It’s rare to find a true-crime documentary that is equal parts entertaining, educational and polished to the point of resembling something you’d see on the silver screen. Netflix’s new documentary Lover, Stalker, Killer meets those criteria, though, all the while finding a way to fit an incredibly engaging narrative into an easily digestible 90-minute package.

Although the story spans years, the recount of a recently single mechanic diving back into the dating game only to come face-to-face with an obsessive fling that forever alters the course of his and his loved ones’ lives feels complete and well-explained, despite its relatively short runtime.

That’s refreshing; true-crime series too often end up with multiple episodes when one or two at most would be sufficient. Whereas those multiple-installment offerings usually contain quite a bit of filler, Lover, Stalker, Killer creates the digital equivalent of an old-fashioned page-turner that’s impossible to put down.

The cinematography is excellent. The production team uses the real-life participants to portray its reenactments in a way that gives off a Hollywood vibe with its minimalistic polish. This method is a far cry from the lower-budget feel of other offerings, which likely run short on funds because they spread the story too thin across multiple episodes.

Ultimately, I loved the documentary—so much so that I would be doing a disservice to future viewers if I discussed the plot in detail.

Just know it’s a tale of a scorned woman, and the pain she inflicts on the man who “betrayed” her is as wild of a roller coaster ride as I’ve ever seen.

Men as stalking victims

Some may finish the series and remark on the intrigue of stalking events this demented being directed at a man instead of a woman. That gender reversal has become somewhat more acceptable over the last year or so with the mainstream success of another Netflix series, Baby Reindeer, which is a drama about a man who shows kindness to a woman, which sparks her dangerous obsession with him.

I’ve only watched a few episodes of Baby Reindeer (it’s a bit too slow for my liking), so I can’t draw too many parallels to Lover, Stalker, Killer. Still, both shows present something we rarely see play out in court.

I’ve practiced criminal defense my entire career, and I have represented more individuals charged with stalking than I can recount off the top of my head. But that subset of my clientele has one thing in common: They are all men.

Nevertheless, situations where men are victims of stalking do occur, even if much less frequently than their female counterparts. According to a bulletin from the U.S. Department of Justice, 3.4 million people were stalking victims in 2019; 1.8% of the group were women, and 0.8% were men.

How can the statistics be that disproportionate? Perhaps the number of known cases is misleading. A 2021 Psychology Today article by Wendy L. Patrick, a trial lawyer and behavioral analyst, claimed that men don’t always want to report stalking behavior.

It’s difficult for people to see themselves as “victims,” regardless of gender. The thought that we cannot “handle our business” with another person, toxic or not, is something we shy away from. Additionally, many of us are afraid to admit that we are afraid.

Moreover, when stalking begins nonviolently, some men might see it in a more flattering light, especially if the perpetrator is a member of the sex that victim is attracted to. Regardless, obsession is impulsive, and there is no rhyme or reason as to when nonviolent stalking may become dangerous or deadly.

Taking the appropriate steps

Stalking behavior can start as little more than minor inconveniences. An unwanted social media message or text may not even rise to the legal definition of stalking, after all; still, with written correspondence, blocking the social media account or phone number sending the messages is possible. Regardless, that activity may continue and grow exponentially.

When the behavior far exceeds written commination, it’s an entirely different situation.

Sometimes, victims take steps like moving, adopting aliases and using PO boxes so no public record ties to their physical address. These decisions create massive disturbances in the victim’s life, but they are steps that can be taken to end the stalking and give the victim a bit more peace of mind and security, in a best-case scenario.

But as Lover, Stalker, Killer explains, sometimes those extraordinary measures only distance a victim from their perpetrator for a brief period.

As also portrayed in the show, the fear of escalating harassment and stalking can force even those men who aren’t necessarily prone to adversarial situations to arm themselves for protection. As a firm believer in our right to bear arms, I don’t see any issue with that. Moreover, I see no issue with legally possessing a firearm for home security, even without any apparent threat of danger.

But any victim of stalking—regardless of sex or identification—should be extremely careful about how they handle a firearm in relation to the person stalking them. Just because you’re being stalked and fear for your safety doesn’t mean that you can escalate an otherwise nondeadly encounter.

Obviously, the use of a weapon for self-defense is subject to multiple factors whose discussion would far exceed this column, but just know you must tread carefully. As my pops always told me, you don’t bring a gun to a fistfight.

And just to give away one potential spoiler for Lover, Stalker, Killer, I’ll say this: If you do obtain a firearm for protection in such a situation, make sure no one gets unauthorized access to it.

Adam Banner

Adam R. Banner is the founder and lead attorney of the Oklahoma Legal Group, a criminal defense law firm in Oklahoma City. His practice focuses solely on state and federal criminal defense. He represents the accused against allegations of sex crimes, violent crimes, drug crimes and white-collar crimes.

The study of law isn’t for everyone, yet its practice and procedure seems to permeate pop culture at an increasing rate. This column is about the intersection of law and pop culture in an attempt to separate the real from the ridiculous.

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

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