Get Real: Talking mental health & disability

The Impact of Stalking on Victim-Survivors with Nicole Madigan

July 26, 2023 The team at ermha365 Season 4 Episode 85
Get Real: Talking mental health & disability
The Impact of Stalking on Victim-Survivors with Nicole Madigan
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Our guest for this episode is Nicole Madigan. Nicole is a writer, author and investigative journalist. Nicole has written her first non-fiction book called Obsession, which is an investigation into stalking and the psychology behind stalking behaviours and the impact on victim-survivors.

Nicole was stalked for over three years. The relentless and debilitating experience wreaked havoc in her personal and professional life, leaving her trapped in a constant state of fear and anxiety.

ermha365 provides mental health and disability support for people in Victoria and the Northern Territory. Find out more about our services at our website.

Our Specialist Behaviour Support is mentioned in this episode. Our specialist practitioners are highly skilled professionals who have expertise in supporting people with complex needs.

If you have been affected by anything discussed in this episode you can contact:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
13 YARN on 13 92 76 (24/7 crisis support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples)

MORE INFO:
https://www.police.vic.gov.au/stalking (or go to the website of the Police service in your state).
Friends with Dignity - Nicole is a non-executive director of this charity that supports survivors of domestic violence.
SPARC (US-based) https://www.stalkingawareness.org/
Suzy Lamplugh Trust (UK) -
https://www.suzylamplugh.org/

CREDITS
Produced, hosted and edited by Emily Webb, ermha365 Advocacy and External Communications Advisor with Karenza Louis-Smith, CEO ermha365.
Follow ermha365 on social media:
FACEBOOK - @ermhaorg
TWITTER - @ermha365
INSTAGRAM - @ermha365

ermha365 acknowledges that our work in the community takes place on the Traditional Lands of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and therefore respectfully recognise their Elders, past and present, and the ongoing Custodianship of the Land and Water by all Members of these Communities.

We recognise people with lived experience who contribute to GET REAL podcast, and those who love, support and care for them. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution so that we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.

ermha365 team:

Get Real is recorded on the unseeded lands of the Boonarung and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge and pay our respects to their elders, past and present. We also acknowledge that the first peoples of Australia are the first storytellers, the first artists and the first creators of culture, and we celebrate their enduring connections to country, knowledge and stories.

ermha365 team:

Welcome to Get Real talking mental health and disability brought to you by the team at ERMHA 365.

Nicole Madigan:

Join our hosts, emily Webb and Karenza Louis-Smith, as we have frank and fearless conversations with special guests about all things mental health and complexity.

ermha365 team:

We recognise people with lived experience of mental ill health and disability, as well as their families and carers. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution to this podcast so we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.

Nicole Madigan:

I really genuinely just thought if we ignore it and don't give it any air, she'll just get bored of it and stop. That's truly what I thought, but obviously that didn't happen. You know, the longer something goes on, ironically, the less I felt I could talk about it with people, because it was just becoming bigger and bigger and felt more humiliating and horrible.

Emily Webb:

Welcome to Get Real talking. Mental health and disability. I'm Emily Webb and I'm joined by ERMHA 365 CEO and co-host, karenza Louis-Smith. Hi Karenza. Our guest for this episode is Nicole Madigan. Nicole is a writer, author and investigative journalist, and her work appears in publications including Daily Telegraph, the Age Herald, sun, women's Agenda, mamma Mia, kids pot, and that's just to name a few.

Emily Webb:

Nicole, who is based in Brisbane, has written her first non-fiction book, called Obsession, which is an investigation into stalking, and Nicole's living experience as a victim survivor is the entry point for this examination of the psychology behind stalking behaviours and the impact on victim survivors. According to the Victorian Law Reform Commission's report on the state's response to stalking, harassment and similar conduct, stalking affects at least one in six women and around one in 15 men in Australia. These statistics are for non-family violence stalking and mean stalking by a person outside of family violence context, for example, stalking by an acquaintance, colleague, neighbour or even someone unknown. Stalking behaviour is also prevalent in family violence and the perpetrators are generally known to the victim and very often it's an ex-partner. Anyone can be a victim of stalking, regardless of age, occupation, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Emily Webb:

And, before we launch into our conversation, if you are affected by anything discussed in this episode, you can reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14. We'll have details in the show notes of other support organisations that relate to what we're talking about in this episode. Welcome, nicole. We're really honoured that you're a guest on Get Real podcast.

Nicole Madigan:

Thank you, thanks for having me.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

Hey, nicole, as Em said, we've both read your book Obsession and the subtitle Power, fixation and Control, and it's a really unique book because it actually describes your own personal experience and encounter of stalking and then I think you've used that to draw on then really interesting read about the different types of stalkers. And you know, some of the things that blew me away in the book were some of the statistics that Emily talked about. Like you know, 20% of people in Australia are going to somehow experience stalking in their lives, and that blew me away. And what was, I think, really surprising for me about your story and even though I've worked in the mental health sector, that your stalker, who harassed you for more than three years, was someone you didn't know, someone you hadn't met, and it was another woman as well. And I guess I think probably when we think about stalking you know, when we think about movies and the way it's portrayed, we think about the stalker as a man it's usually stalking a woman. It was really different.

Nicole Madigan:

So it makes sense that you would think that, because, in actual fact, the vast majority of stalking perpetrators are men. So, statistic wise, it's about 90% of stalkers are men and 90% of victims are women. Experts would suggest that figures probably more like 80%, just because of those gender stereotypes that prevent men from reporting crimes and that tendency to take female perpetrators a little bit less seriously. So definitely male stalkers are more common, and that's possibly why it took me basically that entire three years until a charge was laid, for me to even label what was happening to me as stalking. And that's really what then drove me to look into it a little bit further, because it certainly wasn't what I would have perceived as stalking or a stalker. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, and I guess that's what makes you question yourself the whole time, in a similar way to coercive control, I suppose, in that it's difficult to recognise and reconcile with the way you're feeling about it.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

I think that's true, and we use the word stalking in throwaway terms, don't we? Oh, I stalked you on Facebook. I've seen all the things that you've been doing this weekend Wow, you know it's the way that we use some of that language. But your story began when you started a new relationship and I suppose the impact that that had on the person that then went on to become your stalker, the person that would pursue you for three years, that would invade your life in so many ways. How comfortable are you to share some of that story on the podcast today?

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, so you're right. This all sort of started a few months into a new relationship for me. It was a, you know, I was in my late 30s, I'd been through a divorce, so it was a later in life relationship, I suppose. So I started getting messages from this person probably about four or five months into the relationship, and it was about that time, I suppose, that people started to know about it. I guess we might have posted a couple of photos or things like that. You know, we both had children, so it was something we were just doing in private, and that's how it started.

Nicole Madigan:

And this was a person that had previously dated my partner and it seemed at that time, just simply wasn't happy that he was dating somebody else. It wasn't something I'd ever experienced before, and as a 30-something year old woman just new to the dating world, having been married a really long time, you know, I met my ex-husband when I was 18. So it's a new world for me. So my initial thought was ooh, you know, I guess possibly this is. Is this part of the lifestyle that I'm about to enter into? I certainly hope not, but who knows?

Nicole Madigan:

And so at that point it wasn't really something scary, it was just something really awful and sort of horrible and really vulgar and something I wasn't used to, but it just sort of made me upset more than scared. But it wasn't long before that sort of changed, because she very quickly made contact with my ex-husband. She tracked him down in some way, and my mum as well, and ultimately made a fake account in my name, which is what prompted my first call to the police. And then things evolved and changed over time. So what began as what seemed like a sort of a jealous person looking for attention evolved into this sort of full-blown fixation that was really just focused on me and not my partner at all.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

In the end, and I think what was really interesting when I read your book is where you described how it started, like it was things that were happening, it was posts that were being made, it was comments, all those things like what's going on and what's happening, but that kind of sense of not downplaying it but not necessarily knowing what to do with it. What is this really? And your thoughts in the book, because I can deal with this myself. I don't need that side help. Perhaps if we just ignore this person, it'll go away, it will vanish. Can you talk to us a bit about that too?

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, so in that first six months until the police were called the first time, my partner probably was more pushing to either say something to her or to someone else or try to take some action, but I guess naively at that point in time it really did seem to me like the purpose of the interactions and the contact was to get attention. That's probably obviously it's putting it too simplistically now, but that's what it felt like at the time and although it was really uncomfortable and unpleasant, I really genuinely just thought if we ignore it and don't give it any air, she'll just get bored of it and stop. That's truly what I thought. But obviously that didn't happen.

Nicole Madigan:

You know, the longer something goes on, ironically, the less I felt I could talk about it with people because it was just becoming bigger and bigger and felt more humiliating and horrible. But obviously that's a mistake because you then sort of feel trapped within what's going on around you, because you have kept it to yourself, if that makes sense. So yeah, look, I did try that ignore it and it will go away. Approach throughout the whole time. Three times I called police, but in between those times I did very little else to deal with it and just hoped that it would stop.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, I found that interesting too, because there's that thought if you don't give anything oxygen, it dies off. But then, as readers will discover in the book, for some personalities or some of the psychological profiles of people who are stalkers that can keep them going, it's just really hard to predict. We focus on living experience of mental health in this podcast and as well as the actual criminal behaviour because stalking is a crime of the people who do these behaviours, the mental health impacts on victim survivors is massive and you do talk about that. You're a mama, partner, journalist. Every area of your life was affected and that's something that Karenza and I both were talking about prior to recording. So what were some of the impacts for your mental health? It seemed to be quite dramatic the impact on your life, and I can imagine as well I would have reacted in the same way, like I could feel it when I was reading the book.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, it really did. And the mental health impacts, I guess, are really multifaceted because they come from a few different angles. And then it's exacerbated because in my case and with a few of the people I spoke to, I felt that those reactions that I was having were too much and I felt like I was overreacting. So I was trying to swallow those impacts up all of the time, which only served to make them bigger. So I guess the first thing, the first impact, is that is just straight up fear, because you don't know where this is coming from, when it's going to come next, what it's going to be. So you almost don't know what you're fearing, what the fear is. You don't know what the fear is, but it's there.

Nicole Madigan:

And in this particular case, the ongoing theme was that something was about to happen all the time, like something was about to happen to blow up my life even further. So I was always waiting. Then, of course, there's just the simple knowledge that somebody is that fixated on you and dedicating so much time to causing destruction that it's a very, very disconcerting feeling and you don't know what lengths they're going to go to. And the longer that goes on, the more scary it becomes, because that's someone who's dedicating quite a lot of time to you. Then I suppose there's the ripple effect of that, which is one in my case where there's a lot of personal attacks as part of the stalking. It's really quite difficult to separate yourself from that. You know that you should, but when you hear the same sort of insults over and over and over again, you do start to question yourself and look at those things and it can have quite an impact and I felt ashamed about that. I felt like it shouldn't be impacting me but it did.

Nicole Madigan:

And then of course there's the strain on relationships, because this sort of thing for me it sort of created a heightened state of awareness, an increase in anxiety and paranoia. So there were moments when I was a bit on edge and there were moments where I was a lot on edge. So that could have an impact too. And of course you do need sometimes need someone to project those feelings onto, and the only person there to deal with that was my partner, so that can have an impact as well. I also talk about in the book. One of the surprise emotional responses from me were just some moments of really big moments of anger and rage, and I think those type of feelings are really hard to come to terms with and admit to and talk about, but they can be quite consuming when you've got nowhere to direct it. So you know, with all those things combined it has a big impact on your mental health, and that's made worse when you think it shouldn't be having that big an impact. That was a long answer. No, no, no.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

What I got from the book as well was this went for three years, like you said, that this isn't, something happens for three weeks, three months. This is three years of your life. That sense, I think, of constantly looking over your shoulder and how so much of this played out as well on social media too, and how that's open to everyone to see. And there's some really powerful things that you wrote, I think, in your victim impact statement and you talk in the book. You say extreme anxiety.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

During this time, I experienced extreme anxiety, resulting in pacing, skin picking and headaches. I was at times unable to focus and it felt as though I was always waiting for the next message or contact and the inevitable fallout that would result. That was your life for three years, and I'm from a woman and we wouldn't expect a woman to do that to another woman. Like you say, 90% a male. How do other people see and perceive that? Do they say you know, get on with it, you're going to be okay, I'll forget in the sex, it's just on social media, all those thoughts that you have in your head and we don't have any control over how other people behave.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

And you had no idea as well, I think and I took this from what you've written too that when you do decide, right, I'm going to go to the police the first time, second time, you know, and keep going, and how this person's going to react. Is this going to blow things up, you know? Is it going to calm things down? All of those things must be quite frightening. And I think what I took from the book, and I'm curious, I wonder, when I've read what you've written, whether or not you feel that you get pulled into this person's world. You know, and this person wants to be important to you, because what you're thinking about is this person and what they're doing next and what are they thinking next. And you're not living your life anymore. This person's become the most important person at the moment, for all the wrong reasons in your world. That's what I took and I was really curious as to that. That's what it felt like for you.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, it did, and that then sort of exacerbates the shame that you're already feeling. So I guess the way I described it in some ways you know that person's obsession with you then becomes your obsession with them, because you're waiting all the time. And when I spoke to a couple of the stalking experts, one of them in particular sort of described it as you almost developed this sort of relationship with the person who's stalking you even though you don't want it, and they create a situation so that even when they're not there, they are there. So they're there all the time, and the longer it goes on and the more clever they are with the way they can communicate with you and the language that's established between the two of you over that time it's easier for them to do and the less they have to do to have an impact.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

What I think is really interesting about that is like knowledge is power today, right, isn't it? So at that time, I'm guessing you hadn't spoken to some stalking experts, hadn't really understood these things. It's only going through this and then talking later to actually see that yourself. I think that's what's really powerful in this book, where you actually go on and you describe the different types of stalkers, stalking behaviours, things that people do, how they act and behave. But yeah, it was fascinating.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

It was really disturbing too and you touched on this as well that your stalker then tried to form or formed relationships with key people in your life. I said tried with your mum, and obviously your mum was like not going to have a bar of this and had your back all the way, but your ex-husband it was actually quite different and was able to kind of go in and have that connection. But then there's that connection as well your mum to your children too, and to me that feels like I'm building fear. I'm building this sense of fear. I'm untouchable. There's no one that I cannot get to and reach in this, and that would have been. I don't know how I would have been able to sit with that. That would have been very, very, very hard to sit with.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, it was, and for a couple of different reasons I think. The first one is for the reasons you're saying. You know that person's making it really, really clear that they will openly and boldly, in their own name, contact people in your life. To what end, who knows? And I guess and that was always the million dollar question she often used language like you know we will reveal all soon and as though something was about to happen all of the time and I never knew who she was going to contact or what she was going to say or what she was going to do.

Nicole Madigan:

The second thing is the intent behind it. So some of the things she might say or do in connection with the people around me, if you were describing that to someone, they might say you know, it might almost seem funny to somebody else, but to me, the intent behind what she was doing was to have a genuinely negative impact on my life, to cause a genuine harm and destruction, and that was the concerning factor to me. This person has developed such a hatred or so much anger towards me, a person she does not know, that she is willing to make actual, genuine impacts, negative impacts to my life, and and that Framed me the most- and I think that's interesting as it is the psychological damage and the psychological harm and really you know in reading what she was doing.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

It was absolutely all about that being able to demonstrate that you know and being able to have the evidence that actually shows that you know. The way you describe that and the book was actually quite difficult and quite hard and it was only, I think, because you had the foresight to actually screenshot and capture and begin to build this, I guess, portfolio of evidence that actually this is happening to me, this is real, these are the things that she's she's doing and and you know. Then being able to demonstrate and show that because she went to the police more than you have to go to the police more than once To actually get some traction in terms of what you were doing.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah so. So I went three times. The first time was sort of after that first six months and when the fake profile was made and their suggestion at that time was to not do anything formal Because it might escalate the situation, which we hear often and sometimes it does. So that it's not. It's not an Untrue statement to make, but it also does leave you in the position of doing nothing and being left to deal with it on your own. They suggested writing her a formal email to say cease contact with us or we will take legal action. We did do that and things stopped for about five months. We thought that had worked, but things started back up and really intensified and from that point on the focus shifted purely just to me.

Nicole Madigan:

A Couple of months after that, quite soon, I called the police again because the contact was through telephone. So I thought that that may help in terms of the police being able to quickly or easily Check who that was. I didn't get much response that time either. The police officer just sort of said you know, that's not enough, that's not a reason enough for us to investigate these numbers. So keep a diary and if you feel unsafe, call triple zero, which for me at that time. They might as well have just said you're on your own, there's nothing we can do. So I sort of went about. I sort of made a decision then that I'm going to have to deal with this on my own and just try to shut it out, and I did my best to do that.

Nicole Madigan:

Things escalated then and went quite public. So Instagram became sort of the main method of contact a public account tagging me in her own name and and increasingly Personal, and over time the risk of me being identified was was increasing at all times. So it was after she posted our address online and some other personal information that I contacted police for the third time. So this is about three years in and that's when I got some traction. But it did require, as you say, a lot of work in terms of Building my own case, really, and providing all that Evidence which I I did have, but which I found out since that a lot of people don't have, because people have a tendency to Get rid of unpleasant things because they're not foreseeing it lasting so long and her and needing it down the track or because they're so Ashamed or embarrassed by what's written.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

They want it gone. They'll just delete it. They'll get rid of it. They don't want others to see it. I've been this really powerful narrative and part of the book. And certainly when you begin to explore Beyond your own story, then the impact that it has on other people and starting to delve more into other people's stories so you can see the patterns, can't you that there's sort of the shame and the fear Wish you underground because it's abuse. This is all abusive behavior and abuse, you know, thrives on fear and silence. Right? I think writing this book, you know, shines a real spotlight. You know, you said before we came on we don't talk about this, we don't have these conversations. I'm curious that when you started to go and do your own research and talk to people, did you find themes that were similar to your experience in all of the conversations that you had?

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, absolutely. And the biggest one, I think, is Minimising your own experience. So so, even when I put a call out to people who had had experienced this, several people, when they approached me, would say like I'm not sure if this is serious enough or I'm not sure if this is really what you mean, a sort of a disclaimer at the beginning. But in every case it was a terrible, horrible ordeal that those people were going through. But I think it's not just ourselves that do it. I think it's it's for good reason and that's because there is there isn't a lot of talk about this type of abuse. And when it is spoken about, it's, it's often spoken about in in a really trivial way, almost a joking sort of a way. And I think if you dip your toe in and you start to tell someone and they start to make a bit of a joke or it's a bit funny, and in my case you're talking about a female on a female, which lends itself to all kinds of Bunny boiler jokes and and that sort of thing you then sort of laugh it off yourself and Stop talking about it, and and that's what I did, and I think you know that's what a lot of people were experiencing. People were either telling them just don't look, just get off social media, ignore it, or laughing about it, you know. So people then withdraw and and are left to deal with it themselves.

Nicole Madigan:

Then obviously there's the experiences of contacting police and and the difficulty in Improving what you've gone through, even if you do get a sympathetic police officer. It's then a quite a challenge to to prove what's happening, and I think there's a lot of work to be done there. But I think it can be done in a similar way to what what we've experienced with coercive control over the last few years, whereas probably a few years ago there's just no way a woman would be able to get help because of Coercive control, because it's really a series of of individual behaviors. It's not illegal to be nasty to someone and it's not illegal to, you know, try to tell somebody what to do. You know on their own they can seem very trivial, but we know now that you know it's a pattern of control over time and stalking works the same way, but you know it's it's not always in a domestic violence context and that complicates things a little bit further.

Emily Webb:

You know, you've referred to a few pop cultural references in the book Fredo attraction bunny boiler, that have kind of made it a joke. But also you do talk about some really significant cases and I can remember the one, the young actress from an American sitcom who was on the cusp of going into movies and an obsessed Stalker actually killed her and I remember reading that going God you know. And of course, john Lennon's murder. There are, there are cases of it and I guess the thing is the lack of, as well, control that you have over other people's behavior, because you know, yeah, we can only control ourselves, but for you life spun out of control and you don't know what this person's like. If they, you know, sometimes I guess you can say, oh well, maybe some people who do this have mental ill health, which is true, isn't it, carinza? We do work at Irma with specialist support behavior for people who have, you know, behaviors that are problematic or can be harmful. But then there's yeah, it's a, it's a, it's a broad brush really.

Emily Webb:

What do you think needs to change with the way Stalking is viewed and dealt with? Because you've had the experience of police and the legal system and readers will find that out. You detail all that in the book and your complete victim impact statement is in there and it was very powerful and you know there have been things that have changed. Stalking is a crime in. Is it all states now? Most states? I think yeah, yeah, yeah, but there's still more work to do, as you said. So what do you think needs to shift?

Nicole Madigan:

I think there's two key issues, and the first one is Community attitudes and the ripple effect of those attitudes. So until we look at stalking as a crime to be taken seriously, and whether that's to do with the actions themselves or the language used because that the word stalking has kind of been hijacked a little bit to mean Something fun to do with your friends, new boyfriend or something like that so I think the way we use language needs to change, but also the way we look at the crime and the impact of that crime. And until those attitudes change, it's going to be difficult to get anywhere, because there's a ripple effect on that, the first one being people minimize their own experience. If they even recognize their experience to begin with, they're less likely to talk about it with people. If they do, those people are more likely to dismiss it, which then reduces the chances of that person going to police and therefore the cycle continues. We can see evidence of that by the fact that a lot of stalking perpetrators do it out in the open. They're not even trying to hide. The person who stalked me very openly did it in her own name and seemed to go to great lengths to let me know she was doing it. There's no fear there and I think that's largely to do with attitudes towards it.

Nicole Madigan:

The second thing I think, and the reason I think this is more through my research and speaking to one expert in particular who was instrumental in changing the response to stalking over in the Netherlands, and that's the police understanding of and response to stalking, again similar to the work that's been done with coercive control. But I think over in the Netherlands there are systems put in place so that police can start to recognize patterns of behavior, because of course that's what stalking is, and often the first time someone goes to police they don't go in and say, oh, I'm being stalked. They might say this person is sending me messages that I don't like, or this person keeps turning up at my workplace, or they keep sending me gifts. In my case, when I went the second time, I'm getting these ominous text messages and that's not quite enough to do anything. But if police were able to register and recognize pattern, they would be able to put a stop to some of these things before they escalate and get out of hand. I think attitudes and police training and resources.

Emily Webb:

Because often you'll read stories and you detail. Somewhere there have been opportunities for intervention when a victim survivor has gone to police and said I'm really worried about this and it gets fobbed off. And it's also like if someone keeps getting sent gifts or flowers at the office since you don't want it, you feel it's really sinister and scary. But people go, oh my God, I wish I got sent flowers. What are you complaining about? I was just thinking about that when you spoke about that. But yeah, and another thing you raised you're a journalist. You know about information and about keeping track of things and this rocked your world. So how do people who don't have those resources do it?

Emily Webb:

I worked as a journalist for a lot of years on a local newspaper and you get calls from people going I'm going to sue you for defamation, and you know you're in the right and those kind of terms you said all will be revealed. It's that language of when you're in it you don't recognize it, but that's like it's that language of people who don't know what they're talking about half the time or it's empty threats. But for you you're like, oh my God, so scared. But it's only when you've got time to step out and sort of recognize that. So people who don't have English as a first language, who don't have support, who don't have the resources that you had to know. Right, I'm going to keep a track of this. That's what I found disturbing too. So I'm wondering if there's more resources where there's almost a step by step of how to do things and you do explain in your book really good tips for how to deal with it.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, and I think that's something that's lacking here. So you know, in Australia we don't have any charity or support service that's dedicated to stalking per se. You know, maybe within under the umbrella of domestic violence, yes, but not stalking per se. There's no helpline, there isn't anything like that. And again, you know, when you go to police I mean I wasn't given any specific advice of what to do or how to monitor it just to call triple O if something goes wrong.

Emily Webb:

I can find a stalking helpline to put in the show notes.

Nicole Madigan:

Because there is none. You know there isn't anything here, and I think that's part of the problem. And you're right, you know I did keep a record of everything. I don't really know why, but possibly, as you say, it's just because of because I work in journalism and I'm used to the need to keep things like that for future reference. But I did do that. I don't think everyone would do that, but it wasn't just that either. You know, my victim impact statement had a huge impact on the judge, and my being there on that day made a big impact too, because she chose to ask me additional questions even though I wasn't really part of the case.

Nicole Madigan:

You know it's the police against the perpetrator. Not everyone is able to articulate themselves in that way, as you said, if your first language is not English or your literary skills are not. You know, there the other complicating factor was over time, when people are stalking, as we talked about before, that you develop this kind of relationship in almost a language, so they will start to use terms of phrase that only you and they understand, so they're able to send messages that are more discreet publicly, but they're very clear to you, and so I had the really kind of overwhelming and humiliating task given to me by the police officer to try to piece together why nickname A and nickname B meant me. So you know I had to go right back to the beginning and find the messages that were directly saying those things about me and then form the connection which is. It's not an easy thing to do, just from a practical perspective, and it's also very unpleasant.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, I really got that sense.

Nicole Madigan:

You know that's a difficult thing and, to be honest, in the end the third party witness statement that I ended up getting also made a big difference, so that's a lot of pieces of good fortune, if you want to call it that, that led to that outcome for me, which I think wouldn't often be the case.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, and when you mentioned I actually I honestly thought there would be something in Australia. I follow you know, karenza Susie Lampler, who went missing. How do you pronounce her?

Karenza Louis-Smith:

Cernay Susie Lampler.

Emily Webb:

She was the real estate agent, yeah, and the United Kingdom and there's a trust in the UK that her family run it. It is directed, I think, workplaces making things safer, but a lot about stalking. And I was thinking, yeah, there's stuff in the UK and obviously, yeah, there's several, yeah, and I thought, wow, I'm actually really surprised that there's nothing in Australia.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, yeah, so was I. Yeah, I was quite surprised to absolutely nothing at all, and there's a couple of really really good ones in the UK.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

This is a key point, isn't it? When this is happening to you, where do you go? Who do you turn to? Where's the support? You know who is the person that's. You know what if you are not in a relationship? What if you don't have a partner? And you were lucky you had a partner. He understood you shared this together. You know this was a journey that you went on. Eventually, finally, you found a police officer who not only listened and was sympathetic, believed. You then went on and said we're actually going to go and charge this person as well. So you know, you found the magic bullet, if you like, kind of, at the end to solve this. But it's like where do you go? What support or help did you were you able to find in that time and in that, in that three years of, I think, what you described, as you know, hell, for want of a better word that all of that, yeah, what were the things that helped you get by and helped you help you deal with some of that?

Nicole Madigan:

Well, it was tricky because you know I wouldn't want I wouldn't advise anyone to follow the steps that I took throughout those three years because until I got that validation I wasn't applying any of the advice that I was probably writing about a lot when I was writing about domestic violence and coercive control, and I'm very aware of the importance of telling people things and sharing stories, and yet I did not do that and that's probably because I wasn't putting it in a box of anything specific. Oftentimes I felt confused as to whether I was overreacting and then other times I thought am I underreacting? Am I something? Could something quite dangerous be around the corner?

Nicole Madigan:

So you know, my mum was another person. I spoke to a lot about this and I got a lot of support from her in different ways. You know I was able to sometimes, you know, apply a bit of dark humor with her and we sometimes tried to have a laugh at some of the things that were happening as a way to kind of lighten it up a little bit. And other times, you know, I was able to just express my feelings.

Nicole Madigan:

But I don't think you know, I ever really openly described just how big an impact it was having on me Because, to put it really simply, and it sounds silly, almost to say, I was just so humiliated by the entire thing that it was happening and that I was letting it impact me.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

That doesn't sound silly at all. It doesn't sound silly.

Nicole Madigan:

And look, and since I've released the book, it's you know, it's one of those things, isn't it? There's, there's strength in numbers and that it's heartening to have a community. So the more people I spoke to, the more I felt normal to use a, to use a really simplistic word that it was. It was a normal reaction to feel these things when you're experiencing this, and that's why I thought it was important to put my own story and put it in really openly and honestly, including all the things that I found humiliating and probably hadn't disclosed quite well to anyone before. Even my husband my now husband said when he read it you know he's, he's discovering little bits and pieces that he hadn't quite realized in himself. You know so. But I think that's important because the more you sort of hear other people sharing those stories, the more you do feel like I'm not crazy and I'm not ridiculous and I shouldn't have to put up with this.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

And that's. That's a powerful thing. I'm not crazy, I'm not going crazy. This is really happening and this isn't OK and this is impacting my life. I imagine it was very powerful. In the second part of the book, where you start, you said you put out the call, you start to talk to other people about their experiences. You then capture that in this in your book, not just your experience, but the experience of others. Was it cathartic to do that for you?

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, it really was. It really was it's. There's something comforting, I think, about speaking to people who have experienced something that you've experienced, but not just the experience itself, but their responses to that experience and how they felt about it and how the people around them felt about it. And I think that those people that spoke to me felt the same way, because people were, you know, once, once they start, they've become very open with what they're willing to share. I was quite surprised, and I was heartened by it as well, and glad, you know, to provide an opportunity for people to talk about things that they don't often feel they can talk about.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

Yeah, so when you think about people and I'm certain there'll be people listening to this podcast in a similar situation to you, the similar situation to the one that you were in and social media is a great place where those things play out, isn't it? Because you know it's just, it's unmanaged, it's unfiltered. You know there's a lot of hate, there's a lot of keyboard warriors, all of those things that happen. It's a wild west.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

I'm interested. What would you say to somebody today who's going through something similar to what you went through, or even different, but feels this is uncomfortable? I don't feel safe. I think that's the key thing I don't feel safe. This isn't right, this isn't okay. What would you say to somebody? What would you have said to yourself back then?

Nicole Madigan:

The most important thing, I think, aside from obviously, keep a record of everything. You know that, from the second you feel uncomfortable, listen to your instinct. Don't wait until you're petrified and scared. As soon as you feel something's not right, start recording things. That would be my first bit of advice. The second would be to tell someone anyone, whether it's your mum, your friend, the police and keep telling people.

Nicole Madigan:

Because I think you know, when you do get the courage to tell somebody and you don't get the response you're after, your natural response to that is to withdraw and stop talking about it. But I think for every person who will dismiss you, there will be someone who will listen. It's not easy to do, it's not easy to keep going, but that's what I would suggest. If you don't get the response you're after from the first person, you tell somebody else. And that applies to police too, because you know I waited big chunks of time between talking to police, but I did find someone to help me and possibly, if I hadn't have waited those big periods of time, I may have still got the same outcome a little bit earlier. But again, even if you don't get that outcome that you're after, it is much safer for you physically and also for your mental health, to let somebody know, because then you're not trapped in that cycle.

Emily Webb:

And friends. I wanted to ask you a question because I think this is a really important book For myself. I found it really insightful. I have not personally experienced talking. I have experienced moments of very uncomfortable online behaviour like Nicole, you'll understand this when you're reporting about a certain story and people just go you and you feel threatened. But the experts you speak to in this are really amazing. I've heard of a few. Dr Troy McEwen, I've definitely come across. There's a really good bibliography section in the back and, karenza, you commented before we started that you think it's a really important book for people who work in the mental health field, and it's a big one. Living experience workforce is getting massive and that was also the strength of living experience. It's powerful. What are your thoughts on why this is important you think for our peers in this sector to read about, because you're not all experts on everything, are you? No, no.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

Nicole, I read your book in about 24 hours. I picked it up, read the whole thing, have it to cover. I think it was really powerful because and I think it'd be really important for mental health workers absolutely to read, because I think, first of all, it's your personal story and the lived experience story, and getting that real sense from this is how it felt for me. This is what happened, this is what I did, but then what I've found really interesting was how then you bought all of the kind of theory and the different types of stalking and all of those pieces together and then it comes together with the outcome that you've got your moment, your day in court, what happened. But it's a really, really, really good read, I think, for anyone who's working, perhaps as someone who might have the feelings that the person that was stalking you was feeling and understanding what was happening in her mind and her head and I can't put myself in her head, but seeing you as the person that's coming in and in her mind, changing her life, destroying her life, taking away the thing that she in her mind, the thing that she wanted. In the mental health world we'll hear those stories, mental health workers will hear those stories and I think this is important for mental health workers to read, to understand that and try and support and help the person that has those feelings To see well maybe they're not good feelings and to work through those feelings in a different way and in a better way. But also as well for let's say that the person they reach out in your case, the person you've reached out to is a mental health worker, is your GP, is someone like that Some understanding of, in particular, I think, the social media, part of stalking and what happens in social M calls it the Wild West.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

It's a powerful read for that and certainly, as I said, I've worked in the industry for more than 25 to 26 years I'm showing my age now and I've found parts of this, but really, really fascinating and really powerful and I've worked with offenders, perpetrators, whole range. It's a yeah, it's a, as I said, obsession takes a deep dive into the disturbing phenomenon of stalking and it's powerful and it's raw. I think it's, yeah, absolutely going read it in in answer to your question.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

The thing last question for me, nicole, for me is, I mean, we ask every podcast, guess this? And it's about self care. You've gone through a really dark time, I think, in your life. What does self care look like for you? I mean, I think we've all experienced dark times, bits when you think the world is falling apart around you, all the things that you thought made you safe and stable falling away, being chipped away at. You know, your careers under threat, your relationship might be under threat. You know, is this person going to turn their attentions to your children, your whole family? You know, in the middle of all of this, like it's how, how we are during it and then after it, and how important self care is, and when you know, go through something like this, how do you take care of your mental health, your own well-being, even beyond this part of look, I've written the book. Now, this happened to me. I've written the book, you know. But beyond that, this self care, I just think it's a really important thing that we practice it in our lives.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah, look, I think you know self care is something that I have to work quite hard at, and I think that's probably really common to many women who are, you know, have a strong focus on their roles as a mum, in my case, and a stepmother and a wife and a working person and a housekeeper, and sometimes I do struggle to make the time for self care.

Nicole Madigan:

I guess for me, I really feel re-energised and rejuvenated when I spend time with my extended family my parents and my brothers and my nieces and nephews and have a day. Usually if I'm having a period of time where I'm feeling a bit lower, I like to organise a big family occasion, and for some people that's has the opposite impact, but for me I feel really energised and refocused on what matters to me, especially as we're all getting older, and those times are more important to me as I get older. So I feel really rejuvenated by that. As for a lone time, you know, if I can make myself a coffee and grab a book and read it in peace, then I feel really good after doing something like that as well. I'm a reader. I don't get a lot of time to read, but I love it when I do.

Emily Webb:

I hear you, I love reading, but it's like, oh, how do you get the time? Yeah, last question from me and then we'll wrap it up with the final question. This book is advocacy, what you're doing is advocacy, and you're also a non executive board director of Friends with Dignity, which is a charity providing support to victim survivors of domestic violence. You are an ambassador for domestic violence advocacy group, my Red Flags, which I think is a great name for a group. Why is this important to you? And has this advocacy come as a consequence of your experience, or were you doing that previously? Because I know, as a journalist and investigative journalist, you have done reporting and writing in this space.

Nicole Madigan:

Yeah. So I've been quite passionate about domestic violence for a really long time. I've orchestrated my own work in that direction by choice, wanting to research and write about it and shine a light on it, and so that sort of involvement in that space came before this. And I think that that involvement had some benefits for me, but also some disadvantages as well, because I've always been very, very focused on men's violence against women and looking at it through that very gendered lens I suppose. So when I was experiencing this situation with a female, I kind of was in a little bit of denial as well. I didn't want to be that person that was shifting the focus to less common situation. If you know what I mean.

Nicole Madigan:

I'm very, very familiar from writing articles about. When you read those comments and there's always men jumping on to say what about the men? And as soon as there's something in reverse, everybody's jumping up and down and getting really excited about it in a really kind of toxic way, which I didn't want to be contributing to in any way. So I think that probably kept me quieter for longer as well, in a strange way. But look, I think the fact of what happened to me it doesn't change the facts, about statistics and domestic violence and how it all unfolds. So I'm still just as passionate about those things now, and have been for a long time.

Karenza Louis-Smith:

I'd just like to end really just by saying thank you, not just for being our guest, but actually writing this book and sharing your story. I think it's really powerful and I think something that you said at the start was really, really important. You know, this is something we don't talk about. We don't have these conversations, and I'd like to hope that with the book that you've written, perhaps we'll start to have these more and people's attitudes. We might think differently when we use the word stalking and think about the power of language and how we do things and be more mindful of perhaps our friends and family and colleagues and others, you know, when they come to us, if they might come to us and say they're experiencing something horrible that's happening, and especially when it's something that's happening online, that we're not dismissive, that we see and look at things in a really really different light. But are there any final thoughts that you'd like to share with? Get real podcast audience before we finish today.

Nicole Madigan:

I just really want to say thank you for having me and taking part in the conversation because, look, I've got to say I've been quite heartened by the response and the respect that the topic has been given. You know I was a little bit nervous because we're dealing with, you know, a female on female crime and a crime that is is sort of used in a joking way, so I wasn't sure how that would be received by people outside of those within the circle of experience and things like that. So I'm just really glad that people are speaking about it and to be here with people like yourselves and have it taken seriously.

Emily Webb:

Oh, thanks. I was so thrilled when you know you agreed to be a guest and I've got two teenage daughters who are 17 and 14 and I'm going to give the book to my 17 year old daughter to read because she's quite interested in these kind of issues, but I also think it will be helpful for her.

Emily Webb:

you know, going forward, just to know about, maybe, some of the things that she needs to recognize, because their relationship teenagers, relationship with social media is very different to me as 47 year old woman who's been on it, for you know, I'm pretty, I'm pretty okay with it, but you know you read some of the stuff you like, what like it's so different.

Emily Webb:

So I actually think this book is really great for all and, yeah, we're just, we're just thrilled that you're a guest. A big thank you again to Nicole Madigan for joining us and you can find out more about Nicole at her website, nicole Madigancom, and her book Obsession, published by Pantera Press, is available now and we highly recommend it, and we'll have details on where to get it in the show notes as well as other resources related to what we discussed. Thanks for listening. If you're enjoying this podcast, tell your friends and rate or review on your podcast listening platform, because it helps people find us and the kind of conversations we had today. If you've been affected by anything discussed in this podcast, you can phone lifeline on 131114 or go to lifelineorgau.

ermha365 team:

You've been listening to Get Real talking mental health and disability, brought to you by the team at Irma 365. Get Real is produced and presented by Emily Webb, with Karenza Louis Smith and special guests. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

Stalking and the Psychological Impact
Challenging Attitudes Towards Stalking
Stalking
Importance of Self-Care and Supporting Others