After a night out in 2012, Sarah Roza came home to find 1 of her 4 stalkers waiting for her.

Content note: The following contains strong language and details of graphic threats of violence.

“Looser. Looser. Looser. [sic] It’s time to celebrate. We won’t have to look at your ugly face, ugly body, huge arse, or hear anything that comes out of your sewerge [sic] mouth anymore. You mole [sic]. You useless bitch.”

That was just part of the first letter Sarah Roza received from a stalker. It arrived in the letterbox of her Melbourne home in 2012, shortly after she and her then-boyfriend, James Kingsbury, were eliminated from reality TV series The Amazing Race. There were no identifying details; just a typed, A4 page brimming with insults and abuse.

It was only the beginning. Over the course of several months after the show aired, Sarah (who is now better known for her appearance on Married at First Sight) was harassed and stalked by four strangers; none with an obvious connection to the other. The situation became so severe that she was forced to move out of her home in order to feel safe.

“That was the price of fame, for me,” she told Mamamia.

It started with the letters…

Sarah is among the one in five Australian women who have experienced stalking in their lifetime, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

That’s 1.6 million women, subjected to protracted and unsolicited behaviour by, in the majority of cases, someone they know. Overwhelmingly — 94.5 per cent of the time — that perpetrator was male.

Stalking is a crime in all Australian states and, though legal definitions vary, it’s generally identified as a person repeatedly contacting, harassing or spying on another, causing them fear or distress.

That may be through physical stalking (for example, loitering, interfering with property, sending unwanted letters and gifts) or cyber-stalking. The latter is more common and includes tactics such as repeated phone calls, text messages or emails, harassment via social media or GPS location tracking.

In Sarah Roza’s case, it was only letters at first.

The first letter Sarah was sent. Image: Supplied.

Some were sent by post, others had been slipped into her letterbox by hand. Most were highly sexualised, and some even came with flowers and gifts.

But it was those like that first note that disturbed her the most; they were abusive, aggressive, threatening. The author was later determined to be female.

"It got to the point where she'd write, 'I'm going to hack you into bits and eat you,'" Sarah said.

"I remember racking my brain, thinking, 'How have I hurt someone this badly?... Do I know who this person is? Or is it just some random person that got a bee in their bonnet after watching me on the telly?'

"I just couldn't understand why someone would say these awful, awful things to me. It was scary."

Sarah said that after she reported the letters to police, they investigated using the postmarks and fingerprinting. But there were no answers.

She's still uncertain how the senders obtained her address.

"I just knew it was one of them."

During that time, Sarah was also harassed in person. One man repeatedly followed her when she went to her local supermarket, questioning her, over and over, about whether she was still in a relationship with James (they'd since split).

Two others appeared on her property.

On one occasion, she observed a man standing in her backyard, staring at her house. She phoned the police, but by the time officers arrived, he was gone.

On another, she arrived home at 12:30 a.m after a night out with friends to find a man waiting on her doorstep. As she made her way past him and inside, he asked her for the time.

"I just knew it was one of them [the men who had sent letters]," she said. "I played it very cool, but I was absolutely shitting myself. I was just focussed on getting inside and getting safe."

Sarah and her then-partner, James, were on The Amazing Race in 2012. Image: Channel 7.

With the various incidents and threatening letters mounting, her publicist arranged to get her to safety.

"[I was told] 'You've got 15 minutes to put whatever you can in a bag; toiletries and a change of clothes. Grab the dog. And we'll figure out the rest later. We just want to get you out,'" she said.

Sarah was taken to a Melbourne hotel. She didn't tell anyone where she was — not even friends or family — yet had to go about her life as normal. That included publicity events for The Amazing Race, in which she'd come in contact with dozens of fans, unsure who may be among the crowd.

"I felt as if I was constantly trying to decipher and work out people, which was a new skill I had to learn," she said.

"Prior to that, I'd only ever really encountered strangers and fans that were completely sane and rational; just normal people coming up to me, hugging me, telling me, 'I love you, I watch the show', and all that sort of stuff... So it was a very steep learning curve about how to [safely] deal with the public."

"Police were trying their best."

Though motivations for stalking vary, in many cases it's a way for the perpetrator to exercise power and control over another person.

But Sarah has been determined to break free from that.

She's continued her career in the public eye and even appeared on Married at First Sight in 2018.

"I've always been very community-minded and I've always liked meeting new people, so it hasn't dissuaded me from that. Because I know 99 per cent of people are fabulous and wonderful and very good people," she said.

It's now simply an unfortunate reality that she must take active measures to protect her safety and privacy. She's more guarded, especially when it comes to providing personal or contact details, even to people or organisations she trusts. She's changed her phone number dozens of times, uses a post box, and so on.

She knows she was in a fortunate position to be able to protect herself, and particularly to have been swept away to safety back in 2012; she had someone to help her get out, was allowed to break her lease, had someone who could pack up the rest of her belongings, and eventually was able to move to a new home.

"I can only imagine what it's like for women that are on their own or have children or that that don't have the means or the capabilities to get out or to disappear or to get help," she said. "Because in all honesty, the police were trying their best but there was not much they could do.

"I just feel thankful that I had good people around me."

If you are experiencing stalking or harassment, contact your local police.
Support is available via 1800 RESPECT. Please call 1800 737 732 to speak to a trained counsellor.

Feature image: Supplied.

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