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Posted by on in Stalking


The Andover MA couples were once friendly neighbors, but then things took a terrible turn.   William and Gail Johnson lived near Jim and Bernadette Lyons. The Johnsons wanted to develop land they owned that lay behind Lyonses property.  The Lyonses objected, along with other neighbors.  Years of litigation did not resolve or improve the situatuion.

In 2008, the Johnsons began to harass the Lyones.  Here are some of the thihgs they did:


Offered a free golf cart on Craigslist, with the Lyones' address, posted by a friend.


Offered a motorcycle for sale on Craigslist, again with Lyones' address, again posted by a friend


Had their friend send anonymous email containing personal information, including their SSNs and the message "If you aren't miserable, I ain't happy!"


Tried to ruin their busioess.


Sent child protection state officials to Lyones' home to investigate a completely false charge that the Lyones were abusing their son.


Having advised over a thousand stalking victims over the years, I'm quite familiar with this crime.  These activities clearly fall under the stalking law or criminal harassment in Massachusetts.  The most common stalker/victim type is a current or former boyfriend or husband who is stalking the woman he wants to keep from leaving or wants to get back.  But a surprinsing number of stalking situations arise between people who are neighbors.  Neighbors, not co-workers or people who have some other kind of relationship. Neighbors.

It makes a certain amount of sense.  Neighbors can cause tension in many, many ways.  A nieghbor is someone you might not like, but can't easily get away from, and might have to see often.  Things that would be minor harassment, if only occasional, can become stalking if they are repeated. 

William Johnson was tried and convicted of criminal harassment, and sentenced to 18 months in jail.  Gail Johnson was also convicted of criminal harassment and sentenced to 6 months.

The Johnson's appealed their convictions, arguing that they had made no explicit threats, and that they had a constitutionally protected right to speech, even speech that their neighbor didn't like.

Freedom of speech is guaranted by our consitution, but it has limits.  We all know that you aren't permitted to yell a false "Fire!" in a public theatre.  But what about the Johnson's words, in email and on Craigslist?  How does the First Amendment apply, or not, to that?

Fortunately, the state's highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, let the convictions stand.  The court ruled that "the conduct in question was not protected speech but rather a hybrid of conduct and speech integral to the comission of a crime."

In other words, stalking is a crime that is carried out by both actions and words. Those words, being part and parcel of the crime, are not protected by the First Amendment.  No harasser can claim that they are exercising their First Amendment rights by saying words that are necessarily part of their crime.

If anyone you know in Massachusetts is being stalked or harassed, make sure they, the police and their proseutor understand that this ruling might help them get their harasser convicted.

More information about this case is available here.


Picture: Shutterstock/Robert Brown Stock



Tagged in: Stalking Women
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Posted by on in Stalking

stalking quiz

How much do you know about stalking?  In about 5 minutes, you can take this short (10 questions) Stalking Quiz.


You might have a situation with someone, and would like to know whether that is actually stalking or not.  A friend might have a situation, and need your help.  Maybe you are just curious to find out how much you know about this incredibly annoying, often frightening, and occasonally very dangerous crime.


Someone you don't know drives slowly past your home twice every evening for a week - is that stalking? What kinds of things do stalkers do?  Should you get a restraining order? Are stalkers usually under 21?   Mentally ill?  Strangers? 


Detailed information is available when you reveal the answers.  AWARE provides FREE services to people who might be the target of this crime.  We can help figure out what kind of stalker you have, and provide detailed, personalized  safety suggestions, whether or not your situation fits the legal definition of stalking.  Try the Stalking Quiz now.


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Posted by on in Stalking

Cover of Lasdun's book


The quick outline; James Lasdun (his real name) was a happily married college teacher of writing who had a promising student called Nasreen (not her real name).  After her graduation, they communicated by email, he trying to encourage her talent by reading her work, and helping her find an agent.  She developed the odd habit of sending him LOTS of email. such as copies of her correspondence with a lawyer she was consulting about a harassment case.  Eventually, Lasdun, family and professional obligations taking all of his time, started to distance himself from her by, without explanation, not responding to her email.  Possibly gradually descending into mental illness, she began to retaliate by sending email to his agent saying that he had stolen from her work.  An accusation of plagiarism is extremely serious for any person whose livelihood depends on their creative output.Accusations of misogyny and racism are awful when completely untrue.

Nasreen determined to ruin Lasdun, and began a program of denunciations and insinuations that he could not counter. She posted an accusatory review on Amazon, he eventually got it removed, but she moved on to other sites. Hateful accusations poured from her like lava from a volcano.

Given the number of books and blogs written by stalking victims, why is this book interesting and important?  First, most stalking victims are female, so a man’s experience is slightly different and worth understanding.  Second, Lasdum is an excellent writer who has taken his fiction skills and produced a book that is literary, not just autobiographical. His musings on the meaning and importance of one’s “reputation” will resonate with anyone who has had a friend pillory them, not just in person but on the internet where those awful words will remain forever.

He says, “I am a loser, a monster, a jerk, a slut, whatever, goes the logic of the despairing outcast; how can I ever hope to counteract something so vast, and if I can’t, how can I ever how my face again?  Spite has never had such an efficient instrument at its disposal.”  She edits his Wikipedia entry, just enough to discourage anyone who didn’t know him, but was trying to check him out there.  She sent email to the head of his academic department, accusing him of having an affair with another student, of being a racist, and of stealing her work.

When she had been at it for about a year, Lasdun started to fight back.  He actually talked to someone in the FBI, but got no real help.  He tried lawyers, who were clueless.  He tried a private security company and his school’s security department also unhelpful. Finally a detective in a police department in New York said she was committing a misdemeanor called “aggravated harassment”, but that because she had moved to California, expensive extradition was about of the question, but he would call her and tell her to desist.   He did, she didn’t.

Lasdun says, “Her obsession with me achieved perfect symmetry: I became just as obsessed with her.  I couldn’t write, read, play with my kids, listen to the news, do almost anything, without drifting off into morbid speculations about what new mischief she might be getting up to.”  He talks incessantly to other people about what he is going through.  He becomes easily angered, depressed, anxious, and sleepless

Nasreen found a website where one can put in one’s own email address together with comments and email addresses to send to.  She learned that she could put in Lasdun’s email address instead of her own, and thus send email to anyone purporting to have come from him.  In this way, she increased her harassment to start interfering in his relationship with his agent and other professionals. Finally, this was identity theft,

By the end of the book, there is an important trip to Israel, but no happy ending.  Nasreen is still stalking him.  He is getting better at preventing her attacks from affecting him and his profession, but knows she will always be out there, targeting him.

Not everyone likes this book.  One of the readers said this, on Amazon:

“In laborious detail, he describes his suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, and an incident where he yells at some unknown British tourist because he had left his coffee cup on a cafe table when leaving and Lasdun lost it because he was so stressed by the unceasing emails from the nut job. ...

I also find his complete passivity quite interesting. I can assure Mr. Lasdun and anyone else who cares to listen, that if some crazy woman were causing me as much grief as he claims to be suffering, I would have dealt with her lickety split and to my complete satisfaction.”

I’ve been consulting with stalking victims for many years now, and when I saw that comment I longed to tell that reader that he (or she) doesn’t know beans about stalking.  Not every  stalking victim gets PTSD or some of its symptoms, but many do - anguish, anxiety, sleep disturbance, depression, and temper outbursts can be part of that.

Lasdun wasn’t passive.  He did what experts suggest, not replying to the email, but monitoring its content to see if there are any changes in the stalker’s communications that might indicate a shift from verbosity toward dangerous action.  

Dealt with her lickety split,” indeed.  Just what would that have meant?  Lasdun reported his situation to the police, and the FBI.  Though stalking is illegal everywhere, getting law enforcement to act in an effetive way is usually impossible.  Law enforcement acts best when there is a clear threat.  For years, Nasreen never explicitly threatened, but cleverly undermined her target’s professional and personal lives.

If you want a how-to book about stopping a stalker, this isn’t for you, but is you are curious about what it is like to be the victim of a probably mentally ill woman who has all the resources of the Internet at her disposal, this can be a fascinating read.

Tagged in: Stalking
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Posted by on in Stalking

safety-for-stalking-victims-lynbatesI’ve always hated the cover of my book, Safety for Stalking Victims: How to Save Your Privacy, Your Sanity, and Your Life.  How the book came to have a picture of what looks like a woman falling though mid air, instead of something conveying the relentless fear and anxiety stalking victims experience -- well, that is just too long to explain in a blog post.  

I wrote the book because other books about stalking at that time focused on analyzing the types of stalkers, detailing the kinds of things they did, and offering some strategies that might, or might not, make them stop.  Very little addressed specifically the problem of safety.  How can one tell whether a particular stalking situation is truly dangerous, and if so, what can a person being stalked, usually a woman, do to protect herself?

Tagged in: Stalking Women
Hits: 5324

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