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Activist promotes stalking awareness

| Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) hosted Debbie Riddle, who spoke Tuesday evening to promote awareness of stalking. Riddle’s sister Peggy Klinke was stalked by an ex-boyfriend, Patrick Kennedy, who murdered Klinke in 2003. Her murder led to a congressional briefing and declaration of National Stalking Awareness month celebrated every January.

Riddle said the highest rates of stalking occurs between the ages of 18-24.

“When we surveyed college-age women during a nine-month period, which is one year on a college campus, 13 percent of women surveyed reported being stalked,” Riddle said. “So when you apply those numbers to the Saint Mary’s population of just over 1,500 students, at a rate of 13 percent you would have 197 stalking cases. That’s putting 200 women in this room and labeling them as stalking victims.”

Riddle said through her three-year-long relationship with Kennedy, her sister suffered emotional abuse.

“The behavior is cyclical,” she said. “Women that are in an abusive relationship sort of learn to know the ebb and flow of this behavior; it is pretty predicable, but sometimes they don’t know what is going to set them off.

“This is what Peggy lived with. Patrick was very good at removing Peggy from her social circle.”

Riddle said the most critical time for women in abusive relationships is when they decide to leave. She said soon after Peggy left Patrick, he began to stalk her sister.

“Basically [victims] are asking, what is my punishment going to be when we walk away from this? What will he do to me?’” Riddle said. “… She called me and she said ‘you are never going to believe this, you know what he is doing to me? He’s stalking me.’ … What he started with was 55-155 text messages, phone calls every single day. This went on for days; she wouldn’t answer her phone, she wouldn’t respond to text messaging. He began to follow her in his truck, sit outside her work, outside her gym.”

Riddle said stalking includes noncriminal behaviors such as texting, phone calling, leaving music on someone’s voicemail and more — anything that instills fear in a victim.

“The behavior will tend to escalate overtime; it won’t stay consistent,” she said. “It might start out in text messaging and end up in murder.”

Riddle said her sister’s habits as she was stalked illustrate the profound psychological toll stalking may take on its victims.

“No eating, no sleeping, hyper-vigilant, certainly wouldn’t stand in front of any windows, wouldn’t stand in front of a door, wouldn’t answer the door, wouldn’t answer the phone,” Riddle said. “She was very edgy. It seemed like everything scared her. She was afraid of everything. It was so painful to look at her and really not be able to do a thing for her.”

Riddle said even after receiving death threats from Patrick, the police department was reluctant to deal with the case. Riddle shared details about her sister’s final moments spent trapped in her bedroom with her friend Rachel, in a violent confrontation with Patrick.

“Peggy knew this was the end, and I think what Peggy felt was, ‘Thank God this is over. Thank God it’s done,’” she said.

Riddle said telling her sister’s story helps her own healing process.

“I started putting things together, people are coming in and out of the house and I sort of became the spokesperson of our family,” Riddle said. “Every time I told the story, it made my heart heal more and more. I can make the world a safer place for women like you.”

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About Kiera Johnsen

A SoCal native majoring in communications and political science

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