Stalking victim robbed of her peace of mind

SINGAPORE - All it takes is a familiar but unwanted face in the audience, and jazz musician Shirley will freeze in fear.

The 43-year-old - who declined to use her real name to protect her privacy - has been stalked by a female fan for the past seven years. The fan has often left cards and flowers after the guitarist's performances.

"The first three times were flattering, then it got creepy," she said. "I told my bandmates I didn't want to be photographed in posters, to minimise my stalker knowing when I was performing."

Although the stalker has never gone beyond the occasional love note, Shirley said it was "unnerving knowing you were always being watched".

Yet, apart from filing a police complaint in late 2007, Shirley has never taken action.

"What's the point? I don't know her full name, and the police won't investigate," she told The Straits Times last October.

But under proposed anti-harassment laws to be tabled next Monday, stalking would become an offence here - finally giving Shirley peace of mind.

Her stalker has been sporadic - appearing as frequently as every week, or every three months.

"The worst thing about having a stalker is that you never know when she'll be there," said Shirley, who moved home in 2011 partially to avoid seeing the stalker at her parents' house.

"She may be harmless now, but why should I have to wait for her to do something worse?"

If the laws are codified, Shirley said she will immediately take out a court protection order against her stalker.

"I never knew her name all these years, but I won't mind going up to her to find out if it means I know she can be out of my life," she said.

"I'm glad the Government's finally doing something about it. I was beginning to think I was making this a bigger deal than it was."

Under the proposed laws there are tougher sanctions for offenders, who can be jailed or ordered to seek treatment at the Institute of Mental Health.

The law may also help those who are being harassed to seek recourse.

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Zainal Sapari, who is no stranger to complaints of harassment between neighbours, said he will support the Bill.

"Previously, grassroots leaders could not do much besides calling down a mediator to settle things," he said.

"But if the law goes through, it will have more bite, and it'll warn people that real action can be taken against you."

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