Wed, Dec 20, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Addressing stalking cannot wait

With cases of obsessed lovers or stalkers turning violent a common item in news reports, it is flabbergasting that Taiwan still does not have anti-stalking legislation.

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法) and the Criminal Code treat stalking as an “incident” rather than repetitive and continuous behavior, punishable only by small fines. Restraining orders are only allowed when the victim has some kind of family or romantic relationship with the stalker, denying the option to victims of anonymous stalkers.

This issue has been brought up many times in the past, especially after a survey last year by the Ministry of Health and Welfare that showed that 5.2 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 74 have been stalked or harassed, but nothing has been done.

Tragedy struck again two weeks ago when a male university student surnamed Chen (陳) allegedly stabbed a female student he had been stalking for five years, reigniting the call for such laws to be enacted.

The need to enact anti-harassment and anti-stalking legislation is obvious, but it took another near-fatal incident to bring the issue to the public’s attention.

Deputy Minister of the Interior Hua Ching-chun (花敬群) has promised that a draft bill would be finalized in two months — and this time the public should watch closely to see if the government delivers.

Before the law is changed, other safeguards should be put in place to prevent similar cases getting out of hand. Reports show that the victim’s family had long been aware of Chen’s behavior, but why was nothing done about it for five years? Even after the victim reported the stalking to the police (he even stalked her into the police station), she and her family did not want to press charges, because they did not want Chen to have a police record.

Nothing presumably happened to Chen after that incident, as the police simply notified his parents to take him home. It seems there were many opportunities to do something, but nobody took the situation seriously.

Could the victim’s family have told the school or intervened earlier? Could Chen’s parents have sent him to counseling after learning of his disturbing behavior? What happened had little to do with whether Chen’s stalking was legal or not, especially since the victim declined to press charges.

Having proper laws to protect stalking victims is absolutely necessary, but providing or encouraging victims to seek early intervention before things get out of hand is just as important. Parents or school officials should be less dismissive when students seek help and not wait until tragedy strikes.

Legality aside, perhaps the way movies, television dramas and even pop songs portray “love” should be reviewed. Too often, obsessive, unrequited love is portrayed as “romantic,” and these shows often conclude with the “stalker” being rewarded. This gives the wrong message that persistence will work in any situation, regardless of how many times the victim says “no.”

Educating young people about boundaries and consent is increasingly important, especially considering recent events in Hollywood, and schools should take the opportunity to address the issue.

Although relationships are complicated and it is difficult to come up with an absolute doctrine to ensure proper behavior in all situations, a good start is making it clear that stalking is not acceptable and victims should seek help as soon as possible.

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