When 20-year-old supermodel Kendall Jenner found Shavaughn McKenzie in her driveway in August, she called the police. She had 24-hour security cameras installed and was too afraid to stay at her own home.
On Thursday, Jenner testified against the same man ― and her testimony serves as a grim reminder of the trauma being a victim of such an invasive crime can cause.
“I was crying, I was screaming, I was freaking out,” Jenner said. “I didn’t know what his intentions were. I was freaking out. I was frightened for sure.”
According to the CDC, in the United States alone, 19 million ― or one out of every six women (and one out of 19 men) ― has experienced stalking. And though Jenner never dated the man who stalked her, a whopping 66 percent of women victims of stalking are stalked by either their current or former intimate partners.
Danielle Lucksted, a Prevention and Education Program Manager for the Grand Rapids-based domestic violence support center Safe Haven Ministries, told The Huffington Post that 76 percent of women who are killed by their current or former partners were previously stalked by them, too.
While the numbers themselves are terrifying, beyond the statistics is the actual experience.
“It doesn’t take a lot to imagine how a victim of stalking might develop PTSD from the anticipation of chronic unwanted attention, gestures, or attempted contact,” Lucksted said. Especially in a society in which romantic comedies have normalized that exact behavior. “Romantic comedies paint stalking behaviors as ‘cute and persistent’ rather than what they really are: threatening and intimidating,” Lucksted told HuffPost.
HuffPost Women invited members of our Facebook community to share their own experiences. Women of varying ages, professions, and locations responded ― but what they all had in common is having their lives derailed by men who felt entitled to them, their bodies, and their space ― and the fear and anxiety that came along with that.
One woman, Michelle*, spent nine months being stalked by a teammate in her local dodgeball league. “The man asked me to be his girlfriend and I turned him down,” she said. “He did not like being rejected and started stalking me at league, hiding in the gym to grab my butt when I was all alone.” Another woman, Cathy*, recalled being stalked by a stranger in the 1970s ― the stalking began with mysterious phone calls (as many instances of stalking often do) until one day she knew that she was being watched. “On one of his phone calls, he said “Did you get enough groceries?” I had just come in from grocery shopping,” she told HuffPost.
One young stay-at-home mom, Ann*, was victimized by her lawnmower’s father, who sometimes helped out with yard maintenance while her husband was serving in the military overseas.
“A few weeks after he started I began getting blocked calls of hanging up” she told HuffPost. “I started noticing gates unlocked, and put new locks on my fence...The next day I left on vacation, and awoke to voice messages of the father describing all of the violently sexual things he was going to do to me. He was at my home. I am so thankful I was not.”
In the end, Ann and her family had to move away ― the man who’d been stalking her received a short prison sentence and Ann wanted nothing to do with him when he was released. But even with physical distance between them, the stress of being stalked doesn’t just disappear.
“This sick man shaped my life to live in more fear and more paranoia, and he’s gone on his way.”
Jenner’s honest and raw statement in court was a much-needed reminder that, to use Lucksted’s words, “stalking is not harmless, it’s not cute, and it’s not a joke.”
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.