Sportscaster Erin Andrews, currently of Fox Sports 1 and formerly of ESPN, was awarded $55 million dollars in damages after she sued West End Hotel Partners, who operates a Marriott Hotel near the campus of Vanderbilt University after her stalker, Michael Barrett obtained access to her hotel room and took pictures and video of Erin through a peephole. These images were viewed and duplicated millions of times, and their thumbprint is forever on the Internet. In a statement released today, Marriott International separated it’s brand from the Marriott Hotel ran by West End Hotel Partners, which uses the Marriott’s name only and is not affiliated in any other way. (insert image from twitter)
This stalking incident has caused Erin severe emotional distress. On the witness stand, Erin tearfully spoke about how her life is different, her relationships with people are more challenging, and how she wishes her boyfriend knew her before this incident so he would understand how much this has changed her. Trust, security, dignity, all damaged.
Stalking is not anything to thumb your nose at, and it most certainly is not flattering. People who become obsessed with celebrities, or even a person they see frequently at Starbucks, can very easily cross over from strong admiration to psychosis. Although stalkers claim to love the person who is the object of their affection, they almost always cross the line, which can include anything from violation of personal space to murder. John Lennon and Dominique Dunn, Selena were both killed by their “stalkers”. Then President Ronald Regan was shot by a man who was stalking teenage actress Jodie Fisher, and who wanted to do something to get her attention. There are many more and its disturbing Scariest Celebrity Stalkers—Buzzfeed
Stalker laws have become stricter in the past decades. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics these are the most current facts related to stalking in the US:
- During a 12-month period an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking
- About half (46%) of stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11% of victims said they had been stalked for 5 years or more.
- The risk of stalking victimization was highest for individuals who were divorced or separated—34 per 1,000 individuals.
- Women were at greater risk than men for stalking victimization; however, women and men were equally likely to experience harassment.
- Male (37%) and female (41%) stalking victimizations were equally likely to be reported to the police.
- Approximately 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).
- 46% of stalking victims felt fear of not knowing what would happen next.
- Nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity.
- More than half of stalking victims lost 5 or more days from work.
Personally, I am very proud of Erin and her willingness to see this ordeal through. Having to face this moment and re-live it over and over, having rumors circulate that you are somehow profiting from the attention surrounding this (victim shaming), and the overall sacrifice of your dignity to make sure that all parties involved are held accountable is commendable. Cases such as this typically strip the victim of anything they have left.
Fifty-Five Million dollars is a drop in the bucket when compared to your emotional stability and sanity, however, if you want people to know you will not tolerate being disrespected, the best way to drive that home is to hit them in the pockets.