Monday, October 27, 2008

In His Sights

Over the weekend I read In His Sights, a memoir by "Kate Brennan" about her life with a stalker. Here's the synopsis:
What if the man you'd loved for years vows, when you leave him, to destroy you? What if he transforms into a ruthless tormentor, stealing your freedom, undermining your sanity, and threatening your safety?

This is not a fictional scenario. It is Kate Brennan's life.

Kate is a well-respected writer and scholar, a highly independent woman with simple tastes and a complicated romantic past that leave her perfectly content with singlehood. So when she meets Paul—a wealthy, charismatic businessman with a great deal of free time—she's wary of getting involved. Eventually, though, his polished charm and relentless wooing win her over. Things move quickly, and it is only after the two have moved in together that Kate discovers the serial infidelity, the unbalanced psyche, and the sordid secrets lurking under the Mr. Right facade.

Kate lets Paul into her life with trepidation, and when she ends the relationship, she finds she can't get him out of it. With limitless resources, he dedicates himself to stalking her: he tracks her movements, arranges for people to break into her home, interferes with her work, and even relocates to her new neighborhood. His harassment lasts for more than a decade and, as Paul is still at large, it continues to turn Kate's life upside down today.

This visceral memoir not only lays bare the mind of a stalker, but also shows how a smart, successful woman can fall prey to a warped and powerful man who has the money and connections to keep her under his watchful eye. Both frightening and insightful, In His Sights is a gripping tale of one woman's descent into the dark side of love and how she has fought—and still struggles—to free herself.

This was a pretty good book, very engaging, but also very disturbing. While "Kate" is very careful about the names she uses for friends and family (they're all aliases, so as not to put others in danger) and the places she visits, if you're from Minnesota, you know she lives here and has all her life. She's also a writer, and sometimes a professor, so it makes me wonder if I could possibly know who she is in real life. [Side note: It's not lost on me that she could be throwing us off with a made up profession and location, just like her name, but I don't think that's the case.]

I can't imagine what she goes through every day, living with having a stalker. It's been nearly 15 years, and he's still stalking her. He gets her mail rerouted to him, he cuts her phones lines, cuts her power, has people follow her nearly every day, calls her family and friends, and moves into her neighborhood with his new wife. Sick.

Through the book I questioned why she was with him in the first place. He didn't seem like that good of a guy, but I believe that he probably could have charmed her into believing he was. He also ends up having lots of problems, is verbally abusive and cheats. Why does she continue to stay? It's that tendency women have when they see an injured man to try to make him better. To accept the apologies that come the next day. It's definitely in women's nature to be caretakers, even if they're not treated the best in the long run. You see it all the time all around you.

Once she finally does leave him, she waits for two years of the stalking before going to the police. Again, what? But when she describes how she felt that they wouldn't be able to help her and that they would think she was exaggerating, I can see her reluctance. Fortuanately when she does finally go to the police, they're gems. However, stalking is one of those crimes that's hard to prove and a majority of the time the police can't do one thing about it. The only reassurance they can give her (besides advice on how to stay safe and protect herself and help her with fake identities) is that if anything should happen to her, "he's the only suspect." Woo - what a relief (she writes sarcastically).

If you're looking for a quick read, that's engaging and true, In His Sights is definitely worth a read. Just be prepared to hurt for Kate.

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