'As someone who has been stalked, I have feelings about the "real Martha" becoming a celebrity.'

Content warning: this post discusses stalking. 

Watching the surprise Netflix hit, Baby Reindeer, I felt equal parts triggered and validated. This was the first time I’d seen stalking depicted on screen with a nuanced, authentic, complex approach. As someone who's experienced stalking, it was an approach I could relate to. 

In particular, it cleverly examines the complexity of victim-response and the notion of an imperfect victim, as well as community attitudes around stalking and the overwhelming lack of understanding and support. 

Stalking is a crime that sneaks up on you. You don’t immediately know what's coming, which is why victim responses vary, and rarely make sense to those on the outside looking in. While ultimately, there is fear, there is also confusion, anger, frustration, even intrigue. There are moments when you try to laugh it off, and moments when you want to scream. There are moments when you can't figure out if you’re overreacting or under-reacting. 

Watch: The Baby Reindeer official trailer. Article continues after the video. 

Video via Netflix.

This is further compounded by the colossal lack of support most victims receive when they do try to talk about their initial discomfort; the discomfort felt before they’ve identified their experience as stalking. Being dismissed, as I was, and as Richard Gadd’s character, Donny was, can prompt victims to withdraw, either minimising their experience, or trying to handle the situation themselves. Either response can contribute to the notion of the imperfect victim. 


Because Gadd’s depiction of non-DV stalking is so realistic, its popularity genuinely surprised me. But more than that, it heartened me. In writing my book, Obsession, my goal was to start a national conversation about the impact of non-DV stalking, and the importance of recognising psychological and social harm. 

The response was incredible. Finally, there was at least some dialogue, not only about the impact of stalking, but also about where we're going wrong as a nation; about the consequences of poor community attitudes, as well as the lack of training, recognition, and proactive response by police. 

Baby Reindeer has achieved this on a global scale. It’s been phenomenal to watch, and I, for one, am grateful to Gadd for putting a world-wide spotlight on the issue. It’s a huge emotional undertaking to open yourself up to others, to reveal a traumatic experience to the public. 

But doing so is critically important. The sharing of one person’s story has the power to change the life of another; to save lives. In the beginning, viewers and media seemed to get that. They rallied around Gadd, applauded him for exposing an often invisible crime, and the associated invisible trauma. 

Then, something changed. 


Fans of the show flew into a frenzy, and sought to identify the 'real' Martha, and apparently they have achieved that. Oddly, blame shifted to Gadd. How could he risk her identification? How did he not predict that the world would, ironically, become obsessed with finding Martha?

Some people began viewing 'Martha' as the victim. But Martha is not the victim, she’s the perpetrator. A repeat offender, with previous stalking convictions. 

The woman who’s been identified as the 'real Martha' has made no attempt to deny it. In fact, she’s embraced it. She’s taken part in several media interviews—one journalist claiming he’s now being stalked by her — and makes frequent posts on social media seemingly about Gadd, the show and her role in it. 

This response didn’t surprise me. Based on my own experience with the woman who stalked me, and the deep research I undertook when writing my book, it’s clear that many stalkers are not ashamed of their behaviour. They don’t attempt to hide it, and often use their platforms, no matter how limited, to portray an alternate reality, often describing their victim as the one with the obsession — just as the 'real Martha' appears to be doing now. They crave attention from their targets, and will take any opportunity to get it.

If it wasn’t bad enough that Gadd’s perpetrator was beginning to obtain some sort of online notoriety, (that she appears to be relishing), she’s now been offered a sit-down tell-all television interview. With Piers Morgan no less. 

"WORLD EXCLUSIVE," reads his Instagram announcement. 


"The real-life Martha from Baby Reindeer breaks cover and gives me her first TV interview about the smash hit Netflix show." She wants to "have her say, and set the record straight."

Morgan then goes on to trivialise the issue further by asking his audience: "Is she a psycho stalker?"

A global platform for a convicted stalker; a woman whose name is known, not because Gadd chose to vulnerably share his story — a story steeped in trauma, not only for him, but for those around him — but because she's openly 'broken cover', as Morgan himself puts it. 

It should be noted that Gadd did not reveal the identity of the woman who stalked him. He did not want her identity revealed, and I’m sure there were multiple reasons for that—protecting her, protecting her family, and no doubt, protecting himself and his family. 

Not only does giving Gadd's perpetrator a media platform sensationalise and trivialise the crime of stalking itself, but serves to further traumatise her victims, the number of which, we don't actually know.

As someone who has been stalked for a prolonged period, who can relate to the resulting complex trauma, and who understands the terrifying long-game many stalkers play, it’s a worrying turn of events, and a scary message for the tens of thousands of other victim-survivors around the world, who have now been given another reason to keep their mouths shut. 

Feature image: Netflix. 

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