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“I should be dead,” says Robin Blasé. Her stalker of over a decade was found guilty of felony stalking in violating a protective order and cyberstalking. “Luckily, he was sentenced to ten years in prison before he could hurt me.”
Robin was living her dream life in November 2011. She owned an art gallery in Brighton. That life was shattered when a man she did not know entered her gallery to show her his work. Soon after, the man made numerous attempts to call her and began sending messages on Facebook that became increasingly personal, from describing her appearance to mentioning where he had watched her. His letters were never received because her address was kept private, and he also wrote about her to public officials.
When Robin decided to report to law enforcement, she discovered they were already familiar with this individual. “He had a reputation of stalking for short periods and it appeared I was his next victim.” He pled guilty to misdeameanor harassment and was sentenced to 364 days in jail. After he was released, he intensified his harrassment. He began sending violent threats to Robin that made her fear for her life, forcing her to close her gallery and ultimately move to Vermont in 2016.
Robin’s stalker was not discouraged. He continued sending messages that “became more and more violent.” When she filed a report to the state police she was told that, “There’s nothing we can do to help you.” Not long after, Robin was notified by the Brighton Police Department that her stalker had been arested again, and the prosecutor would be pursuing stronger charges against him. Says Robin, “the prosecutor took on the impossible. Stalkers are very,very, very rarely prosecuted.” According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), of the roughly 40-percent of cases reported to police, a 2009 report indicated only one-fifth of victims press charges and only 8-percent are arrested.
One of the only crimes that criminalizes legal behaviors is stalking. It is not illegal to send someone twelve dozen roses, but when you look at it in the context of a stalking situation, it may become illegal. A stalker may be arrested and prosecuted for another crime that is easier to prove in court, like physical assault. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed. It took several years to build a case to prove Robin was a stalking victim. Robin’s stalker opted out of having a trial by jury and was allowed to represent himself and was able to cross-examine her. The judge ruled in Robin’s favor and sentenced him to ten years.
“When the judge said ten years, I lost it. I basically kicked the chair out from behind me and collapsed onto the floor, not even sobbing, but like gasping for air. I couldn’t breathe once I realized what had happened.” Robin now works to educate crime victims on how to navigate the criminal justice system.
If Robin could go back, she would have obtained a victim’s advocate. “Before you set foot in the police station, locate a crisis center and get an advocate,” Robin advised. She did that and was able to get a Protective Order, and was assigned a victim witness coordinator to prepare her for trial. Advocates help victims navigate the criminal justice and medical processes, connect them to counseling, and assist with obtaining victim compensation. They help prepare the victim for trial, write a victim impact statement, and how to remain calm on the witness stand.
“If you report a crime, ask the responding officer for an advocate,” Robin advises. It is important to document a clear timeline of events to police. “Stalking is one of the few crimes where the burden of collecting and preserving evidence falls on the survivor.”
The LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate can be reached at 318-992-2067, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. She can help with LPSO Statement forms, filing Temporary Protective Orders, reparations, referrals to counseling and free or low cost attorneys for divorces and child custody, and accompanying the victim to court.
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