Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Tortured Love Nonfiction, Stalker-Style

Last week I read yet another nonfiction book about a battered woman. As a life-long volunteer with domestic violence groups & shelters, I suppose it makes sense for me to always be interested in real, female-centered stories. In Kate Brennan's In His Sights: A True Story of Love and Obsession, the author tells her story of mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a lover. Kate Brennan is not the author's actual name, but rather a pseudonym chosen to protect her identity from the stalker who still watches her.

Brennan begins her story with a tale of courtship. She meets her neighbors' nephew at their anniversary party. Paul, also a chosen pseudonym, pursues her with a determination unmatched by her previous love interests. At 40 years old, Brennan had made a solitary life for herself, happy in her solitude and in her successful literary career. Paul disrupts that life, and Brennan invites him further and further into her formerly lonely world. Despite repeated warning signs, evident at least in retrospect, Brennan eventually moves with Paul into his house and gives up her apartment. Paul is wealthy, which he inherited from his father's family, but Brennan tries to maintain her own identity by paying her own way much of the time.

When Paul's emotional and mental abuse begin to take their toll, Brennan eventually realizes that she can no longer continue the sham of their relationship. She tells him she is moving out after a particularly bad weekend in which Paul indulges his sexual addiction and cheats on her with multiple women. She moves into the guest house, and finally out completely.

In this first small apartment, Brennan begins to be tortured in small physical ways -- electricity cut off when everyone on the street still has theirs; phone not working properly; door unlocked repeatedly when she returns home; books moved from room to room. Nothing concrete she can take to the police as criminal act (or at least nothing she has proof of). Then things begin to escalate -- she notices people watching her, a man attacks her when she is traveling to London, her house is under seige by someone trying to break in. Then Paul and his new wife move in across the street, and Brennan becomes seriously afraid of him.

Eventually he controls her life entirely, from the outside -- he has her hired to a job position at a university, then presses those in her life (a fellow committee member, her landlady) for details. He calls her family members for information on a regular basis. She finally has to go to the police, and she lucks into a sex crimes department that would rival Law & Order: SVU's. They are informed & helpful. They offer her tips and investigate Paul thoroughly. All the same, they are unable to fully protect her. Brennan lives a life on the run for several years, then finally decides she can take it no more. She settles, but continues to be terrorized by Paul in both little and big ways. At the time of publishing, Brennan's stalker is still out there, on the loose and harassing Brennan from time to time.

Brennan's portrayal of a woman being stalked by a person she formerly thought she loved is both terrifying and eye-opening. It is a must-read for females, if only in its lesson-teaching. Relationships will never be so examined as they are after reading this novel. It will leave every woman wondering if her partner could turn into such a monster.

Read the New York Times review of this book for more information and an interview with the author, or read the Marie Claire article interview with Brennan. View the Good Morning America/ ABC News story below:

Author Stalked for 10 Years

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