IN HIS SIGHTS by Kate Brennan
ďWas it cathartic?Ē Thatís the most frequent question I hear now that
Iíve finished writing In His Sights, the memoir which chronicles my
experience as a stalking victim. The eyes behind the query generally
share a common reflection: Theyíre looking for a yes.
I always disappoint. Though I take a few seconds each time to see if my
answer has changed, it remains no.
In one way, being stalked is like being abused or being raped. In the
aftermath, you are never the same. You never get over it. You may figure
out a way to live through it, to survive it. You may even figure out a
way to get on with your life, but you never drop your vigilance. You are
never purged of the memories and never again will you feel entirely
Somehow I knew that, so I didnít expect writing my story to be cathartic
Ė which, of course, begs an obvious question: Why write about the
experience Ė and relive each terror and trauma in every step of the
rewriting and editing Ė if it will not offer such relief?
In the moments, often stretching into days and weeks, when it would have
been easier to stop writing, to stop remembering, a single thought kept
me at my desk: Millions of people (mostly women) have lived, are living,
or will live a version of my story. And most of them, not professional
writers, do not have the ability to write their stories for publication.
I have had many advantages in life. I was born into a well-educated,
articulate family and I had parents who provided each of their children
with excellent educations, and helped and encouraged us to develop our
natural gifts Ė in my case, writing and researching. They imparted these
benefits with a single, clear dictum: Use the gifts youíve been given,
and not just for your own gain. Your work must matter in the world
outside your door.
When the pain of writing felt as if it would nearly destroy me, when it
felt more like drinking toxins than cleansing myself of them, I felt an
obligation to continue not just for myself, but for every woman who
cannot give voice to her own story.
Something else keeps women who are stalked silent. Though our stories
differ in the details, most of us walk around with the burden, heavier
than our fear and anger, of the shame we feel for being in such a
situation in the first place. Itís hard to shake the feeling that we
somehow brought this on ourselves, especially if weíre being stalked by
someone we once loved.
This, of course, prompts another obvious question: Why donít women leave
the minute they see the clues to a manís abusive and controlling
character? More often than not, the answer lies in personal history. A
family steeped in addiction made me vulnerable to a man such as this; my
(hard-won) resilient nature led me to believe I could help, even change
him. And because I met him at a time when he was faced with an
unfathomable family tragedy, the idea of giving up on him seemed beyond
Not all women are stalked by men they know, though most of us are. Not
all of us are left with an open-ended scenario, though most of us are,
since only an insignificant minority of stalkers is ever prosecuted or
convicted. Some women, like me, choose to live alone. Others go on to
have families, and children, which makes the threat and danger far
Whatever the specifics of our lives may be, our feelings of shame,
logical or not, are exacerbated each time friends, family members, or
legal authorities throw us a look or a comment that barely disguises (if
at all) the idea that we, the victims, are the crazy ones, that weíre
either exaggerating or imagining things. And if not that, they suggest
that we should be flattered by what they mistake for love or attraction.
Making matters even worse is every movie that either trivializes or
sensationalizes the crime of stalking, rather than revealing the trauma
of our every waking hour. Itís no wonder we tend to keep our stories to
In the end, what drove me to write In His Sights and kept me going was
my desire to speak, not only for myself, but for every stalking victim Ė
daughter or sister, mother or friend, stranger or neighbor Ė who stands
before me, beside me, and ahead of me, and who hasnít the means or the
confidence to publicly tell her story.
Curiously and surprisingly, deciding to break my own silence by writing
this book has turned out to be freeing, which isnít at all the same as
cathartic. Iím no longer held captive by the feeling that Iím harboring
a dirty little secret, the secret of being the target of a madman.
It is my hope that telling my story offers freedom to every woman with a
similar story of her own.
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