Thankfully I've never knowingly been stalked. Yet. It remains a possibility. All women face it.
I've had something to say on this topic before - see my post Men who are fixated on 30 October 2011, which covered the Joanna Yeates/Vincent Tabak case in Bristol, and the chilling short story The Octopus Nest by Sophie Hannah.
I think I understand the situation well enough. Many (perhaps most) stalkers are clearly well-known to their victims: a jealous ex-husband, say, who keeps tabs on his former wife. That's bad enough, but at least the man's identity and address are known, and to some extent his actions can be anticipated and made subject to police intervention. The maverick unknown stranger is the one who creates the nightmare scenario.
Some man will fixate on a woman, and follow her to see what she does, and where she lives. Who she knows. Who's living with her. When she will be alone. If he is intelligent, the stalker will find out exactly what this woman's routine is, so that he can get on with his own life but still catch up with his victim whenever he wishes, turning up in the background at odd, disconnected times. He might be able to do this again and again for a long time, until one day the victim notices him, and then her terror will start to grow.
The feeling that one has been singled out, specially selected, and closely studied by an obsessed and presumably dangerous stranger is much more frightening than merely attracting some one-off casual attention. The very fact that she might be mistaken - because the stalker is not always there - is horribly unsettling. An alternation between feelings of fright and relief. The unpredictability of his appearances is part of the stalker's technique to reduce his victim to a state of utter distress. It isn't a demonstration of love, like Romeo turning up unexpectedly and serenading Juliet up there on the balcony. It's hate, the wish to play with the victim in a cat and mouse way, and then ultimately destroy her.
The foregoing reads like a film plot, but then whether real-life stalking follows this pattern or not, it is the pattern we all expect. These are the signs that we would recognise a stalker by, and how we'd discover what it is to be the victim.
There was a period, not so long ago, when I feared I might be stalked by someone from my pre-transition past. Someone who wanted to vent their impassioned anger on me, who might become obsessed with making my life hell. And I imagined the phone messages and letters that might go with this. And maybe waking up to find that paint had been daubed over my car or caravan. All to punish my perceived selfishness and 'teach me a lesson'. It didn't happen, but throughout 2009 I was nervous that it might.
And now, in a different life, I am as vulnerable as any woman. Maybe more so. There is something subtly 'different' about the faces of most trans women. I think men notice it, and some of them will be fascinated by it in a way that will push them into stalking. And of course the outcome for the trans woman, if and when the man shows himself to her, might be fatal.
So I think I'm justified in regarding myself as high-risk where stalkers are concerned, just as any trans woman is. And that far from being a preposterous waste of money, my use of Fiona to go everywhere, so that I can't be found waiting at a bus stop, can't be found waiting on a railway platform, and can't be followed on foot down dark streets on my way home at night, makes complete sense to me. Never mind the fuel cost and the expense of parking. It's the price of security. I can be tailed only to my car. It locks as soon as I'm aboard. My personal travel capsule. If anyone wants to follow me home, they must be prepared to do it at 80 miles per hour, because I drive fast to get well ahead of the pack, and I'd have no hesitation in calling the Police if I had the least suspicion that I was being chased.
But I can't be locked in my car or my house all the time. And although my personal radar is sharper than it ever has been in my life, I may at this very moment be subject to some man's surveillance. It could be a near neighbour, or just someone elsewhere in the village. Who knows.
Well, life is full of risks, and I refuse to worry unless I have clear evidence that I should. The new law on stalking, introduced today, will punish stalkers once detected and caught. But I'm not convinced that it will deter any. Since when did people with obsessions heed the law?