She thought it was a mere infatuation.
Until she felt threatened.
Ann (not her real name), an administrative assistant in her 20s, was stalked by her ex-lover for over a month after their break-up in July.
Ann told The New Paper she constantly had to look over her shoulder because she was worried he was following her.
She said: “It started less than a month after our break-up. He started appearing when I didn’t reply to his text messages.”
She did not realise the seriousness of the situation until she noticed him lurking at the places she hung out.
She said: “I had checked in at a nail salon on Facebook and after I finished my manicure session, I saw him nearby.
“That was when I realised he was really following me everywhere and was checking on my every move.”
Ann is a victim of unlawful stalking, which is defined as entering or loitering in any public or private place frequented by the victim, or the victim’s place of residence or business.
Unlawful stalking and other harassment offences come under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), which was enacted in November 2014 to strengthen harassment laws here.
Since the Act was enacted, there have been 222 applications for protection orders. Of these, at least 76 were granted.
MORE SEEKING HELP
Lawyers The New Paper spoke to confirmed they are seeing an increase in clients seeking help due to harassment and unlawful stalking. (See report, above.)
Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said it received reports of 150 cases of harassment so far this year, and most of them involve stalking.
After the incident at the salon, Ann stopped revealing her location on social media, but it was not the end of her nightmare.
The ex-boyfriend also threatened to leak an obscene video of the two of them and spread rumours that she had an abortion.
He then began showing up near her home.
Ann said: “My mother was hanging the clothes out to dry when she spotted him at the next block.
“I constantly felt haunted. I didn’t feel safe at all.”
For the next three days, Ann ordered McDonald’s delivery for food because she was afraid of bumping into him. She also got her friend to drive her around if she needed to go out.
She said: “My worst fear was that he would come into my house and kill me.”
Ann said: “My ex’s love turned into an obsession.”
After days of being cooped up at home, she finally decided to seek help from the police.
Ann said: “They told me it was harassment, but they advised me to seek legal help in applying for protection orders instead.”
Her ex-boyfriend stopped following her after he found out through mutual friends that she had sought help from the police.
TNP understands that the police often request for victims to seek legal help as it cannot take action unless there is a court order.
The police step in depending on the circumstances — there is a higher chance of intervention if there is criminal intent or the actions are life-threatening.
But the price of seeking legal means was an obstacle for her.
She said: “Paying for the lawyers easily costs from $3,000 to $5,000.”
Ann added: “I think love turned into an obsession. Although he has stopped after knowing I went to the police, I still wish I had taken action earlier.”
This article was originally published in The New Paper.