Stina Lindenblatt's hosting this blog hop in honor of people who have been stalked. She'll be donating $1 to a woman's emergency shelter for every entry into her blog hop, so if you haven't joined in yet, do. You have until Friday to post.
I'd entered the blog hop because I thought it was a great cause. Stina, I know you asked for a 500 word limit, but I just can't cut this down. I think it's important that people see how stalking escalates, and I thought I'd do it with my own experience.
In my senior year at high school, I'd befriended a guy over the internet who'd go to the same university as me. I'd thought it was a good idea, because I would move cross country with only one friend as support. So it made sense to make another ahead of time.
But as our meeting day came closer, I realized things weren't right. He'd lied to me about stuff. The typical stuff a guy with low self-esteem would lie about. Then, if I moved away from my computer or phone for five minutes, I'd return to find he'd sent me twenty messages. All demanding to know why I ignored him. Where I went. What I was doing. Demanding to know what he'd done to deserve such bad treatment.
If it happened once, I might have ignored it. But it happened every time I spent time away from the messaging service. Even if I only left to go to the bathroom.
Needless to say, this freaked me out. I called the meeting off. This upset him. Badly. I wasn't worried, though. I thought I could vanish in over 20 000 students.
But on the first day I went to accounting, he was in my class. To this day I don't know if it was coincidence or not.
I ignored him.
He sent me a message during the lecture, asking me what I'd do if he just came up and sat down next to me. This question might seem silly, but it gave me chills.
Why? Because I'd made a choice not to meet him, and he was toying with the idea to ignore this choice and force his will onto me.
I replied that I'd report him to my lecturer.
Once again, he peppered me with messages. Demanding to know if I was seeing someone else, and if that was what was holding me back. He insisted that I should meet him. Insisted that I was being an idiot to act this way. About the fiftieth message gave me a real taste of what it was like to be stalked.
It said something like: "If I sat down next to you right now, you wouldn't be able to do a thing about it."
And that's the essence of it. Being stalked forces the victim into a place where it feels as if they have no control. They can't control the stalker. They can't stop him, can't make him leave them alone.
This was the first time in my life I was afraid of a specific person. I told him to back off and deleted him from my contact list. That didn't mean that I stopped seeing him at accounting every day.
Nothing happened for a few months, but then he asked me to accept him as a contact. I was sitting with one of my friends at a restaurant. We talked about it, and I decided that maybe I'd over reacted. So I did accept.
I was rewarded by this message: "It's terrible that I can see you, but not touch you."
I freaked, immediately searching my surroundings. I couldn't find him, but to this day I'm sure he was there. My every instinct told me he was. This time, I threatened him with everything I had (which really wasn't much). I said I'd get him on a police record. That I'd get him expelled and screw up his future. Anything I could think of. But even as I typed the words, I knew that wouldn't make him stop if he didn't want to.
Once again, I was met with his furious tirade. It terrified me. So much so that I actually considered asking my mom for her pistol. Even when it was illegal to carry on campus. There was no way to stop this guy, and I didn't feel safe in public.
When he didn't stop messaging me (telling me what a horrible person I was), I deleted him again. This was one of the most difficult things I'd ever done. It's incredibly hard to cut off your only measure of a threat.
Fortunately for me, he didn't try to contact me again. He also stopped coming to my class. But I spent the better part of three years looking over my shoulder after that. Even today, seven years later, I don't feel comfortable with meandering around out in the open. When I go out, I go from one place to the next. I managed to start jogging, but I could never shake the feeling that I was watched. Even if I knew there was no one to watch me. I dreaded the day he'd confront me in person.
He never did. I never tried to find out what happened to him, instead opting to go on with my life. But I'll never stop being vigilant. That's why I'm never specific as to where I live. I'm not ever giving that guy a chance to track me down again.
In my fourth year, I moved in with a girl whose best friend, Erin, was killed by someone who'd fixated on her.
Every time I think of that, I know I was damned lucky. I'd managed to escape my stalker. You'd be shocked if you knew how many people don't.
Thanks for reading this far.
Before you go, I \want to share some advice I've come upon in the years since.
Ten things to do when you suspect or know that you're being stalked.
1) If someone's acting in a way that makes you uncomfortable, take action immediately. Don't let anyone tell you it's your imagination. It's not.
Don't let someone tell you you're over reacting.
I know shows like Two and a Half Men makes stalkers look cute, quirky and funny. Maybe a bit eccentric. It's a myth.
People who stalk have serious, destructive mental issues. Sociopathy, narcisism, borderline syndrome, obsession, schizophrenia, psychosis. These are a few I can think of, off the top of my head. Most of these issues means that it won't mean anything to them to kill you.
Don't ever underestimate the severity of the danger stalking poses.
2) Believing that you're somehow in the wrong to insist on privacy makes you more of a stalker's victim than you already are. Privacy is a basic right. Never forget that.
3) If you're feeling threatened, report it to the police. Even if there's no proof. GET IT ON RECORD. That way, if there is proof, someone will see that it's worst than it looks.
4) NEVER face this alone. Tell as many people as possible. Some people might tell you you're over reacting. Others won't, and they'd be aware of the danger if the guy does show up. This help might be just what you need in the end. They can also act as witnesses that you're being harassed, which is proof for the police.
5) Pepper spray. Tazer. Never leave your house without either or both.
6) Even if you know some self defense, the best defense is to run first. Don't reason with the person. Odds are they have none. If they confront you, get yourself locked away as soon as you can safely do it. And then you call the police.
7) NEVER go somewhere alone where there won't be help at hand.
8) Try not to live in fear, but don't be irresponsible. Be constantly vigilant.
9) Always vary your routine. If you're being stalked, constancy is your enemy.
10) If ANYTHING gives you a feeling that your stalker is near, call the police. Explain that you're being stalked and that you're feeling unsafe.
A good indication of danger is a dog barking. Get one.
Also, invest in an armed security company. If you're paying them, they HAVE to check your premises as soon as you call. Also, they'll give you a panic button, which might just save your life.
Never assume you're doing enough to deter the stalker. There's always more you can do.
Last thought: guys aren't safe from stalkers. Female stalkers make up about 15% of all cases recorded in the US. The difference is that the mortality rate of men being stalked is higher than for women. People tend not to believe men are threatened, so if you're a guy that's being stalked, you have to do more to make sure people see the threat.
Okay. That's me for today. I truly hope that none of you reading this ever needs this advice.