Monday, January 13, 2014

Tell Me When Blog Hop: I was stalked. (And ten things to do if you are)



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.


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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.

24 comments:

  1. A really interesting and personable tale, and you are completely right, never feel guilty or like you're overreacting, it's about how a situation impacts you not what they say their intentions are. If you're uncomfortable or offended, report it.

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  2. Thank you for sharing, I was stalked for a while by an abusive ex and it is terrifying. So glad you got through it safe (((hugs)))

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  3. Scary story. Glad nothing happened. All women (and men, for that matter) should learn self defense. My young son is taking martial arts. The world can be a dangerous place and you need to be prepared.

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  4. Very good recommendations! I was stalked in college, and it can be a terrifying experience.

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  5. Oh my gosh I can't even imagine how scary this must have been!! I am so sorry that you had to go through this. Thank you so much for raising awareness though.

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  6. This brought tears to my eyes, Mischa. I was stalked in university too (hence the inspiration behind my book). It's a common problem in colleges and one too many people ignore.

    Thanks for the story and the great tips. XOX

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  7. So glad it ended up working out for you. But looking over your shoulder is no way to live. So sorry you had to go through that. Thanks for being brave enough to share your story. ((hugs))

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  8. That is just creepy. He was one unstable dude. Sorry you had to endure that.

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  9. Wow, you should've reported him. I had a stalker when I worked as a waitress. When he left a Christmas card with a $100 in it, I took it to the police. (We used that $100 to get my first cell phone and some pepper mace.)

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  10. Misha, thanks for sharing your story. I've shared a few of my unsavory encounters over on Swagger Writers. Made me a much more cautious person, as you've said your stalking encounter made you. You were smart/lucky to get away from him so soon.

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  11. Oh my God, Misha, how awful. I can't even imagine. I was sexually abused when I was a child, but this kind of terror over and over again is different. Thank you for sharing this story. It is important information for women everywhere to be aware of these things.

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  12. Misha, I'm so sorry that you had to go through all that. I'm glad that you shared your story. This is a subject that needs to be brought to light.

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  13. First, I want to say that I am so happy that this guy didn't hurt you. It sounds like you did your best with what you knew at the time.

    Second, I want to say that even though this was terrible (and it was terrible!!!), you survived it to tell your story. You never know when your story will save someone's life. So, thank you for getting this out there.

    Third, I want to add for people who are in relationships (or marriages) to people who are anything like this... get out. My ex-husband and I were fighting about something stupid, but he was the kind of person to blow everything up. He called me from work one morning, while I was trying to get ready for work, and just wanted to argue. I didn't have time for that crap. I tried to talk to him the night before and he wasn't having it. So, I told him to quit calling me b.c. I had to get ready for work. He wouldn't. So, I hung up on him. He called back and I let it go to the machine. He yelled into the machine that I better pick up. If I didn't pick up he knew where I was and I couldn't leave the house faster than he could get to me. Scared the crap out of me. I just quit getting ready. I didn't dry my hair, put on make-up. Nothing. I grabbed my purse and left. When people tell you that they can and will hurt you.... listen to them. Just because they "love" you in their twisted way doesn't mean they won't hurt you. Being married is not a protection. It is a shield. For them.

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  14. What a frightening experience! Glad you're safely on the other side of it now, and thanks for sharing the tips.

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  15. Sorry you had to have that experience. I'm glad you got through safely. Thanks for the tips. They'll go a long way towards making people safe.

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  16. Wow!
    I would add one more thing to ensure safety, get a photograph of the perpetrator and show it to the police, friends and family members so that if he does show up they will recognize him and the danger.
    Glad you came through that safely.
    Blessings, Geoff.

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  17. That is scary! I had a strange guy try that on the internet, but I ignored him. It took over a year for him to finally go away. These are all really helpful tips for staying safe! Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts.

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  18. Oh god, I'm so, so sorry. What a horrible thing to have to deal with, and live through. THANK YOU for sharing your story and spreading the word. It's so important.

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  19. Misha,
    That was a chilling story. I'm glad it turned out okay for you too.
    Good tips too. It's easy for people to think you're overreacting when going through something like this.

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  20. How terrifying...such great advice to share...

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  21. I think you are so brave for sharing your experience. I am just sorry this had to happen to you and is still happening to people all around the world. It is just not fair! I hope he is far away, like prison and that you can have peace of mind again. Wishing you all the best.

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  22. I meant to comment on this post earlier. I too had a stalker, for years (some of it unknown to me). It's a weird feeling, leaving you looking over your shoulder for awhile. Not fun. Thanks for writing so courageously and bringing attention to a potentially scary and isolating experience.

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  23. Sharing your experience has probably helped a lot of people. When it comes to your own safety, you are your best protector and it's better to feel foolish that you may have overreacted than regret not reacting strongly enough.

    I've never been stalked - thank God. But I've recognized what I suspected might be early warning signs of an obsessive person and tossed cold water on the situation before it could heat up. Maybe I overreacted and lost a potential friendship, but that was the better risk, IMO. (I also once hid in a bush because I thought someone was following me when I was walking home one night. I felt so foolish, until I realized he had been following me because after he rounded the corner behind me and looked in every direction without seeing where I went and turned around and went back the way he had come from.)

    Trust your instincts always, Better to be safe than sorry!

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