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My 15-Year-Old Son Was Stalked by a 55-Year-Old Woman

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I want to what kind of damage could happen to a child who was stalked nearly every day over a year and 4 months? There were six protection orders. What can I research? (From the USA)

My 15-Year-Old Son Was Stalked by a 55-Year-Old Woman

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A.

Just to make sure readers understand the seriousness of the issue you are raising let me begin with an explanation of stalking. Stalking is generally considered repeated, unwanted attention and contact that causes an individual to be fearful or concerned for their safety — or the safety of someone else. What is particularly troublesome is that in this situation the stalking is of a minor male by an adult female. The more typical scenario is that about 90 percent of stalkers are men. So, your situation is an unusual situation in a number of ways. I am saying this because the research and statistics give general guidelines that are used for women who are victims. For your son, I think you would want to have someone who knows not only about the effects on a victim, but also has significant experience with adolescence.

The key element (and often the focus of follow-up treatment) comes from being threatened directly or indirectly through family and friends. A very high percentage of stalking victims are terrorized physically. I am glad you secured protective orders for your son and would encourage readers with stalkers to do the same. Being threatened generates fear and anxiety and there often can be social consequences in addition to the emotional. The persistent aggravation and harassment can be wearing, and the fact that this was such an extended period of time of unwanted intrusiveness means there were more opportunities for negative psychological effects. Again, I want to say that what I’m reporting here is culled from literature that draws mainly from female victims in the mid-twenties to their mid-forties. While I believe they can apply to your son, I’ll emphasize my recommendation to have a therapist work with him that is familiar with adolescents. You don’t want to have normal teenage angst misinterpreted as a symptom of being victimized. Conversely, you want symptoms that come from being victimized to be adequately addressed for someone your son’s age. An adolescent therapist with experience will know the difference, whereas someone not familiar with your son’s age group may look at him more through the lens of being a victim.

Depression, anxiety, and vulnerability tend to top the list of reactions, which may linger after the stalking has ceased. What might be noticeable is a diminished joy and interest in activities, guilt and even shame about the situation. What comes from the literature that may be true for the age range woman that are often targeted is that family and friends can make things worse by suggesting their choice in ex partners (often the stalkers) makes them responsible. This takes a direct toll on the victims because their self-esteem goes down if they believe they are somehow responsible. My guess is that this wouldn’t apply to your son.

In the worst of incidents there can be sleep disturbances, isolation and symptoms of a post-traumatic reaction, including flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. Changes in eating habits, personality, and substance abuse can also follow the heightened anxiety.

I would look for any changes in your son such as shifts in his ability to focus and concentrate, a drop in grades, or low energy. These are often what a therapist would ask you and your son to become aware of.

The find help tab at the top of the page can help you find someone in your area who has experience with teenagers and can help him sort through his reactions.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

My 15-Year-Old Son Was Stalked by a 55-Year-Old Woman

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). My 15-Year-Old Son Was Stalked by a 55-Year-Old Woman. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/06/25/my-15-year-old-son-was-stalked-by-a-55-year-old-woman/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Jun 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Jun 2019
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