Episode #21 Transcript - The Frog in the Pot: Stalking, Domestic Violence, & Personal Safety with Rachael Frost

[00:00:00] 

Kelly: Rachel Frost is a retired Master Investigator from the County Sheriff’s Department in Southern California and is now owner of Frost I. C. E. D, which is Investigation, Consultation, Education, and Development, and the Action Academy. Rachel specializes in violence recognition and response to include domestic and sexual abuse.

Child Abuse, Stalking, Strangulation, Staged Suicide, Investigation, Threat Assessment and Management, Police Policies, Practices and Procedures in these areas, Personal Security and Safety, and more. Rachel focuses on Program Development and Training, Client Bridging, Incident Consultation and Investigations, with Crisis Management Support for Corporations, Agencies, Schools and Communities.

She brings this expertise to numerous court cases across the nation as an expert witness. And, she gives back through her organizations focusing on survivor and [00:01:00] first responder wellness. She belongs to several associations and serves as a national board member for the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, is a member of the cadre of experts for End Violence Against Women International, The CFO for Kids Court and Counseling Center and works with the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.

And I don’t know when you sleep, Rachel, but Rachel is also a very dear friend of mine and someone that I admire. Deeply and look up to and if I ever grow up, I want to grow up to be like Rachel Frost. So welcome to thrive unafraid Rachel Well, just what is the female version of Peter Pan’s like that?

Maybe that’s just how we’re gonna…

Doug: Peter Pan.

Rachael: Right. Well, Sandy Duncan, right? I’m old. So I can remember that reference. , just for clarification, the cadre of experts for inbounds can swim in. They did, they just retired.

Kelly: No way[00:02:00]… 

Rachael: We’re still going to be all involved in different ways, but because of, you know, the cadre was growing and, you know, it’s kind of hard to put your name on something like evaluate, put their name on something when they’re not managing it. You know, in terms of, I’m not looking at every single thing this individual is creating. So I was like, I totally get it. Don’t worry about it. As a board member myself, I completely understand.

Kelly: So maybe it frees up and now you can get involved with some other organization. Rachel, I say that with just a hint of sarcasm.

Rachael: I just joined one today. So…

Kelly: See, there you go. What, what is the organization you joined today?

Rachael: Well I didn’t join them. I’m going to be doing some free stuff for them, but we haven’t announced it yet. So, but I’m very excited about it. I’m always passionate about any opportunity to Create safer environments no matter how that is, whether it’s through You know, training or program development, getting people [00:03:00] grants, stuff like that.

Kelly: Right, right. Well, for today’s show, with all of your background and all of the things that you’re involved with, I have, I mean, there’s many things I could talk to you about, but there’s a couple of things I’m really excited about. answer simply because I’ve seen firsthand the lack of resources, the lack of knowledge, the lack of understanding of the impacts or what that means or the severity, you know, so the, some of the things that I wanted to talk about were around stalking, around strangulation issues in abusive relationships and how severe, how serious that needs to be taking.

And you and I have had many conversations. When we’ve seen each other, , at conferences about how strangulation often gets brushed off or the questions aren’t asked correctly by the law enforcement responders. So things are getting missed. So [00:04:00] I think that that’s something that our listeners would definitely benefit from learning.

From you and then also some of the issues in family court that you see so Unless there’s something specific that you really wanted to start off with I’d love to start talking about stalking because that’s a huge issue with so many adults of all ages

Rachael: Absolutely. I just wanted to first say thank you for having me here. I really appreciate it. I appreciate any opportunity we can have to discuss these issues. I think there’s tons of people around the country, around the world, bringing awareness to them. And I think they’re, it’s a pretty, timely conversation.

With sexual assault, strangulation, stalking, domestic abuse, threat assessment, and threat management, you know, all of these things tie into mass homicides and community violence. So it’s definitely, unfortunately, timely, and it will probably be timely for years to come.

Kelly: [00:05:00] Right, right. No, I’m glad you’re on the show. So I guess to me. What is the number one? Misconception about stalking that you hear over and over again in your work.

Rachael: Oh gosh, misconceptions. I think the biggest problem we have when we’re dealing with stalking cases, because I do see that they’re missed a lot. So for example, back when I was working in law enforcement, , and I would have officers doing, you know, due diligence. They weren’t trying to blow off a stalking case, but , let’s say someone had a restraining order and this officer’s coming out and they’re doing a restraining order violation.

They’re not digging deep enough to determine that this is actually a stalking case. This has been going on. It’s not just a restraining order violation. This is, and I’ll use California as an example, everybody’s law is different. But here in California, it’s, , you know, , repeatedly following and harassing, you know, et cetera, et cetera, an individual and a credible threat.[00:06:00] 

So repeatedly is two or more. So once you have two or more instances of, you know, making a threat, following someone, harassing someone, , unwanted communication, and you have a restraining order and you’re giving a credible threat, that’s a, there’s two subsections of stalking. There’s six 46. 9 a, which is stalking without, without a restraining order and being with a restraining order, which really changes the level of, you know, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony.

So a lot of times what we’ll see is. Restraining order violation, after restraining order violation, after restraining order violation, or a misunderstanding of the seriousness of the situation because we might have a silo effect. One police officer has information about, , maybe some unwanted phone calls.

Another police officer has some information about a potentially veiled threat or an actual threat. Another police officer might have information about, you know, Hey, I’d like you to, you know, come with me for keep the peace while I get my, [00:07:00] , you know, belongings or while I walk to my car, I’m worried about this, but we’re too often these days, law enforcement is lower staff, , and we have younger folks in it because we have so many people retiring because when things went pear shaped in law enforcement, the past few years, a lot of people were like, And I’m out and I’ve hit my 50, I don’t need to stay anymore.

Plus we’re getting more ambushes and things like that. So you have more and more people retiring, younger, younger folks coming in, which is great. You know, that’s change. But we’re not digging deeper because we don’t have the experience on a lot of our departments or we have people that are. So old that they’ve, you know, they’re just not chasing it anymore.

So we’re not asking enough questions about what’s happening for the case that we’re on right then. And we’re missing the stalking component. We’re just getting the crime that’s in front of us.

Doug: Rachel, you talked about the statutes as it relates to the stalking, but from [00:08:00] the perspective of our listeners, right, or from a victim’s perspective, like the definitions are never as clear cut as it seems in the statutes, right? How do we help them, A, understand what stalking means to them and then B, help them understand it’s okay to go get help when you think this is happening.

Rachael: So I think, you know, essentially you’re really talking about domestic violence itself, you know, as you know, your foundation, if you will, understanding the concept that, , someone is putting you in fear specific to stalking, they’re following you. It’s unwanted. Whether or not you’ve tried to get them to stop, isn’t really within the statute.

Right? It’s unwanted, repeatedly following, etc. And again, everybody’s is different. , but it goes back to the concept of most people don’t want the justice system in their lives. They just want the bad behavior to stop. And it’s really difficult [00:09:00] to know what’s going to happen when you go talk to a police officer.

That’s scary for a lot of people, you know, and a lot of people, , I don’t know about you guys, but if you ever watch the comment section of anything, frankly, you watch a comment section and you see all these people go and call the police. And half the time I’m like, you would know.

Kelly: …these people going…

Rachael: You don’t call the police for this.

And the other half time, I’m like, call the police!! Like, you know, stop asking the online community what you should do. Let’s call the police. So obviously the main part of stalking for any state is going to be fear. 

If you are afraid of someone, they are causing you fear, you know, and if you don’t know if you should call the police yet, I always recommend, you know, err on the side of caution and do, they could always tell you, Hey, that’s not something we might handle, but here’s the opportunity to maybe talk to a victim advocate.

Definitely, you could contact any one of the hotlines that are out there, right? The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, to Kelly’s point [00:10:00] earlier, there’s so many resources out there that are listed in order to obtain online that I always recommend if anyone is, , should I or shouldn’t I?

Yeah, definitely make the phone call better to be told that, Hey, we’re not there yet, but here’s some resources then to not reach out at all. And then the problem gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And stalking is a multidisciplinary team response. That’s not just law enforcement. It’s victim advocacy.

There’s safety planning that goes involved. These days, custody is not a certainty. You know, custody, we could be arresting somebody and they could be out in 15 minutes, right?

Kelly: …being put into…

Rachael: Right. Apologies. Yeah. Make

Kelly: No, that’s okay. [00:11:00] And

Rachael: The whole problem. The whole entirety, right? How do we mitigate? How do we inhibit the violence from that stalker? Right? Going into our threat assessment background? How do we mitigate that? How do we keep the victim safe?

You know, and we look at crime prevention through environmental design at their house. Like what issues or problems do we have at the house? We talked to them about behavior coming in and out of their house, right? My recommendation, Noah, as always, don’t put, if you have a garage, let’s use it. Use that garage as much as you can.

Make sure you don’t lower the garage door until you’re certain that nobody’s followed you inside. , have cameras. Where to place cameras. Why to have cameras there.  What kind of alerts to have on those cameras.  Going in and out of your house. , and there’s all sorts of different things to help create that safety.

But you know, a lot of it happens, has to do with the suspect as well and having law [00:12:00] enforcement agencies and parole or probation, who knows how to monitor people effectively. And there’s a whole laundry list that goes with that safer environment

Doug: Can we come back to, you said, you know, a key component of it is fear, right? And, sometimes discomfort comes before fear. And fear may, that feeling of fear may actually be too late. It may have escalated. So, how, how would you guide somebody through that process while their friends may be saying, no, no, no, no, he’s not weird, he’s just persistent?

Kelly: Well, so I always say…

Rachael: So I always say that’s perspective. Right. Mine and Kelly’s perspective about walking through a parking lot at night at two o’clock in the morning where it’s not well lit, , might be entirely different than my perspective of walking in a parking lot at…

Doug: Both of y’all are gonna be like, bring it on, bring it on. But, but other…

Rachael: Kelly’s a bad idea, but she’s the only person I can put to Jesse off camera, [00:13:00] right? You’re an average woman.

Kelly: …a bad author. She’s the Yeah, well, I wouldn’t go. I would walk the long way. Honestly, like, I’m at the point in my life where I’m like, there’s no need to put myself in unnecessary

Rachael: Danger.

Kelly: …way. Yeah, danger.

Rachael: So, but this person might already be in harm’s way and there’s nothing they can do about it at this point. And they’re not sure how to get out of harm’s way. Or I shouldn’t say there’s nothing, but you know, I mean, they’re, they’re stuck in trying to understand it to Doug’s point. So. It’s important for us as peace officers, like for example, for me, I wouldn’t mind at all walking into a dark parking lot in the middle of the night.

, you know, I come with tools of the trade from being in law enforcement. , we don’t have to go into what those are, but you know, I come into the tools of the trade and it, and you know, if you’re going to pick anybody, I mean, hey, here I am. Right.  As long as my kids aren’t with me, you know, I’m okay.

So my perspective is going to be vastly different than that of someone who has never been in law [00:14:00] enforcement, who isn’t a situational awareness expert, who doesn’t evaluate these situations. And I think that’s important for us as friends, as family members in law enforcement to recognize that the person who’s being stalked Their perspective is likely decidedly different than everybody else’s.

Now sometimes their perspective is he’s never hurt me before. He’s never, you know, he’s always threatened things, but nothing’s ever happened before. I know him. You don’t know him the way I know him. And the rest of the family is, you know, their threat level, their concern is up here. Where the victim’s concern or the potential victim’s concern is down here, then sometimes you have the victim is way up here and everybody else is, you know, normalizing or rationalizing bad behavior.

So I think it’s always important to give people the opportunity to articulate why, why do you feel this way? And…

Kelly: …published a case where the family and friends[00:15:00]… 

Rachael: Right, why do you have this perspective? Not just that I have it, but let’s talk about why. So if I have a case where the family and friends are. Threat levels here and your victim potential victim is down here. I like to use index cards and I say write down the actions and the behavior on index cards absent the person’s name absent your name burned her clothes in the front yard Index card.

He parks outside of work for eight hours and texts nonstop. Index card. He calls and threatens something bad is going to happen and sends a photograph of a gun. Index card. Right? And then we look at the cards and say, if this was not you, and this was not. Whoever the stalking subject is, how would this make you feel?

What would you think about this without additional context? Because a lot of times, and you and I’ve talked about this, Kelly, we [00:16:00] talk about the frog in the pot fable and what that is and why we say domestic violence is like a frog in a pot, right? There’s never a gut punch on the first date. If it was, you’d swipe left or right or whatever that is.

I don’t know. You guys talked about safety online. You can figure it out. You wouldn’t date that person again, right? If you went out and that person hit you on the first date, you’d be like, and we’re done. And I’m going to call the police. And that’s it. Right? Because there isn’t anything else. Emotionally connecting us to that person.

It’s essentially a stranger who’s hurting us, but you start. So I call the pot, you know, on the stove there. I mean, I’m always like, not the pot, but the pot,

Kelly: If you went out and that person kicked you on

Rachael: …the pot…

Kelly: The boiling…

Rachael: The boiling pot of water, that’s legal so many places now. I mean, I don’t care, but the, the pot of cold water on that stove, right? That’s what, that’s what the frogs start out in, you know, and then as the heat gets up, [00:17:00] like the abuse or the verbal abuse, the control, the financial abuse, , you can’t wear that.

Why are you talking to them? You spend too much time with your family. Why aren’t you spending time with me, right? That heat’s going up and up and up. And as it gets hotter and hotter and hotter, you know, the rest of us, us frogs, we’re all over here on the, over in the sink and the cool water going, it’s great over here.

We love it. Why wouldn’t anybody want to be in the sink? Right. And our other frog, like that pot, that’s their home, their life, their thoughts of the future, their happiness, their past.

Kelly: …else is involved. But that’s their life.

Rachael: It could be school and sports and, you know, whatever else is involved in it, that’s their life. Right. And as that heat goes up, you know, us frogs over here in the sink, we jump into that pot of, you know, rising heat and we go, Oh my God, it’s hot in here.

You’re going to die. And we jump out and the frog in there says, I don’t know what you’re talking about. It seems okay to me because [00:18:00] we adjust, you know, as time goes on, you adjust to that heat. Heat now every once in a while the heat goes up really really fast, right? It gets pulled it gets maybe it’s the first time you get punched or the first time your hair is pulled and you’re dragged Down a hallway or the first time, you know, he calls you a fucking bitch in front of your family And your family says what you know, and maybe they’re trying to drag you out of the pot, whatever it is, or maybe it’s the first strangulation.

The first time you thought, Oh my God, I actually, you know, I could die. And so the heat goes way up and maybe that little frog jumps right out of that pot, you know, that heat of abuse and goes, Oh my God, that’s really scary.

And sometimes they’ll hop all the way over to the sink, right? And they’re like, Oh, it is nice over here.

But then the heat in that pot can go way up and boiling over. That’s a really dangerous time when we decide to leave it entirely. Right. But sometimes that little frog will hop right next to that pot because they’re not sure what to do yet. It’s uncertain. It’s tenuous. That’s their pot.

Kelly: …yet.

It’s uncertain.

Rachael: We forget [00:19:00] that.

That’s their world. That’s their life. And it’s so easy for us to be like, come on over to be over here? It’s so much better over here. I’m leaving behind everything. Right? And nobody wants to leave their pot. They want the heat to go down. That’s it. They want the heat to go down. We can normalize a ton of trauma and, but if we jump right next to that pot, you know what happens?

And this is from years of jail phone calls.

Kelly: A jail…

Rachael: Baby, baby, I love you. I am so sorry. I could not believe what happened when I saw those pictures that the detective showed me.

Kelly: Horrible infractions in your…

Rachael: I can’t believe I did that to you. I broke your arm. I caught, and they’re never going to say I caused an orbital fracture to your face, but I punched your fat, broke your cheekbone.

Kelly: I worked hard all…

Rachael: I can’t believe I did that. But you know what? I was just, I was drunk. I was so upset. I was…

Kelly: …regular basis. She doesn’t care.

Rachael: You know, I came home that day. I’d worked hard. I’d worked hard all day [00:20:00] and I came home and you weren’t there. You know what? You were at your mom’s house. Your mom hates me. She’s never been good to me. She disrespects our relationship on a regular basis.

She doesn’t care, like when she, that’s why she’s not allowed to watch the kids anymore. But you were over at your mom’s house. I know she was telling you to leave me. How could you do that to me? How could you go to someone who would take apart our relationship? I work every day. I take care of you.

Kelly: Every day, I take care of you, I value…

Rachael: I value you.

You don’t, you don’t value me. Otherwise you wouldn’t have done that. How could you have done that to me? How could you do that? How could you treat our relationship like it’s nothing?

Kelly: Now all of a sudden…

Rachael: Right? And now all of a sudden it’s the person with the broken arm and the orbital fracture. It’s their fault.

Kelly: want to try and

Rachael: And then sometimes we might want to hop all the way, bless you.

We might want to hop all the way over to the sink, right? But what do we often leave behind in that pot of our home and our life and sports and all of these things,

Kelly: …behind in that pot?

Rachael: [00:21:00] little baby tadpoles.

Kelly: These? Would it be tadpoles? What are…

Rachael: What are the chances that the tadpoles get to come to the sink with us 24/7?

Kelly: Great. And we…

Rachael: Not great.

Doug: …very often.

Rachael: Not great. So what? And we know it’s hot in that pot.

Sometimes we’ll stay in there. We know it’s hot. We know it’s hot in there. But if we leave those tadpoles behind, who’s the buffer?

Kelly: How do we know? And…

Rachael: How do we know? And what’s the threat, right? Well, I’m going to keep them in this pot and you know what, I’m going to make sure, let’s say there’s someone who’s, you know, here from another country, I’ll make sure you’re not even in the kitchen.

Kelly: You to the backyard.

Rachael: We’re going to send you to the backyard, lock all the doors, not allowed to come back and the tadpoles will stay in here.

Kelly: Right.

Rachael: Right? So there’s so many different ways of controlling. And I use the frog in the pot as the example, because you know, what does the justice system do? And I was in law enforcement for 20 years.

I love the justice system, right? But we just.

Kelly: we need

Rachael: We’ve forgotten we’re a business and that we need to create a great product and service our clients well. Otherwise someone’s gonna come and replace us. [00:22:00] Oh, because nobody will replace us. We forgot to do that, right? So what does the justice system do? Do they make sure that the heat is lowered and that we have nice cold water or help us on over to the sink?

Sometimes. But what does it do a lot more times? We kick that pot over. Shit goes all over the stove, right? And we don’t mean to. , but that’s just the effect of, you know, law enforcement and everything else, oftentimes in, in difficult relationships when we’re not addressing it in team environments where we also have advocacy and that safety planning we talked about and all those other great things.

So in terms of that concept of stalking, first we have to understand where people are coming from, that context for them. So I like the index cards for people when you’re going to try to show them, Hey, this behavior is actually very scary. And if it’s very scary for them, but other people don’t understand it, I’m a big believer of writing it down, write down a timeline,

Kelly: Actually, it’s very scary. [00:23:00] And

Rachael: Write down what’s happening.

And you don’t have to remember on Tuesday, June 22nd at 5:55 PM and a dark and stormy night. Okay. It doesn’t need to…

Doug: A couple of weeks ago works.

Rachael: Right exactly, but just give yourself bullet points, right? This happened. I remember, you know, he kicked her, he or she, you know, kicked me in the face and it was a near 4th of July because it was after my family had left the house.

Or, I remember this, or I remember that, or I remember this. And stocking’s the same, right? Because stocking doesn’t occur in a vacuum. There’s different types of stalking. But most of the time we’re looking at intimate partner stocking. Not always. We could have someone who’s love obsessional. Yeah. We can have someone

Kelly: well, and that’s

Rachael: you’re an intimate partner, but you’re not.

Right. , but they want you to be right.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachael: They want you to be, or they, they believe you are, but you’re not. Or you could have stalking of workplace conflict, [00:24:00] , bullying issues in school. You could have stalking. I mean, it really depends. I mean, what we’ve been talking about so far as an intimate partner, but there are definitely other types without a doubt.

Kelly: Well, and that was one thing I wanted to bring up because I recently Dealt in with the situation with a dad actually, you know had seen me present through his company And, you know, breadcrb, breadcrumb, realized he, his daughter was going to college, both of his daughters are going to college in the state where I live.

So, oh really, how ironic, what a small world, blah, blah, blah. And then I said, well, being so close, if they ever need anything or want to talk, because he’s not in this area. You know,

Rachael: And you’re a…

Kelly: …him my email.

Rachael: Right?

Kelly: And I’m a helper, right? And when he goes, well, if you’re serious, I, my, one of my daughters is actually dealing with a stocking issue right now.

And I was like, oh, so we connected, he gave me the scenario [00:25:00] and it’s one of those things That, to it, I can completely understand where they’re caught between. Is this something that we should take more serious? Are we overreacting right now?

Rachael: You hear that a lot?

Kelly: yes,

Rachael: a lot. Like, am I overreacting? Mm hmm. Mm

Kelly: yes, this daughter who is in her, I’ll say mid, mid twenties, very outgoing, very, adventurous, confident in herself, traveled to a foreign country.

Was there on a vacation hanging out with a group of people and one individual, one guy and her were having a conversation. She never gave him her contact information, never gave him her, you know, other than her first name, but he was able to put it together by their small chat. Small talk where she went to college, what her name was, where she was living, all this information created a social profile, [00:26:00] started following her on these different social platforms.

And she got a little freaked out by that. Like, I didn’t want to connect with you. We didn’t connect. And you went, you did a lot of research to find me over and beyond what I, what she was comfortable with. She said, I’m not interested in connecting with you, you know, blocked it. And. Over the last how many months he has created four different profiles, but used different names. But used the same profile picture and so she knows it’s him right, but it’s there so she knows because it seems so little, not a big deal.

He hasn’t really threatened, but he won’t take no for an answer. He won’t leave her alone. He continues to make different profiles to reach out and try and connect with her. And she now. is [00:27:00] concerned that she’s, she’s started to go into more of, I would call a paranoia state where she looks at anyone she talks to is if I’m nice to you, if I say anything that gets you to know who I am, are you going to start doing this behavior?

And so she’s starting to go inward and…

Doug: Make herself…

Kelly: Her make herself smaller and have less confidence and not want to go out and not want to be adventurous and not meet new people And all these things and then her dad who lives states away He he confided in saying I’m losing sleep at night because I’m stuck going Is, you know, as far as we know, he’s in a different country.

As far as we know, he would never do anything or wouldn’t escalate. He goes, and then I think of headlines. And then I think of all of the articles where it did escalate to, you know, a death. It did escalate to a homicide. And he goes, I don’t know what to [00:28:00] do. And, you know, that kind of goes into the victim safety planning is basically what I

Rachael: Well, and victim empowerment, as well, I think. Yeah.

Kelly: Right. And some of the things that I had to do to do research on, okay, what are, like, I’m a big person of, I’m not just going to write down these numbers and send you links. Like, I’ll do it myself because I want to know what that process looks like. So I spent quite a few hours calling that local police department and even on their website, nothing.

Nothing talks about stalking issues or stalking crimes. And the one department I got to said, Well, we don’t really deal with stalking, but there’s nobody else to, so you just have to file a police report. And to your point, I’m like,

Rachael: I’m sorry. Was this a police department that said they don’t deal with stalking?

Kelly: They’re like, we don’t really have someone who specializes in stalking and, you know, but we’ll, we’ll handle it in this department.

Doug: We have a law in the books, but we don’t have an officer trained in it.

Kelly: Right. And so, but it was one of those things that the more I [00:29:00] dug and the more I said, okay, no, I’m going to call this line and I’m going to look into this. And I, and I compiled all the information that I found just by saying, and one, one person that I made contact was like, you’re such a good friend. And I was like, yep.

Like, I’m not going to give anything away, but I was so disappointed. I was so fired up. The family and email saying here are her options. Just let her know none of this is her fault. And I want to give her her power back to start deciding what she needs to do to feel safe. Let me know if you need anything further.

But that’s I think a big part of the stalking is so often it goes unreported until it escalates to an in person threat or until it escalates to violence and then people are like, why didn’t you say anything? And you’re like, yeah, but when I do

Rachael: To whom?

Kelly: Then you think. That I’m…

Rachael: …in it. Well, so I think sometimes now the case that you gave, would a police department be [00:30:00] able to do anything with that case? I would argue probably not, depending upon,

Kelly: Yep. 

Rachael: …and it would depend, right? On some of the actions, some of the statements. You’d want to look at them to determine whether or not anything was, you know, threatening or leakage information or something like that.

But in that case, I would recommend, obviously, if there’s a family justice center around, or anything like that with advocates who’d be experienced in safety planning, right? Because you want to start with safety planning of, okay, this is going on. And like, to your point, you know, this isn’t your fault.

You did not bring this on by being polite to somebody or being kind or being friendly. , that would be like if the dad started stalking you because you were nice enough to, I’m not saying he did, but nice enough to, you know, give, give all this information. And that was certainly well above and beyond what she did and being polite and, and talking to and talking to someone and not, you know, ignoring them.

I think that. [00:31:00] To police officers, in general, they are jack of all trades, master of what they choose, or are voluntold to do. Right. So, because, and I always said, no one ever chooses domestic violence. A few people do, but not, not many. , but in investigations, usually you have someone who specializes in domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, like all restraining orders, all of those different types of things.Now for an agency to tell you, they don’t.

Kelly: If they don’t have anyone,

Rachael: You should be able to just talk to any police officer, should be able to at least answer the basics of stalking for you. Now the fact that we miss it is because we don’t dig deeper, but once we do, it’s a pretty simple crime to understand but it’s a difficult crime to docent sometimes.

Now I’ve had times when, cause I used to work in a family justice center as the detective…

Kelly: …Family Justice Center as…

Rachael: …had a time when a woman [00:32:00] who was, , had a lot of mental health issues came in with a very large, like paper bag stuffed with paper. Like you might see someone who has difficulty with linear thought and everything, just stuffed with…

Kelly: …with papers. I’m being stalked…

Rachael: And so she’s like, I’m being stalked.

I’m being stalked, but nobody will listen to me. And then she gave some very interesting, colorful conversation. And to the point where I was and had some very interesting, body movements as well. And I said, why don’t you leave it with me and I’ll take a look at it and I’ll get back to you.

And she’s like, okay, okay. You know, and left it with me. 

Kelly: …look at it that…

Rachael: And I did, I didn’t look at it that day. I had a ton of other things I had to do that day. I looked at the next day in the quiet of my office and as I went through each, you know, some of the pages were dirty and some had food stains and some whatever.

But as I [00:33:00] looked at it, this profile of this online stocking situation started to come out. And it was.

Kelly: it was…

Rachael: There was a lot to it. It was over 200 to 300 pages worth of printouts that she’d made that were a website that was just dedicated to stalking her.

Kelly: That was it.

Rachael: That was it. That was the entire dedication. And she made a perfect victim. Because she was like an OnlyFans person before OnlyFans was a thing.

Kelly: …who was…

Rachael: So like someone who was an online sex worker who would, , you know, you basically called in and asked them to do something for you and they would do it, but it was on their, their own time, right? It was just them filming whatever was going on.

And so that he met her through that and then started to spend, then they started a relationship and then started stalking her. And she also had some mental health issues. So a perfect victim because nobody thought she was, , you know, living in [00:34:00] reality, nobody thought she was telling the truth. Nobody thought she was whatever.

That’s a whole other conversation about mental health and how we address mental health in our society. , but she was a great victim, right? Because she would say things like, Oh, he’s sitting outside my house and his friend is a serial killer. And I’m afraid that he’s going to get me. And so now everybody’s like, okay.

But in reality, he had told her that his friend was a serial killer and his friend would flash lights on and off, , on his car prior to killing the victims. And so he was actually sitting outside of her house, flashing his lights on and off because he told her this story. So she was, you know, petrified.

But he had an entire website dedicated to stalking her to a point of, like, he took very graphic, , pornography and would superimpose her face on it, like very, like, bestiality and, , some very violent stuff, , and, and just all, and he was convinced that, she was convinced he planted a chip inside of [00:35:00] her, but he had told her all this.

It wasn’t her just coming up. He had told her all this and it convinced her it was true. So she was “the perfect victim”, and no one would listen because of her, I don’t even want to say delusions, but her, her speech patterns made it difficult for people to think that she was speaking in a linear way and to listen to her past. Her experience that she was sharing with everyone. And when we eventually got through all of this content and eventually arrested him while he was in court for another stalking in another county and had a new girlfriend who I wanted to go honey, run. But I did, right. And, but we arrested him right in front of her for another stalking.

And it was like, come on, let’s definitely break up this relationship. He was a very interesting interview because he had taken a lot of GHB and he was just as interested in speech patterns and conversation as [00:36:00] she was. So he would talk like this. We were talking to him. He goes, every woman loves me.

Everybody wants to be me. Everybody wants to be with me. And this was the conversation. So stalking is not always very obvious and very easy and very basic, right? But that’s an extreme extreme case of not listening to someone because What they’re showing you seems outrageous. Or it seems fantastical or it seems like it doesn’t make any sense.

So I’m not going to go past the surface but…

Kelly: …something that someone might…

Rachael: Those of us going back to perspective, where it wouldn’t, something that someone might do, like maybe, you know, for my husband or somebody else, it wouldn’t bother them if someone went through that kind of effort to find them online, they might find it flattering versus Now we have four other profiles and we’re still trying to get to you now that we’ve told you, you’ve told them where, Hey, I’m not interested.

You know, someone else might find it like whatever that [00:37:00] person’s crazy or that person’s this or whatever flippant thing they’ll say. , but for, you know, this individual, look at how it’s affected her life. So while it may not. It might be something that the police could specifically do in terms of custody or in terms of anything like that.

It might be something to be aware of, to meet with advocates, to talk to them about safety planning, to talk to them about what to be concerned about as a next step or next area so that if something does even, you know, step into that realm, , then we’re immediately on it with law enforcement. Or you might even be able to have law enforcement have a conversation with him like, Hey, it’s time to stop.

After you evaluate it, right? Cause sometimes that works and sometimes that makes it worse.

Kelly: Right. And I think that’s something you had mentioned earlier, and there’s so much good information here. And I’m like, I knew we shouldn’t, we just should have picked the one topic because I knew we could talk for a long

Rachael: Well, I figure you’ll just edit it.

Kelly: …of different, well, what I wanted to go back to [00:38:00] was you mentioned the lack of law enforcement, resources, training, individuals, all of those things. So I think, what is one thing that you could tell our listeners if you are concerned about someone’s behaviors and if they’re crossing the line into stalking? What can you do as an individual to at least take care of yourself? There’s a white, you…

Rachael: Well, I’m going to two prong that one is if you are going to talk to law enforcement and even as an individual. We’ll start simply with documentation. I highly recommend docenting everything you’re going through. If you have supportive evidence, like a text message, an email, let’s say you saw this person while you were out, talk to the person standing next to you and say, do you see that car? Take a photograph, get that person’s name, get their information. It’s always great when you don’t even know them because then it’s completely [00:39:00] unbiased. Right. , but docent, docent, docent. I used to tell people to get a, even a notebook where if something happened to write it down in there. And yeah, you do become paranoid and sometimes things seem like they’re connected and they’re not.

But that’s a good thing in the end. Right. But even if you’re considered to write it down and say, I don’t know, but this also happened. I’m not sure, but this happened, but when you definitely know, put it down. I saw so and so this date, this time at my location, right? Because if you do have to go get a restraining order, you’re going to need that documentation, but you’re going to need evidentiary support.

So I’m a big fan of evidentiary support. Even when I do expert witness testimony, I’m always looking for what’s the evidence behind it. ,

Kelly: So maybe can you explain the documentation versus evidentiary support?

Rachael: So documentation

Kelly: Because there’s

Rachael: yeah, yeah.

Kelly: …what is legally admissible and…

Rachael: I went full, tell my nose is itching. I went full into, [00:40:00] that’s supposed to mean you’re getting money. Hold on.

Kelly: Yeah. Right.

Rachael: That’s your palms?

Kelly: …my nose every…

Rachael: Let’s, they’re all itchy. Okay. , yeah, no, absolutely. So, documentation could be that, somebody called you from this number or sent you a text message from that number.

The evidentiary support for that would be taking a screenshot of the text message, getting your phone records to show that the phone call came in from this number, and then showing maybe your contact list that shows that this person’s number is saved. You know, you know it’s from them because you have the number, you have this, you have that.

Now that said. And I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole, but somebody could spoof, right? They could spoof a number and it could, and you could, but you could say, I recognize their voice. It was this date. It was this time. It was whatever.

Doug: And it’s still part of the, it’s still part of that chain, including documenting your own. Choices, right? Docenting your, the times you’ve told this [00:41:00] person to stop

Rachael: Exactly. I said to them on this date and time. , and if you’re going to record it, usually you say, Hey, I’m recording this because you have to, every state’s different. So understand that here in California, we have a two party state. So if I’m going to record, I have to tell you I’m recording. I can’t just record them out unless I’m with law enforcement or it’s written into my restraining order.

Sometimes in the orders, you can record just one person,

Kelly: So, if I’m going to record, I have to tell…

Rachael: …right? So it’s different everywhere.

Kelly: …just record a name. Unless, I’m in the wrong person, or it’s written into my trinity. And if I’m in quarters, you can record just one person. citizen to know what the heck, what am I supposed to do? Where should I go?

Rachael: So many great online resources too, but, , but let’s go back real quick to your, you said, what could they do? I think the biggest thing is to get a safety plan in place, [00:42:00] understand exactly what behavior is happening, why they behave. You may not know why the behavior is happening, but being able to articulate it to a victim advocacy group.

And I’m a fan of the Family Justice Center. It’s just, we have a lot of them across the United States and especially if it’s an intimate partner, they understand right away. You know, this is a serious situation. , we, and then we have, is there any intimacy effect issues we have to worry about, right?

Because if someone threatens to kill you, it’s always…

Kelly: …of noise about…

Rachael: …for hunters and howlers, you know, as a book that’s,  is it Calhoun and Weston?

Kelly: …you’re intimate with someone, it…

Rachael: I believe so hunters and howlers and howlers make a lot of noise about things and then hunters hunt. Right. , but there’s also this concept of intimacy effect where if you’re intimate with someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean having sex with them, but intimate, like I have a relationship with that person.

I’m a coworker. I have some sort of, you know, intimate contact with them on a regular basis. But especially [00:43:00] within a relationship and you’re saying to someone, Hey, I’m going to kill you. That raises our concern. The threat level goes up because that’s not something that you have in, you know, regular conversation with somebody that you care about.

Now a howler could be going in and yelling at the water district and saying, you know, you MFers in here, you did A, B, C, and D. I’m going to come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches, you know, , and they may still mean it. So we’re still going to pay attention to that individual. Right. But with the intimate partner, that’s where our threat level goes up.

That, that intimacy effect, that connection with them.

Doug: It’s more, I mean, it’s going to be viewed at a higher threat level, more real.

Rachael: Correct. Correct. So, I mean, I think that safety planning is so important because, and situational awareness to, to Kelly’s, you know , background and expertise. , and determining what are you capable of doing? You can take self defense classes all day long, but if you haven’t made the decision with yourself, am I [00:44:00] capable of doing a, b, c, or d to another han being to protect myself, it’s not going to do you any good.

When I would talk to my sisters, my sister’s about 13 years, 14 years younger than I am, , and when they were in college, we talked all the time about, you have to be prepared to use force against another person. So, as an example to them, I made recommendations like, you know, take your thumb and push it through someone’s eye until you hit the back of their head, you know?

And so, but they would be like, you know, the, when you think of that, you’re immediately like, Oh, so I said, yeah, but so prior to and doing anything like that, you’ve got to think about what it’s going to feel like when your thb touches, you know, squishy tissue like that, what it’ll feel like when it goes to the back of your head, you know, all these different kinds of things.

And you have to think about it in your head. And, and practice that concept, that idea, because if something like that happens, and I’m not telling your viewers, by the way, to go out and do that, just, [00:45:00] just to be clear. But when you think of something like that. You need to know what it’s going to feel like you cannot cringe.

You cannot wait. You cannot think about it too much, right? You’ve got to run scenarios as a stalking victim. You have to say to yourself if someone approaches me in the garage What am I gonna do if they show up at my front door? What am I gonna do if I’m getting out of my car? What am I going to do? And that’s where those self defense that safety planning and I’m always like first of all start making some noise. Yell at the top of your lungs, make as much, and obviously try to get away if you can.

Don’t try to stay, don’t try to argue, don’t try to , cajole, don’t try to reason. They’re not supposed to be there. Get away as quickly as possible. Make as much noise as you can and call attention to yourself.

Kelly: So, we’re not going…

Doug: So we’re not going to have enough time to do this aspect justice, but we, you know, at the very beginning mentioned your background in strangulation [00:46:00] prevention. And I guess my question is, , in terms of, , domestic violence, you know, how did that become your area of focus and is, you know, and then is that something that’s a higher than average mechanism that folks are going to face in that world? So, I think strangulation prevention is domestic violence prevention, strangulation itself is a huge power and control, use of force on another person in, in abusive relationships and also, you know, outside, sometimes in workplace conflict or different things like that, but it’s a very controlling aspect of another person regardless of the relationship, but we’ve seen that in domestic violence where It tends to raise the risk.

There’s a 2008 Journal of Emergency Medicine study by Dr Nancy Glass and Dr. Jackie Campbell and several others at all who [00:47:00] looked at numerous cases of strangulation over a certain period of time and that study We determined that women are 7. 5 times more likely to become a homicide victim from that same intimate partner who strangled them.

If they’ve been strangled 7. 5, so 750 times more likely to become a homicide victim if they’ve been strangled, but they’re more likely to become a homicide victim with a gun. This is why taking guns for safekeeping is so important in domestic violence cases. But strangulation is…

Kelly: The question is…

Rachael: You don’t see a lot of injuries.

This is why training on this is so important. It’s so important because a lot of people expect to see bruising or, you know, maybe a ligature. I’ll use this as an example, you know, a ligature mark or something on your neck, , or, or fingerprints or half moon marks. And you can see those things, but you may not see them for [00:48:00] a day.

You may not see them for a couple, you may not see them at all. I’ve seen autopsies where the person’s been strangled and on the outside they look fine and inside their carotid arteries are blown out. They’re just gone. So strangulation for anybody listening, it’s an anoxic event, which basically means we’re depriving the oxygen of brain, excuse me, depriving the oxygen, depriving the brain of oxygen.

Yeah. Let’s just lp it around, depriving the brain of oxygen through pressure on the neck. Or through positional asphyxiation, like I’m a 400 pounds. Well, almost I’m 400 pounds and I’m sitting on top of your chest. You can’t constrict 250 pounds and you’re a hundred pounds. I’m sitting on top. Right. Or, , , so that’s positional asphyxiation or suffocation.

Kelly: and the pillow.

This is either manual, which is

Rachael: Right. I’m covering your nose and your mouth. I’m covering your face with a pillow. , strangulation is either manual with your hands, your arm, a rear naked [00:49:00] choke, you know, whatever that happens to be. , or then we also have ligature strangulation, which is like I said, with a, you know, a cord or a belt or a piece of clothing.

And then we have hanging right where you, you know, hanging, obviously everybody knows what that is with the same type of, , mechanism you might have for a ligature strangulation, but showing different pattern injuries right on the body. So, , with strangulation, , we don’t see, there’s a study done by Gail Strack, Esquire, she’s one of the co-founders of Alliance for Hope and the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention. And then there have been several doctors along the way, Dr. George McLean, Dr. Dean Hawley, Dr. Bill Smock, all these different people along the way. And each time they update it, it really falls within the same pattern. It was a 300 case strangulation study, 50 percent of those who presented, , advising they’d been strangled, 50 percent had no visible injury. 35 percent had [00:50:00] redness that was going away by the time law enforcement was going to photograph. And then 15 percent had visible injury. So the ones like I talked about, like you might have, someone’s grabbing you, right? And you’re moving your chin back and forth. You might, all you might have is a chin abrasion from violently fighting, right?

To get away. Or you might have scratch marks on yourself or on the other person trying to get away from them. , if you get a big, huge bruise right here. Underneath your jawline, that’s from tearing of the mastoid process because you know, your neck, sorry, your neck is going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

And it tears that right off. But we have when we use in training, she looks completely normal, if you will. She’s got a little bruise right here and a bruise at the back of her ear from being punched in the ear. She’s strangled, but she doesn’t remember really what happened. She remembers him going for the throat and then she’s running down the street.

And, , she was [00:51:00] feeling dizzy about six days after the incident and the district attorney finally convinced her to go to the ER. And even the doctor thought she was going to be fine. She herself was a nurse. And when they did, , the, , CT scan, they found she had a bilateral carotid dissection. So both of her carotid arteries had been dissected and she would have likely died without treatment in the hospital, right?

Because you form a clot and then the clot goes.

Doug: Mm hmm.

Rachael: Up to your brain, but strangulation is very simple. You have your carotid artery that goes up to your brain bringing oxygen up there Then you have your jugular vein that brings the deoxygenated blood down and then you have your trachea, right? So We want to just debunk that concept for anyone who’s listening who may have been strangled that if you can breathe, you’re not being strangled because it takes 4.

4 pounds of pressure to block my jugular. It takes six, about 11 pounds of pressure, excuse me, to block my carotid artery and 34 pounds of pressure to block my trachea. But if you’re blocking my jugular, [00:52:00] right, I have oxygenated bloods going up to my brain. There’s nowhere for it to go. It’s, it’s blowing up, up, up, up, up, and finally it has to pop somewhere.

That’s why you’ll get petechiae, those little blown blood vessels, maybe in your mouth and your eyes, on your face, in your hairline, in your ears, anywhere above where the pressure is. And then, , if I’m blocking my carotid and my jugular, but I can still breathe, I’m not in a force to block the trachea, I might be breathing, but I ain’t nothing getting up.

Kelly: …ain’t nothing getting…

Rachael: That’s that deprivation of oxygen to the brain. The doctors that we work with, Dr. Dean Hawley, excuse me, this is Dr. Bill Green. Dean passed away. , Dr. Bill Green and Dr. Bill Smock, they do an amazing job of explaining to ERs across the United States, how imperative it is to do CT scans with people are saying that, you know, they’ve suffered a strangulation incident because a lot of our [00:53:00] ERs don’t realize they’re looking for the same thing, right?

They’re looking for bruising and damage and external for the in, but the internal it’s so frightening. It’s so dangerous. We’ve got to get our folks To these ERs. I mean if they urinated or defecated during a strangulation incident, they came very close to death And that’s really important for them to understand.

If you’re pregnant, you can miscarry, you can aspirate on stomach contents. When you take a breath like that, if you’ve thrown up or anything, , while the strangulation is occurring, it’s very, very, very serious. So I thought I would just try to get a lot of that out for you, , in terms of that strangulation and absolutely you’re, it’s a big safety concern. That situation isn’t going to get any better. That domestic violence moment, yeah, that is a very dangerous, highly, highly risky situation for anybody who’s been strangled,  [00:54:00] especially in an intimate partner event.

Kelly: Well, and unfortunately we’ve come to the end of our recording time, which I knew we would barely scratch the surface of your expertise and knowledge. , that in my mind, everyone needs to know, I know you focus. So you do a lot of trainings. For law enforcement, for the threat assessment world, in corporate, in colleges, you know, to the everyday person.

And so every opportunity, especially with what Doug and I are trying to accomplish with this podcast of talking about this real threat. That people face and, and what they can really do to try and improve their chances of survival or Minimize their impact of trauma or you know, heaven forbid lose their life. We want to prevent all of those awful things from happening.

So thank you for coming on the show. We’re definitely gonna have to [00:55:00] have you back to talk about more because one thing the victim safety planning you mentioned. I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but it really stuck out to me at our conference that we were at last month. And I was like, gosh, I don’t know if I’ve heard about that in my community.

And I’ve come back, reached out to our local domestic violence shelter saying, Hey, do you, do you guys help with the victim safety planning? And finally gotten connected with the person who is in charge of that. So I’m so excited to connect with her locally, meet her, find out how I can help support that or even just be aware.

Because one thing, ironically. With stalking, so many people don’t identify as a victim of domestic abuse. So would they know to go and get help for safety planning from the domestic abuse shelter? I think that’s something,

Rachael: And I find it is so, it’s like such a great, if you’re, if you’re going to law enforcement, they’re saying either I can’t help you or, or maybe they’re not as familiar with [00:56:00] that type of case. I mean, we made fun of the, you know, the one agency that said, Hey, we don’t have a stalking person, but maybe they just have not been used to doing cases like that.

You know, they’ve done the restraining order cases, but not that. I have found that going to a victim advocacy center to start. , is a great opportunity because now you have a support team in your corner. You’ve got someone there who isn’t going to, you know, shame everybody into participating, but someone who can say, Hey, this is what we usually do in this case, or this is what is our best practice, or these are the things that are available to you.

And reflecting to those people who are saying, Hey, I’m not sure much like you did for that man and his daughter. Like, yes, you should be feeling the way you’re feeling, right? We never make anybody feel bad for the way they’re feeling, but you should be feeling this way. It’s okay to feel this way. Here are your resources.

Let’s start with advocacy because why wouldn’t we want to start with advocacy? I don’t know about you. I’ll call someone right now to come and [00:57:00] advocate in my life. Let’s go, you know, let’s go in before I have that conversation. My 15 year old about homework, let me get an advocate on board. Right? I mean, why wouldn’t we want to do it for something?

That’s legitimately frightening. Well, so is my 15 year old, , but legitimately, no, he’s actually a really good kid, but legitimately frightening, legitimately scary. And we have a serious concern about our safety. Let’s get people on board and on our team while we move forward and navigate that together instead of alone.

So many people afraid of navigating it by themselves. They don’t have to.

Kelly: Right. Right. And we’re going to help remove some of that shame and embarrassment around

Rachael: No shame.

Kelly: for help, right? Because everyone goes through their own stuff, has their own stuff. So well, Rachel, thank you so much for coming on the show today to all of our listeners. Thank you for continuing to listen episode after episode.

Downloading the episodes, telling your friends about them, please [00:58:00] share episodes with your loved ones because the more people who get this information, the better. And I just want to give a special shout out to, when you talk about victim safety planning to our premier sponsor is Mace. And that’s really one of the things that I love about partnering with them is because they’re about community safety and empowering anyone, not just women, anyone, different tool options.

To stay safe. So until next time listeners, thank you so much. Remember that you deserve to live life on your terms and to thrive unafraid.