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Sarah M, stalking and the dark side of fame

Thanks to lawyers and psychologists, we investigate the relationship between showbusiness and obsession

Sarah M, stalking and the dark side of fame Thanks to lawyers and psychologists, we investigate the relationship between showbusiness and obsession

"This is my 14-year-old little sister. You're a fame-seeker. She's not your little one. For those reading: this girl has no regard for anyone's well-being but her own. She completely takes advantage of people, even fourteen-year-olds, despite being twenty." These were the words that Demi Lovato typed under a post by Sarah M, the protagonist of a media case in 2016. The girl's story has once again become a subject of interest for TikTok users, who, years later, are questioning the relationship between this crime and the concept of fame, with all its dark sides.

Stalker Sarah

Sarah M, in 2016, was a very young girl who, thanks to her "stalking" skills, managed to collect around 6,200 photos with celebrities of all kinds, from Justin Bieber to Brad Pitt to Kim Kardashian. Her technique was simple: she would stake out outside hotels, near restaurant entrances, and even gyms to surprise the celebrities and insistently ask for a photo. Sarah started this activity at the age of 12 and reached a certain level of notoriety, becoming friends with Miley Cyrus and mingling with actors and singers. Despite her unusual and stalking behavior, she is still considered a celebrity collector today.

@the_lavender_books THE BIGGEST CELEBRITY STALKER “Sarah the Stalker”

Are We Fascinated by Obsession? The Example of Baby Reindeer

Clearly, this is extreme behavior. However, many users and viewers seem fascinated by these types of stories. Just think of the TV series Baby Reindeer. The story is about Donny Dunn, an aspiring comedian who works as a bartender in London. A kind gesture towards a customer, Martha, turns into a nightmare when she develops an obsession with him. Martha starts stalking Donny, both online and in person. The series explores the psychological consequences of this situation on Donny and the difficulty for men to come to terms with this type of abuse. Are we, therefore, witnessing a dramatization of this troubling phenomenon? But most importantly, do those who decide to become public figures in 2024 need to consider that they might have to deal with all of this? We asked experts to answer our questions and explain the phenomenon of stalking clearly, also to avoid dangerous misinterpretations in public opinion.

@fallontonight Richard Gadd & Jessica Gunning react to the overwhelming response they’ve received for Baby Reindeer! #FallonTonight #TonightShow #RichardGadd #JessicaGunning #BabyReindeer #JimmyFallon original sound - FallonTonight

What Does Stalking Mean? The Lawyer's Word

Criminal lawyer Natascia Sarra explains to us that the term stalking commonly refers to the crime of stalking that the Italian Legislator introduced into our legal system in 2009 to provide a more effective response to behaviors that integrated other less serious and complex offenses, such as threats or injuries. Today, the crime punishes those who engage in repeated stalking behaviors towards a person, causing them to experience a persistent and severe state of anxiety or fear, fear for their own safety or that of a loved one, or forcing them to change their lifestyle.

Who Are the Most Frequent Victims of Stalking?

Natascia Sarra sheds light on the issue: "According to statistics, the most frequent victims of stalking are women, accounting for about 74% of cases. Stalking, like domestic abuse, is considered a predictor of femicide, due to the high incidence of female victims. Statistics also show that in most cases, the stalker and victim have had a relationship, and the stalking behavior is carried out to rekindle the relationship or out of jealousy and obsession. These data seem to indicate that the crime is more often committed within relationships between people who know each other. However, celebrities, as confirmed by the news, are particularly exposed to the risk of stalking and should never underestimate excessive attention and other signs of obsessive behavior from a fan."

What Should You Do If You Are a Victim of Stalking and What Precautions Should You Take When Becoming a Public Figure?

The lawyer reiterates that "stalking is a particularly insidious crime that can escalate into violent and dangerous acts for the physical and mental health of the victims. Therefore, it is important not to downplay it. Do not think, for example, that restrictions on our freedom and situations that undermine our peace of mind are the price to pay for the end of a relationship. The advice is to report it immediately in the presence of abnormal situations, bearing in mind that stalking, except in aggravated cases, is prosecutable upon complaint, and the deadline to file it is six months from the last stalking act."

@giuseppecroari @Shiftymine racconta di uno stalker #stalker #of #contentcreator #cosplay #fyp #perte Spongebob Tomfoolery - Dante9k Remix - David Snell

Does Italian law really protect those who report? "Measures have been introduced, such as the prohibition to approach places frequented by the victim or the warning by the police chief, which seek to prevent the continuation and aggravation of stalking behaviors. The police chief's warning is a very useful tool because it can be requested even in the absence of a complaint. In any case, if you fear being a victim of stalking, it is advisable to immediately contact the authorities or qualified individuals, such as anti-violence centers or lawyers, who have the expertise to interpret the behaviors and support the victim in the complaint process."

What Impact Does Stalking Have on Mental Health?

Psychologist Gaia Cavalleri helps us understand the impact these behaviors have on victims: "Those who are victims of these behaviors experience intense feelings, which can initially be stress and prolonged states of alert, eventually leading to pervasive states of apprehension and fear for their safety. Often, an emotion felt in these cases is shame for what is happening, as if feeling somewhat responsible for the stalker's actions. This can also lead to social isolation and consequently delay the request for help and the onset of psychopathological disorders." The psychotherapist then provides us with useful data to better understand the consequences of this act on victims: "Kuehner and colleagues (2012), in some studies, found that a high percentage of stalking victims exhibit significant levels of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (55% – 60%) and general levels of symptoms indicating the presence of a diagnosable psychiatric disorder (78%). With these premises, it is clear how important it is for stalking victims to feel safe and supported in an empathetic and non-judgmental therapeutic environment, capable of fostering understanding and trust."

Gaia concludes by providing her expert opinion: "For those who are victims of stalking, the first fundamental step is to become aware, in order to act both from a legal perspective for protection and to effectively address the situation, preserving their mental health with the help of a professional."