'What it does to your life': women's rights advocate releases video highlighting stalking

A women’s right advocate says conversations need to happen about domestic violence after a relationship is over.

Julie S. Lalonde was stalked for more than 10 years before her stalker died

A video about criminal harassment and stalking was made by women's rights advocate Julie S. Lalonde. (Youtube/Outside the Shadows)

A women's right advocate says conversations need to happen about domestic violence after a relationship is over.

Julie S. Lalonde, originally from Sudbury but now based in Ottawa, dated a man for two years before she ended the relationship. She said he stalked her for more than a decade after that breakup. Eventually, her stalker died.

Lalonde said it's a topic that's not widely discussed, as many people don't think it's common. She adds victims of stalking feel talking about the situation they're in can make it worse — or even dangerous.

"I am uniquely positioned to talk about my experience because I can't be harmed anymore," Lalonde said.

"[My stalker] died. Unless your abuser is dead or behind bars, it's not safe to talk about."

Julie S. Lalonde made a video about criminal harassment in Canada, after being stalked herself for more than a decade. (Taylor Hermiston)

Lalonde said she was in a constant state of anxiety the 13 years she was stalked. She said despite being accustomed to speaking in front of large crowds, and found herself constantly scanning the crowd when she went up to speak.

"You have to tell yourself it's never going to stop," she said.

"It sounds counter-intuitive to people, but in order to survive [and] not completely fall apart every time I heard from him or every time he did something, I had to accept that I [couldn't] change his behaviour. I [could] only change how I react to it."

Lalonde says her public strength was used to undermine the legitimacy of her private crisis.

"If you fall apart, you're seen as weak and dramatic," she said.

"If you're stoic and resilient, then you're clearly exaggerating the trauma that you claim to have experienced. You can't win."

To draw more attention to the issue, Lalonde fundraised and eventually hired an artist  to create a video about criminal harassment, including stalking, in Canada.

Lalonde said she wants viewers to learn about the trauma of stalking.

"I wanted people not to just have the cold hard facts," she said.

"I could sit here all day and tell you stats on criminal harassment. But I wanted people to feel what it does to your life, to build that empathy so that they would be invested and continuing the conversation."

Lalonde's new video is called Outside of the Shadows: A Project on Criminal Harassment in Canada.

In 2009, Statistics Canada reported there were 20,000 reported cases of stalking in Canada, and three-quarters of the victims were women.

With files from Jessica Pope