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Bringing stalking into the #MeToo conversations about gendered violence

Bringing stalking into the 'MeToo' conversation

Julie Lalonde is a long-time women's rights advocate and public educator whose work focuses on sexual and gendered violence. Two years ago, when a man she had been in a relationship with for a couple of years more than a decade before unexpectedly passed away, she was finally able to reveal that he had been stalking her that entire time. Scott Neigh interviews her about her work since then to bring stalking into broader conversations about gendered violence, in part through incorporating it more fully into her public education work, and in part through founding a new project specifically focused on stalking called Outside of the Shadows.

We are in a period of almost unprecedented mainstream discussion of gendered harassment and violence. Even before the new (and perhaps still-fragile) space opened by the #MeToo movement for at least some women to name their abusers, feminists in Canada had been building on the media firestorm in the wake of numerous women sharing their experiences with former CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi to create space for a relatively sophisticated and sustained public conversation about gendered power and the violence that mostly-men do to mostly women and trans people. And yet, for all of that attention and for all of that sophistication, today's guest argues that we have still had relatively little opportunity to talk about stalking.

Stalking captures a range of behaviours in which someone surveils, repeatedly contacts, and often intimidates or threatens someone else. In Canada, this behaviour gets read into the legal category of "criminal harassment," though as with so many other kinds of gendered violence, legal mechanisms do not have a great track record of keeping people safe. Though stalking can occur in many different contexts, most often it is done by men and targets women, who are most often former partners.

In the decade between the end of their relationship and when he passed away, Julie's abuser did pretty much everything that fits under the banner of stalking. He surveilled and harassed her, both online and offline. He followed her, he threatened her – he filled her life with fear. Her attempt to use the peace bond process to get protection from the legal system was a disaster. She felt unable to tell even many people close to her about what was going on. And she found that even in the context of the feminist anti-violence movement, there really wasn't a lot of space to talk about stalking, nor many resources to help her deal with it.

Now, along with the difficult personal work of healing, she has decided to put that lived experience to work in her professional and political activities. The initial phase of Outside of the Shadows is a short animated film that you can find on YouTube. Julie tells the story of her own experience, and offers practical tips both for people who are being stalked and for those who love and support them. It was funded by 87 individual donations, and was animated by Montreal artist Ambivalently Yours.

In light of the very positive response that the video has received, Julie has a number of next steps in mind. She and Ambivalently Yours are working on having the movie translated, producing shorter video clips about specific aspects of the topic, and making posters. They also hope to jointly do a workshop that combines their respective skills to provide a way for victims and survivors to process their experiences through art. And Julie is committed to opening up conversation about the root causes of stalking – from how aspects of dominant masculinity feed into stalking behaviours, to the ways that popular culture often normalizes and even romanticizes it, and much more. Ultimately, she dreams of founding an organization devoted to promoting the social, political, and legislative changes necessary to end stalking.

Image: Modified from an image from Pexels, under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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