for my email accounts.

3. It is great that W is moving. She should consider finding escorts for whenever she is going out, particularly in lonely locations, and also making sure people who care about her always know her itinerary and expected arrival time.

4. Consider checking any vehicle and electronic device to which ex had access for tracking software.

I.e., take this very, very seriously but don't try to handle it privately or on your own. Use your community to enhance W's safety.
posted by bearwife at 11:09 AM on January 3, 2013

Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear is often recommended on AskMe for situations like this, and I strongly encourage your girlfriend (and you) to read it. It is true that de Becker is writing from an American legal context, but the bulk of the book explains the thought processes of a stalker and offers non-country-specific practical advice for ensuring one's safety.

You can get it in translation if your girlfriend would be more comfortable reading it in German, or in English through

Best of luck to W and to you--wishing you both a safe resolution.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:22 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was going to recommend the Gift of Fear as well. Please do take this seriously; I've known women who said, "It was bad before, sure, but I never thought it would get this bad" after a serious attack. The likelihood that this will escalate is far greater than the likelihood that it will calm down. She needs to be hypervigilant until he is safely out of the country.
posted by RogueTech at 5:56 PM on January 3, 2013

Thirding The Gift of Fear. A lot of advice above will merely escalate things. De Becker explains very clearly why she should never, under any circumstances, respond to this guy at all, even to tell him to go away, because then he learns he just has to try five times, or twenty times, or one hundred twelve times to get a response, or he just has to say or threaten a particular thing to get a response. And things like asking him to leave the country could escalate the situation so that he feels he has to save face and has nothing left, and he could get in the frame of mind where, from his perspective, he feels like he HAS to hurt or kill her because he has been so wronged. You should never try to embarrass a stalker or take away things that are important to them.

As you've already seen, getting the restraining order escalated things. Restraining orders are something de Becker advises against in many situations for just that reason: they are a response, and they outrage people who already have emotional problems.

You have to be extremely careful here. I wouldn't make any more decisions without reading that book.
posted by Nattie at 6:54 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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