Seventy-six percent of women who are killed by a man they know well are first stalked by that man.
That statistic has become a powerful weapon for people who are trying to get stalkers arrested before the situation escalates to violence.
Women’s groups said the biggest problem with Tennessee’s stalker law is that it does not include text messages, emails or Facebook contact.
The women and children’s rights group AWAKE believes if lawmakers could hear Jennifer Gillette’s story, they will understand that the law has to be changed immediately.
Gillette is a changed woman. She has a new phone, a new business address and a new house, but none of it came by choice.
“It was anxiety and anger and fear constantly,” Gillette said. “I had some really dark moments in the middle of this because I was completely powerless.”
Gillette’s story began with a Facebook message from a boy she went to high school with 16 years ago.
“I started getting these really lengthy messages, vague and innocuous,” she said. “’No pressure, I just wanted to say hi.’ Within a week, it was, ‘I am desperately in love with you. I worship you like a goddess. I will do anything for you.’”
In two months, Jason Molthan sent 6,000 Facebook messages to Gillette.
“It was crawling in my soul and rotting, so I blocked him,” Gillette said.
After being blocked from her Facebook page, Molthan looked up Gillette’s business website and found her phone number. He then sent her 34,000 text messages.
“All of his psychosis being spewed at me all day long,” Gillette said. “I didn’t know when he slept. Messages would be going from 10 at night until 4 in the morning.”
Molthan would also call, but Gillette would not listen to his messages. They all went directly into a blocked call voicemail folder.
As a licensed marriage counselor, Gillette’s phone was her most important business tool.
“I hated my phone. I hated when it rang,” Gillette said.
She called police, assuming what Molthan was doing was stalking.
“I was often asked, are there direct threats?” Gillette said. “He never said, I am going to come to your house and stab you, but there were violent sexual messages sent constantly. The possibility of rape needs to be heard as loudly as the possibility of murder.”
AWAKE has proposed a bill to make social media stalking a crime. The key change to Tennessee law would be that someone can stalk a victim by course of conduct that follows, monitors, surveils or threatens them from a distance.
Through it all, Gillette took comfort in knowing that Molthan was in Texas while she was in Nashville. But one day, she played a voicemail from him from that day.
“Honey, I’m coming for you,” Molthan said in the voicemail. “You know it’s true. I don’t know what else to do. I just want to get you in my view. If you don’t want it, you better let me know. You only have a few hours left. I’m coming.”
“I mean, it’s a horror movie,” Gillette said. “Hearing that voice in that way is terrifying, and that is what I was trying to avoid. I did not want his voice in my head.”
Police helped Gillette take out an order of protection, but they could not find Molthan to deliver it to.
Authorities told Gillette to text back. For the first time ever, she wrote, “Do not contact me ever again. If you come here you will encounter legal consequences.”
Molthan never paused.
Gillette tried to go on knowing that her stalker was somewhere in Nashville. She said he followed her at Kroger, called her and narrated the experience.
Finally, Molthan called from outside Gillette’s house while she was at work. Her three children were home alone with a babysitter.
Police responded instantly. Molthan was sitting in a car with Texas tags. He had flowers in his car.
Eight months after this all began, Molthan was convicted of felony aggravated stalking and sentenced to three years probation. The last time he reported to his probation officer, he was homeless and wandering the streets of Nashville.
Under the proposed social media stalking law, Molthan could have been arrested in Texas long before it became a dangerous situation.
“This man was arrested at the point of harm,” said Megan Metcalf with AWAKE. “They had to wait until he was a danger not only to the victim, but to her family. We shouldn’t have to wait until that moment.”
Gillette’s life is now a series of secrets. She can no longer advertise her marriage counseling business, but she is willing to share her story because she doesn’t want anyone else to go through what she went through.
The social media stalking bill passed the House committee on Tuesday. It goes to a Senate committee on Wednesday before heading to the legislature for a vote.
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