‘Relentless’ harassment not uncommon after wife leaves abusive relationship

WATERLOO REGION — The story of the Cambridge man who relentlessly stalked his former partner for years sounds more like thriller plot than reality.

But it is not uncommon for many women in our community to endure this kind of threatening and prolonged behavior after ending a relationship with an abusive partner.

“It’s not uncommon,” said Lisa Nice, outreach manager for Waterloo Region Women’s Crisis Services.

“It’s quite common when a woman leaves a relationship that the abuse doesn’t stop.”

Many people find experiences like this surprising when they come to light. They can’t believe “this is really happening, and it can be anyone in your life and you just don’t know,” Nice said.

“Because it’s shocking. You don’t expect people to behave that way. Unfortunately, in my experience, it’s not very shocking.

The agency’s outreach workers are helping the women develop a safety plan that tackles behavior like that of the Cambridge man who was sentenced to six months in prison for stalking a woman after the end of their one-year relationship.

“We want them to know that this is a very high risk period for them, so they have to be on their guard,” Nice said.

When creating a safety plan, a woman is encouraged to let other people know what is going on to help keep her safe, including family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

“The more people who know, the safer you are,” Nice said.

Women may be embarrassed by what is happening and not want to tell others about it, but agency staff try to make them understand that it is not their fault.

“You can’t control that,” Nice said.

It’s important to call the police if this behavior occurs – especially when a woman fears for her safety – and document everything for additional evidence, including text retention.

Two years is not unusual. Often the harassment continues after a woman moves on to another relationship, and then the new partner may also face harassment and threats.

“I don’t think there’s a timetable for the abuse to end,” Nice said.

She supported women bombarded with calls all day, 20-50 a day.

They may be followed by their former partner, who shows up at their place of work or when they are with friends or regularly passes by their new house or hides outside. There may be an app on the woman’s phone that she is unaware of that tracks her every move.

False accusations to emergency services or children’s services, as in the case of the Cambridge man who called 911 multiple times to make false reports, are not uncommon.

Extremely controlling behavior during the relationship is a red flag that will continue once the woman is gone. For example, the woman can be told to take a photo while out to prove her whereabouts, her credit cards are monitored, or the partner simply shows up at places uninvited.

“They may have controlled everything that goes on in this woman’s daily life,” Nice said. “They’re losing control and they’re trying to get it back.”

Women are advised to take precautions to protect themselves. These include changing locks as well as passwords on social media, email, and other apps.

Make a plan to leave the house if necessary in an emergency. Avoid fleeing to high-risk areas of the house, such as the kitchen where there are weapons or an upstairs bedroom where there is no easy exit.

Women’s Crisis Services offers assistance to women who are still in abusive situations or after they have left, including emergency shelters.

Often the women’s self-esteem has been shattered by the relationship, which Nice says doesn’t start out as abusive and controlling, but that behavior builds slowly. Often, men are nice and friendly to others, which can make it hard to believe the abuse that happens behind closed doors.

“These guys know what they’re doing. They are calculated and they are manipulative.

The Cambridge man described himself in court as a ‘normal, good person’ who made a mistake – a claim the judge countered after the 39-year-old pleaded guilty to nine counts in a Kitchener courtroom earlier this week.

“It wasn’t a momentary lapse in judgment,” Judge Pamela Borghesan told him. “It was a repeat behavior…and it was in some ways relentless.”

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