Stalking is a frightening, illogical obsession that victimizes 8% of women and 2% of men. It is very challenging to comprehend why someone would get so wrapped up in another person, especially one they don't know.
How does a rational person understand a pattern that is clearly irrational? How do the FBI and law enforcement agencies manage this without it leaking into their happiness?
I say this because I was stalked and it influenced me negatively, by consuming time that was normally reserved for pleasantries. When reviewing a list of concerts I'd attended, over my lifetime, there was a humongous gap, starting with the stalking and up until, only recently, where I had ventured out again to partake in things I love. Positively, it molded me into someone wiser and I'll get to that.
Once upon a time, I made jokes about stalkers, but without really understanding. Needless to say, I don't think I could joke about it now, after having been through it.
Assuming that stalkers share a common trait of illness would explain why most of their targets are the opposite; incapable of justifying their deviance. This creates a complicated barrier. Ask anyone who has experienced this crime, they dread their stalker's reactions.
Stalkers know they are abnormal and react terribly when they see this mirrored in another, especially their aim. I felt like I had to pretend that the things my stalker did weren't all that horrifying, at least, in front of him. I was petrified of what might happen if I revealed my genuine uneasiness.
Alas, they are secretive and try desperately to hide their activities from most.
This began a few years ago when I had a date with a man I didn't really know beforehand. In the year preceding, I had gotten out of a relationship, of seven years, and wanted to meet someone who I could perhaps, be friends with first. I was in no hurry, but I was searching for something real.
I innocently trusted the info a stranger provided online. False information is clearly an arsenal for a stalker, since it is easy to manipulate. I thought he was just like me which is what he intended. A few months down the road, I realized that I was in the company of a stalker.
To give an example, in the movie, "Kiss the Girls," Ashley Judd stands in her kitchen talking with a detective who turns out to be the man who kidnapped her. She doesn't know as she directs him to use a colander. Before she can tell him where to look, he reaches to its exact location which leaves her puzzled. This moment was like when my stalker told me that he knew how I spoke to my cats when I was alone with them.
Little things like this happened initially and my response was mystification. I wondered, "Good guess, I think."
Judd asks the man to hand her a cutting knife, unaware of any danger. Afterward, he begins to describe methods of stalking.
Kate, her character, becomes increasingly uncomfortable. As she listens, he eludes to intimate techniques that she finds creepy. Then, he says, "Of course, that doesn't apply to you. In your case, it's been quite a while."
She begins to tremble and panics because she is alone with the man who kidnapped her and he's just informed her.
That is the type of fright that goes through the mind made aware; it's very shocking.
The man I met was on a professional, dating site which advertised serious mergers. It wasn't a hookup site or anything like that, but the compatibility one and something I'd never done before. My chance, upon the advice of a coworker, who encouraged me to "get out there again," turned devastating. She convinced me by telling me of two couples she knew who met on it, fell in love and then, got married. I was looking for love, but what I got was pathological. What I got was a predator masquerading as a genuine man looking for love too.
I had two dates with two men before him. The first was a no-go. He said that he wanted to spoil me after talking about his ex-girlfriend, how many shoes she owned and how she had callously used him. I didn't want a man to spoil me or a guy who allowed a girl to walk all over him and decided, he was not for me.
The second man was more promising. He was handsome, had a son and worked out of town. I was conflicted about getting involved with him because he had a young child, that I knew I would bond with, and a possible ex-spouse, who might still be in the picture. I needed to think it over.
When the second guy offered to meet again, this third man appeared. I didn't get a good read on him, at first, as he pulled me away from other prospects.
From his profile, I didn't find him all that enticing. He had a black and white photo of himself in business attire and his face was expressionless. I originally passed and that haunts me to this day. Somehow, he managed to make me do a 360. And, once he had me where he wanted me, I was pulverized; it didn't take long.
He was a few years younger and I gravitate to older men who are more mature and grounded. He wasn't my niche. But, he sent me a message because I had passed.
One day, I came home to find two messages from two men who alerted me that I hadn't initiated anything. So, I cordially responded to both.
My soon-to-be-disclosed stalker was very polite and unassuming. His profile said that he was looking for a woman to spend his life with. I was hesitant, but I was open to trying new things. I didn't normally date younger guys, but maybe he was special.
He answered the question, "If you were ever stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have?" One of his answers was a guitar. I had relationships with several men who played the guitar and I also, love music. That was enough to persuade me; if only I had known who was really on the other side of the screen.
I had reservations, but every time, he came at me with something disarming and comfortable. It would have been easy to push him away, but somehow, he knew exactly what to say to me to win me over. In hindsight, this is nothing short of terrifying. Luck was completely on his side. He even bought one of my favorite wines for a date.
A few months later, he coldly explained,"I knew how to answer the questions to get a girl like you." On a dark, autumn night, he disclosed how he knew everything about me before we met. The only information I had given out was my first name and last initial. Since that time, some material has changed for the obvious.
It was November and we met in August. He said, "I knew your last name, where you worked and where you lived." I began to grow queasy and asked, "How? " He answered, "I have my ways."
I felt sick, stupid and violated.
He kept a tight lid on this for months and when he told me, I sensed his superiority. He was so proud of himself and how he had snowed me. Thus, I began to crumble, peeling back every detail and every meeting while putting together what else he must have known or done. "Was everything he said a lie?"
He had asked me to keep how we met a secret in August, and I had agreed because he said that he would be embarrassed if anyone knew how we met. He told me he was on the site because women only wanted to date him for his money. I started to realize, that wasn't so.
But at the start, I believed him. He lied with such ease, never blinking or showing fear. I'd agreed to date him not knowing anything about his finances and he never gave me money anyway. I worked two jobs and paid all of my bills, plus I purchased things for him. Even so, I could see that I had been lied to as a pit grew in my stomach.
He refused to discuss most things with me and asked me to leave at certain times. He'd have stealthy conversations with his friend, where I got the clear indication that their talks were off limits. I thought their relationship was odd, but I assumed it was an affair or something else.
I didn't dare intrude. If I did, I knew he would turn violent. I saw this one, December evening when he got on his back and began to attack a chair in an office. We were alone as he kicked it brutally because he couldn't get it to fit. I suggested that he go to the store and exchange it, only to be met with him screaming at me that all the sale's people were idiots.
I would suggest a reasonable solution and he would become belligerent. I'd ask him a question and he would chew my head off. I kept returning to the compatibility that we supposedly had and all of the things he said about wanting a real connection. If I grew uneasy, he would shift gears and talk about weddings, the future and family.
A few days before I ended it, he was on a website with engagement rings. By that time, I had heard enough bullshit proposals that never came true. I had to finally tell myself that his actions spoke louder than his feigned hypotheticals. Even though my head was torn and confused and with it being so hard to admit that I was in over my head, I left. For the longest time, I had convinced myself that I could help him and that I could manage it. But, I was failing, hurting and lost.
To my misfortune, I hydroplaned my car a week after we met. My car was totaled and I needed to keep my job so reluctantly, I asked him to help me get to and from work. It broke my heart, these unlucky events. They led me right to his door. I think that it may never have gotten so bad if it weren't for this or that. How could this man, who resembled Ted Bundy, be so lucky?
Instead of bringing me to my home, he dropped me off at his house and I ended up living there. He refused to take me to my apartment, while I continued to pay rent.
Shortly after, he said that he loved me and mentioned that he wanted me to meet his parents. I got close to his family and they welcomed me. Then in November, he told me this news. The thought of mentioning it to anyone was deadening. I didn't have a close family and in essence, I had bonded with his mom. Every time I thought of turning on him, I stopped because it would hurt her. Eventually, I had no choice and she hated me for it.
When he told me he stalked me, his voice changed and I could hear evil inside. Now, I knew why he didn't care what I thought or felt. He'd zeroed in on my appearance and what he could intimidate out of me. Sometimes, he made me work for food. He rejected his laundry and demanded I do it for him. Many times, I felt like I was in the "Twilight Zone" and saw no way out.
He asked me to take part in things I didn't want. I'd tell him no, but he'd persist. He offered me drugs and I said no. He'd wake up with nosebleeds, screaming and I'd talk him down. I noticed that when I tried to embrace him or show affection, he laid stiff as a board, awkward and unaffected. I'd pull away thinking how strange it was. I was giving him heart and emotion yet, he remained motionless. What would a man this unfeeling want with a woman like me? I broke inside.
He spent his nights partying, exposing himself and acting inappropriately with other women. I'd rush up and tell him to cover himself or to stop, but he never listened.
I'd asked for a guy who barely drank, not an alcoholic. It seemed possible that he was doing drugs, but I really didn't know the signs. Someone told me that nosebleeds could point to cocaine, after I left, but how could I know that? I got a dry nose from arid climates, so I imagined he had a similar issue.
What was worse was that I'd been looking for a legitimate partner, not some guy who was removed from interest and an actual relationship. I didn't want a guy who was loud and partied. He once dressed in a pair of shorts where part of his manhood was noticeable and went to the grocery store. He was entertaining some friends who came to town and they thought it was funny. Meanwhile, I was repulsed by his behavior. They were destructive, stole things and I once saw him put a lighted-firecracker in his anus.
Anytime I thought of leaving, the threats came. He whispered just what he might do if I made him mad. I refused to drink around him, as someone had to be responsible.
I was scared and betrayed. Many times I thought he merely had a problem that needed to be fixed and once that happened, he'd be ok. Then, I told myself, he'd be the guy he said that he was. That was my denial.
I knew that I had been ensnared and that he didn't really love me or want the same things. I worried about what part of my body would end up broken or beaten if I spoke up or left. He'd do to me just like he did that chair, kick me relentlessly.
I withdrew from most areas of my life, as I was unable to cope. The only thing I did was go to work, pay my bills and do whatever he wanted. He had his friends and his interests and I was expected to go along. Trepidation over his responses kept me in tow.
The times we talked before getting together, I'd said, "I've got to go for a run first, but I'll meet you after." I had to piece together that he had been there watching me. I couldn't understand why or what it was that he wanted in me.," even though, I'd seen him. "Why would he lie, when he knew I saw him?
I came home, one afternoon, to find my cat, B.B., pinned upside down, behind a water heater, in my apartment. He was screeching when I arrived. I picked up the phone to have maintenance extract him and stood befuddled as to how he got around the safety blocks. This man had access to my keys while I was at work. Instinctively, I knew he had shoved him in there. My terror multiplied as I understood that he had nearly murdered my pet cat. And, I hadn't even breathed a word to anyone. I hadn't once tried to get help or threatened to leave. If it was this bad now, I couldn't imagine it worse while still breathing.
But somehow, I managed to leave, knowing the risk, feeling the fright and very apprehensive that he would follow. After, I befriended a male neighbor and he told me to come by the next day. A day later, I knocked to no answer. I never saw him again like he had been scared shitless to open his door to me.
I met another guy, one night, when I went out for a birthday celebration. He was friendly and said he worked in PR. I watched him walk away, into the dark, after he said he'd be right back, but mysteriously, never returned.
I found scratch marks on my car. Someone had tried to scribe bitch in the side. I called the police and each time, they said they couldn't help me unless I caught the person in the act.
They were suggesting I confront my stalker while he threatened me and while he defaced my property. Meanwhile, I barely slept and wondered if it would ever cease, trapped inside my home.
I notified the dating site about him and in response, they canceled his membership. A little while after, the site notified me that they would terminate my profile as well, for an unspecified reason, not that I was still interested in using them. I knew that my stalker had retaliated and figured out since, that he is a dangerous sociopath. The two can easily co-exist.
The fear that traveled with me was that he would never, ever leave me alone. It consumed me with worry and doubt. I was afraid to go out, walk alone or even live in the same city. I did get a temporary order against him, but even though his license was suspended, I would see him following me everywhere I went, knowing that he was angry and unsure of what he might do. On the day it expired, I blew town.
I moved hundreds of miles, changed my name and gave away nearly everything I owned. And, he followed. I got strange calls and emails. I kept everything hidden and private, praying that he wouldn't find out where I worked or lived. I received countless messages on Facebook from weirdos asking me for a relationship or pretending to be someone they weren't. This had me needing to block hundreds of strangers and persistently on-edge. Nightmares are par for the course, knowing he is free.
It was a game to him; it was fun. He didn't want me to wreck his cover and his lies meant everything to him. After he ran me out of my home, my job, my city, my friendships and my peace of mind, it was too painful to continue saying nothing. I didn't know why this happened to me, but maybe, I could change things.
My ability to trust and my belief that all things are good were demolished by meeting the wrong person. I'd never called on the justice system until this and when I did, they failed.
Being stalked shattered my sense of security and robbed me of things I used to relish. I'll probably spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder or questioning anyone who wants to get near me.
The experience changed everything about me but, many outsiders don't see it for what it is. I've seen very little compassion over what I've been through and that truly sucks. I don't think anyone ever asks for this to happen to them and there is certainly no rule book that tells you how to get out of it, especially, if you are on your own. That is one thing about stalkers, they don't pick people just randomly, they pick people that they know they can control. A woman living on her own without family nearby makes an easy choice and that's just not fair to single women. They cannot be carefree and live life to the fullest. They have to be safe, even if means not running in public, like I used to.
When I drive by outdoor paths, I get nostalgic. It was once my main form of exercise. Now, I won't even dare dream it. No gyms for me, just things that are done in total privacy.
It's not taboo to support victims of stalking, but many people act like it is. A lot of people don't take it seriously or brush it off. When they see a victim's hyper-vigilance and wonder what is the matter with them, they should be wondering about the stalker who put them into that state. They should be wondering why the police and community members aren't doing more.
There are numberless being stalked as I write this and many who probably have no idea. Add to the plethora of stories out there where stalking has ended in death, so it is not to be taken lightly. Sadly, 1/3 of stalkers are repeat offenders and few ever see a courtroom.
On a different note, stalking victims can seek justice in civil courts where they can file civil suits against stalkers and third parties that contributed to the crime. I assume this can include the police, college campuses and city municipalities if they fail to do their due diligence. This is, at least, a drop in the bucket, towards getting what is right, but the first priority should always remain: protection for the victims. It doesn't help much to file a civil suit that could take months, when one fears for their life and may not live to see it.
After having my tranquility uprooted, it is very hard to regain a purpose. That unstable world that a stalker brought makes me that much more nervous when I sense similarities.
Basically, my biggest lesson is to advise that people never date anyone they meet online, ever.
To conclude, I am fortunate because I met a Morgan Freeman-type who does understand, just like Judd did. I've had to accept that I cannot do what most other people can because of this. I was telling him the other day about how much this affected me and he said, "I wish I could have protected you from that." And I answered, "Metoo."
I know he would have been one of the few people who would have actually done something about this, if given the chance, which makes the concept of stalking being a felony or misdemeanor, very bittersweet. Why aren't people doing more considering the criminal is the stalker, who is likely to re-offend, and not the fault of the individual who is stalked?
Protect yourself from stalking. For more information, see Stalking Resource Center.