Rehabilitating stalkers poses tough challenges

Rehabilitating stalkers poses tough challenges

A former stalker said he had learned how to respect the women he had previously victimized after undergoing a psychological rehabilitation programme that is set to be widely introduced by nonprofit organisations and the National Police Agency.

With stalking cases hitting record highs for three consecutive years, psychological treatment for perpetrators has become more important. In many cases, stalkers have long kindled their unrequited emotions and obsessions with their victims before losing control.

To ultimately solve such problems, nonprofit organisations and the NPA are considering the launch of special programs aimed at the mental health and rehabilitation of stalkers. However, they face such challenges as the fact that they cannot force stalkers to attend such treatment programs.

But the programme is effective to some degree, said a former stalker during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

"I tried to put others completely under my control," a 49-year-old male company employee in Tokyo wrote in his notebook. "Wanting to be cared for and loved, I started to develop emotional attachments."

The man had repeatedly stalked several women for more than 20 years. But since last autumn, he has been enrolled in a rehabilitation programme for stalkers offered by Step, a nonprofit organisation based in Yokohama. The man documented his feelings in the notebook so that he could look at himself more objectively.

The man began stalking women in his late 20s. The first target was a former schoolmate, who had been his junior in high school. There were problems in their relationship, and he phoned her 20 times a day. In his early 30s, he was arrested on suspicion of carrying a knife when he met a woman for whom he harboured strong, unrequited feelings.

Last summer, he resolved to reform his behaviour after receiving a warning from the police over the fact that he had sent nearly 100 e-mails a day to an acquaintance. He discovered Step on the Internet and paid a visit.

In the rehabilitation programme, participants first learn the importance of listening to others and trusting them. Then, once a week, they talk about their feelings in groups of about 10 former stalkers. According to experts, their mindset can change from an egocentric one to one that allows them to respect other people as their distorted ways of thinking are gradually corrected.

The man attended a total of 52 sessions in the six months until February. "During the process of correcting my egocentric mindset, I writhed in discomfort and suffered hellish agony. However, I've gotten rid of my obsession. I think I can understand the pains of others now," the man said.

Kayomi Kurihara, who heads Step, said the man has gained the ability to control his feelings. The organisation said it has given counseling to about 200 perpetrators since April 2011 and about 80 per cent of them have reformed their behaviour.

Ending victimization

According the NPA, the number of stalking cases recognised by police in 2014 reached a record of 22,823. Of them, 14 cases escalated into murder or attempted murder.

Since last year, the NPA has been operating a treatment programme for stalkers on a trial basis. The agency has encouraged stalkers to whom it has sent warnings based on the Anti-Stalker Law to receive such treatment as counseling from medical specialists.

The NPA aims to officially launch the treatment programme in the future with an eye on co-operation with private organisations after studying the current programme's effectiveness.

However, the major hurdle is that police cannot force stalkers to undergo such treatment. A senior police officer said: "Many perpetrators are possessed by the idea that not they - but the other party - have a problem. They will not listen to police."

Moreover, stalking victims often hesitate to file complaints with police, as the perpetrators were once close to them, due to their former romantic relationships. The NPA has instructed prefectural police headquarters around the country to enhance the partnership between their consulting and investigative sections to accurately recognise stalking incidents.

In addition to such measures, the Metropolitan Police Department has focused on preventive measures against stalking, such as lending emergency signal transmitters equipped with global positioning systems to victims.

With the device, stalking victims are able to report their locations to police when they are in serious danger.


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