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And Laverne Cox, you may know me from Orange is the New Black or disclosure, my hope is that people listening to the Laverne Cox Show gain new perspectives that will inspire them to live differently there.


All of these things that we just accept as natural, normal and inevitable. But they're not.


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Welcome to criminalize a production of scandal and audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to a special Valentine's Day episode of Criminality. So this season, we're exploring the lives and motivations of some of the most notorious stalkers throughout history. And in today's episode, we're going to talk about a form of stalking called erotomania and how it's different from being a hopeless romantic. I'm Maria Tomoaki.


And I'm Holly Fry. And listen, everybody celebrates this day differently, or maybe not even at all. I grew up in a house where Valentine's Day was like a family holiday. It didn't have the baggage of like a romantic partner has to demonstrate their love to you, like, so much pressure. Right. Our parents would get us gifts like, you know, a little Barbie or something when I was a kid and like a little box of chocolates, that was our own.


But so I always grew up thinking about it as the day when you tell, like all the people in your life, you love them, which has served me very well, actually.


I'm sure that it has like shouldn't shouldn't the day be that really I'm kind of with you on that. Even with my husband who I've been in a long time, we've never made a big to do about Valentine's Day. We'll maybe go out to dinner, but it's just not that loaded weird holiday it can become for some people. You must have red roses or you're going to get a divorce.


Right. So for a lot of people, Valentine's Day is celebrated that way with flowers and chocolate and these other special and often expected items that are gifted to significant others. And it is generally, in the best sense, considered a day where you celebrate the person you love.


So I always think it's interesting because like around Valentine's Day, like romantic comedies come out and they may be fun to look at love, but when you boil down the stories of what a romantic comedy often is, they don't always help how we see stalking behaviors.


Instead, they kind of create an image of romance that shapes our perceptions and our expectations of what love ought to be.


Right. A lot of them have the grand gesture that is supposed to be demonstrative and in fact is often like, not cool, right?


We like it in the movie, but if it happened to us in real life, we'd be terrified. Right. Like Meg Ryan's character Amy in Sleepless in Seattle is a good example. She behaves in a way that isn't really necessarily so much what you might call lovestruck and charming, but rather creepy. I know a lot of people that will argue that this is a great romantic story. But if you pause and think about it for a minute, this is a character who, after hearing a man on the radio, decides that she is madly in love with him, flies across the country and then spies on him and his child.


It's a completely new version of the movie, although it's exactly the same version of the movie. If it had been pitched that way, it would have been a whole different thing, though right now.


They would have been like, I don't think we want to do that.


There's also the movie while you were sleeping, Sandra Bullock's character, Lucy. In the movie, she pretends to be the fiance of a man that she has never even spoken to. She makes really good friends with his family. They know her really well. They can't wait for her to become a part of it.


And then she marries his brother at the end, which to me seems like some sort of like Victorian Gothic grudge match.


Some people might argue to and I have seen people discuss this, that John Cusack's character, Lloyd Dobler and say anything goes a little too far with that boombox serenade that is often been held is like apex romantic, particularly for people, I think, in our age group that grew up where that hit it exactly the right time. I think so, too. I think every Gen Xers was at some point like say anything in the boom scene.


But if you think about it now that you're not a teenager. Yeah, maybe not sure. But it's not just in the movies.


So, I mean, it's a real life phenomenon. It's not just Meg Ryan, for instance, in the early 80s, probably one of the biggest ones that we all will know is when John Hinckley Jr. shot President Reagan. If you didn't know, he did it to impress actress Jodie Foster. Before the shooting, though, he asked Jodie to give him a chance. And he wrote to her, quote, Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you.


Well, let's take a pause there for us. So obviously taken too far, romantic gestures could result in criminal charges and not for stealing your loved one's heart. It is a problem if you start to pursue someone who does not want your attention, your time or your energy, and then you keep doing it when that has been made clear to you. It is also a problem if you're using an aggressive or obsessive tactics that make the other person uncomfortable or afraid of you.


So spotting the difference between a stalker and a romantic partner, if you knew how to do that, you could save your life.


Yeah, for things to be considered stalking the contact made by the stalker has to be unwanted. We're talking about nonconsensual interactions, even if they are fairly benign social type interactions. Today, around half of all stalkers in the United States are former domestic partners, and up to one in four of the entire U.S. population has experienced being stalked.


That's a huge number. So to the professionals, it's stalkers with the most emotional investment who are considered one of the most dangerous types of stalker.


This type of stalker is more likely to have thoughts along the lines of, you know, if I can't have you, no one else can have you either. And there are studies that back this up.


The research says that stalking is associated with lethal and near lethal violence against women. And it definitely rings true. As many as 76 percent of intimate partner female murder is preceded by stalking.


So that's all a little heavy. And we probably all could use just a moment of a break. So we're going to do that. And when we return, we're going to draw the line between romance and stalking because it can be a little fuzzy.


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Hi, it's Laverne Cox and my new podcast, Laverne Cox Show, we're ripping the Band-Aid off trauma, resilient, dating, diet, culture, dating, white supremacy, dating, OK, I'm not going to get explicit, but just because you feel like I'm not going to say yes, girl and honey, we have a lot of fun along the way.


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Welcome back to Criminal. So now let's talk about what erotomania is, so that question we first posed. How does one differentiate between a hopeless romantic and a stalker?


We'll just start with a short answer and just go from there. The real distinction here is that love is selfless. But a stalkers, let's say affections aren't selfless. They're demanding, and those affections are based on the belief that the person who was stalking has an entitlement to the other person's affections and in some instances an entitlement to their lives.


So if you have been dumped, it is a really terrible feeling and you might engage in some types of intrusive behaviors. You may plead for your partner to return. This isn't abnormal. It's considered a pretty normal behavior. But researchers have found that when that behavior continues for more than two weeks, it is more likely to transition to becoming abnormal and then it becomes hard to stop it.


Yeah, in fact, they did studies where they had brain scans of those who'd been recently jilted and they found that those brains are actually more active in the areas that are associated with things like anxiety and anger and pain and addiction and risk taking and obsession and compulsion.


So whether it's a former partner or a complete stranger, this is where your internal, quote unquote, creepy meter comes into play. There is an author by the name of Gavin de Becker who called it The Gift of Fear. We all have a gut feeling and our internal mechanism for detecting danger. The short version of this is like just always trust your gut. Something feels creepy to you. Better safe than sorry.


So there's this specific type of stalking that we keep mentioning, but we haven't really gotten into.


And it's erotomania, which is a mental health problem and it's a form of paranoid delusion. It's usually also linked to another mental health condition such as schizophrenia.


But it doesn't have to be with this condition. A person has delusional and intense beliefs that another person is in love with them.


And that person, interestingly, is usually someone who is of a higher social status, such as a celebrity or a politician, but fixations on random strangers and, you know, acquaintances aren't unheard of.


A stalker suffering from erotomania might act perfectly normal in most parts of their life. But as this obsession and delusion grows, some stalkers begin to see hidden messages and non-verbal cues in everyday things, such as the numbers on license plates or the messages on those Valentine conversation hearts that they feel like are, you know, validating their feelings. Right, which they are absolutely not.


So this condition also seems to be a little more common in women than in men. And it usually happens around midlife, maybe later. And while it might last for a few weeks, it could also last for years.


Stalkers with erotomania may do things like loiterer in the victim's vicinity, telephone or text their victim, leave gifts or even post information or spread rumors about the victim, either on the Internet or in some other public place or even by word of mouth.


So interestingly, this statistic came up in our research about this condition, and it's not specifically about stalkers.


This statistic is about the whole population. Forty six percent of Americans admit to stalking a partner, either their current partner or an ex, by checking in on them online without their knowledge or consent, 46 percent.


I think that's pretty common.


I'm not actually surprised by that number, but I feel that the number is high, although I probably would have guessed higher. Right.


I mean, I think it's not completely outside the realm of possibility that someone on a whim, whether it's like someone you were romantically involved with or not, but just someone that used to be in your life, you'll go, I wonder what they're up to or maybe you even want to see. Like, I wonder how much their life fell apart. Right. Right. Give them a quick search on a social media network, which I actually personally think is OK.


I think if you keep going back every day, then you have a little bit of a problem. Right.


And one time check in, you know, find what is he up to now?


Pretty normal. It's kind of like it grows out of that sense that we all have of being so easily connected to information that we want that transition to looking up someone you used to date or you used to know pretty normal in my book. If you feel stalked by someone in this manner or in any other type of stalking, authorities recommend being forceful and direct when confronting the person about their unwanted behavior. Don't try to let them down easy or worry about hurting their feelings.


Stalkers who want your love and attention are not in the right frame of mind to really understand the idea of being let down easy. You can't leave anything open to interpretation, basically. So when forceful and direct communication doesn't work, or if you are super uncomfortable doing it yourself, the authorities can intervene and deliver that message for you.


Hi, guys, I'm Katie Lowes, actress, mom and host of the parenting podcast Katie's Crib, a show that helps women navigate the big shifts which motherhood can bring. This season. You'll hear from resilient mamas like actress Gabrielle Union, thought leaders like author of the New York Times best seller Untamed Glen and Doyle, and experts like prenatal and postpartum clinical psychologist Dr. Alyssa Berlind. We get candid about our experiences and share resources for everything parenting, endometriosis and surrogacy, divorce and blended families emotionally preparing for postpartum.


Katie's crib is covering it all for a dose of comfort and community with those who understand the struggles and the joys of raising tiny humans. Subscribe now for brand new episodes every other Thursday, listen to Katie's crib on the I Heart radio app or an Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome back to Criminal. Now that we have talked about a Valentine's Day, Holly, it's the least romantic Valentine's Day show of all time.


Very much so.


I'll be at your house watching you through your window, which you as you put together this special drink for us. I would invite you in and give you one, but you have to wear a mask.


Well, I would, but I would prefer to stand outside your window.


OK. OK, so I wanted to make something fun for Valentine's Day, whether you drink it with someone that you love or just on your own or both of. Right.


I'm just going to tell you right up front, there's a lot of alcohol. It's called it sneaks up on you. And it is basically a twist on a Long Island iced tea. It's a little tongue in cheek. And I don't mean to in any way like downplay the seriousness of stalking, but I just thought for a drink that would be a fun name because it does it taste delicious and then it's too late. It starts with a handful of strawberries.


Muddle those strawberries in your glass. I used a pint glass. So, you know, like three or four strawberries in the bottom is great if they're medium to large.


And then you are going to pour in three quarters of an ounce of vodka or if you're me just bumped that one up to an ounce because they just poured it.


No, don't pour with a bang.


Yeah, I'm sorry. I don't follow my instructions. Three quarters of an ounce of rum, three quarters of an ounce of tequila, three quarters of an ounce of gin. I only use a half ounce of triple sec and then an ounce of rose syrup, which is really the magic trick here.


I love when you put Rose in it, but you are definitely not lying when you call this the twist on the Long Island. Right. Is that basically the recipe for a Long Island? Yeah, except until you get to the rose syrup. I also add a few drops of bitters. Floral bitters are great for a drink like this. I have one that actually has Rose as the primary note in it. And then after you muddle the strawberries, good to throw ice in.


But if you've forgotten until now, throw the ice in now and then you just top it with either a lemon lime soda or a ginger ale. And then I just sliced a couple of additional strawberries and put them on the rim as a garnish to make it very pretty.


It's so pretty. It tastes like roses and you can't taste any of all of those ounces of alcohol, which is amazing.


Like, it's a beautiful little drink. It's a very pretty color and it'll get you.


Some people like to use white rum and silver tequila in their Long Island's. I am not picky about that. I had a gold tequila and my rum was actually a colored rum. It came out a beautiful rose gold color.


So, hey, don't worry about the rum color. It comes out looking great. Yeah.


So this might be my favorite drink I've ever made. I think I've said that a few times before, but I, I firmly say this one for the moment at least wins until I come up with something better.


Does this displace the white to drink? To me it's a better drink than the white toad. OK, I will continue to probably favor the white toad because it's easy to make and I can just churn those out and have some lovely this. There's a lot more work. You got more troops.


There's muddling going. Exactly.


You might not have fresh strawberries on hand all the time, but I think it's a winner.


So whether that is your Valentine's Day drink or just something you want to try any old day of the year, it sneaks up on you as well every other episode. Right. This might be a good time to let people know this is a shorter season than poisoners. It's it is creepier not not as long we'll move on to a whole other crime sooner and move on to different creepy.


Thank you so much. We hope you have enjoyed this bonus episode for Valentine's Day. And meet us right back here on our regular publishing day of Tuesdays. And we'll have more stalker talk for you next week. Criminality is a production of QandA Land Audio in partnership with a heart radio for more podcasts from Shadowland and Audio. Please visit the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.