A CORK woman who suffered a horrifying ordeal at the hands of a stalker has welcomed new legislation to help victims in her position, despite admissions that her nightmare is yet to end.
Una Ring, from Youghal, was saved from a potentially terrifying assault after her former colleague, James Steele, was arrested by gardaí outside her home on July 27, 2020. He had been found with a rope, duct tape, crowbar, and a sex toy strapped to his body. Ms Ring had been subjected to a six-month campaign of harassment leading up to this that saw him threaten to break into the house to rape her.
The 52-year-old is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for the offence.
Under new legislation, stalking victims will now have the opportunity to apply for civil restraining orders without a criminal prosecution. The bill will be introduced before the Oireachtas and is set to become law some time in the autumn. It was proposed as a means to tackle stalking at an earlier stage to prevent serious harm.
Ms Ring had previously teamed up with fellow stalking survivor and student, Eve McDowell, and Fianna Fáil senator, Lisa Chambers for an anti-stalking campaign that resulted in stalking and non-fatal strangulation becoming stand-alone offences in April this year.
Ms Ring said that while her struggles continue, she is glad that others might now be spared the same terror.
“I’m glad that something good has come out of this,” Ms Ring said. “I’m especially glad that this came before he is out, because when he is released, I will be looking over my shoulder once more. It will never be the same.
"My peace of mind will be taken away again, so I’m already thinking of how I can secure my house and find ways to feel safe.”
Ms Ring added: “I wasn’t the only victim in this. This has had a knock-on effect on a hell of a lot of people; his family even more so.
“Just like the victim, the stalker is also someone’s father, son, or brother. The family did nothing wrong.
I have the empathy and support, but the family of a stalker, particularly when it involves a sexually related offence, often finds themselves shunned by their communities.”
Una explained that stalkers can often be difficult to detect in the community.
“The detective explained to me that people like this are honing their skills from a very young age, which makes them very skilled at pretending. Often the outside doesn’t match the darkness that is inside.”
The anti-stalking advocate said she has heard from a number of people affected by stalking during her campaign.
“It is so prevalent now that it is frightening. People are getting in contact looking for help. The stories are harrowing.”