Writing About the Topic of Stalking

Thursday, January 18, 2024


January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Today I’m participating in a social media campaign for Stalking Awareness Action using the hashtag #SparkleAgainstStalking. Last week on my podcast, "Missing in the Carolinas," I shared the story of Peggy Klinke, who was murdered by her stalker 20 years ago today. In the interview with her sister, Debbie, she said, “Peggy had a sparkling personality and would light up a room. As the stalking continued, we saw that shine fade.” While being the victim of stalking makes you want to fade into the background, it’s important to keep telling the stories of survivors. 

I’ve personally experienced stalking twice in my lifetime, once by a former boyfriend who was a few years older and another by a college classmate. I shared my story on the true crime podcast “Strictly Stalking” this past spring in Episode 169. While I was already interested in true crime long before I became a victim of stalking, I believe my experience only solidified my passion for telling other people’s stories and searching for justice and understanding wherever I can. 

In Episode 10 of my podcast I discussed the story of 17-year-old Shari Faye Smith from South Carolina, who was kidnapped when she stopped to check the mail at the end of her driveway. While she was missing, her kidnapper tormented her family by calling them on their home phone and mailing a letter that Shari had written describing her last will and testament. He continued to call the home, requesting to speak to Shari’s older sister, until he finally called with the address of where Shari could be found. Shari did not survive the ordeal, and a few weeks later, the man kidnapped a 9-year-old girl from the area who was also later found murdered. The man, who was eventually caught and arrested for both crimes, was named Larry Gene Bell. Rita Y. Shuler, who had worked as a supervisory special agent with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for 24 years, published a book about these two cases titled “Murder in the Midlands.” 

In Episode 35 of Missing in the Carolinas I wrote about a woman from Salisbury, North Carolina who was stalked mercilessly by an ex-boyfriend (and former police officer) until he murdered her new boyfriend and her mother in two separate acts. 

The behavior of stalking has been around for many years, and it has evolved over time. Thankfully, when I experienced it, smart phones and social media did not exist, as those mediums would have only elevated the incidents to make them even more terrifying. True crime author Leslie Rule researched and wrote about a jaw-dropping and eye-opening stalking and murder case out of Nebraska in her book “A Tangled Web.” The case involved such a complex case of cyberstalking that even the man who was at the center of the story had no idea what was happening until it was almost too late. 

When writing about true crime, including victims of stalking, it’s important to remember the victims, treat any information you share sensitively, and remember that their loved ones may read or hear anything you publish. You can learn statistics about stalking and find resources at www.stalkingawareness.org

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and true crime podcaster. She will be teaching an introductory class on true crime writing through WOW! Women on Writing on March 14. 


Yvonne Osborne said...

Thank you for pointing out this very real and endemic problem. I didn't know this was the month to bring attention to the problem. I think most woman have experienced this is some manner at some point in their life. I know I have. Ironically, another of my yet-to-be-published novels involves a stalking incident with tragic consequences. Maybe next January would be a good time to push it into the atmosphere. Thank you and all the writers at WOW!

Renee Roberson said...


Thank you for reading! And yes, stalking is a very real and serious problem, with repercussions that can last a lifetime. I believe January and National Stalking Awareness Month would be a great time to share a book about the topic--there is so much additional support you could get during then and I encourage you to check out the website stalkingawareness.org if you haven't already. They have compiled an amazing list of resources.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Renee! I appreciate all the good work you're doing in bringing awareness to the problem. I checked out that website and I can't believe 1 in 3 women are stalked. I've also been stalked, but didn't know it was that common! You did such an amazing job telling your story on the Strictly Stalking podcast, and your episodes are incredible. Your advice about remembering the victim's loved ones may read what you publish is important. Thanks for this post! :)

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