"I think the very word stalking implies that you're not supposed to like it. Otherwise, it would be called 'fluffy harmless observation time'."
Stalking is defined as, "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear,” by the National Institute of Justice. One in six women and one in nineteen men have been stalked in their lives, but the majorities of those stalking cases have been by an intimate partner or an ex. Those who are victims of stalking experience fear, stress, and even trouble sleeping.
While all this may be true for most stalking cases, it wasn't the case for me. I, like most, assumed that first off I would never be a victim of stalking; and secondly, if I ever were it would be some ex or hopeful romantic partner doing the stalking. For me my stalker was the single most unexpected person, and looking back on it, even I am shocked. My stalker was a fifty-eight year old woman; a lonely old charity worker.
It all started on a warm summer day, I was helping my parents with a yard sale when she came walking past. She lives down the street from my parents and goes for walks all the time. When I was younger and still living at home I saw her many times over. Never had I thought anything of it, never had I imagined that she would be someone I could fear. Ten years I had known this woman, and after all that time I thought nothing of it when she asked me to give her a ride across town that day. It was after all a simple ride, it was hot out and she was just a kind elderly woman.
I gave her a ride and my cell number, telling her to go ahead and call if she needed a ride home. Thinking nothing of it, I drove off and continued with my day. She didn't call that evening and naturally I assumed she made it home. Nothing happened and my life continued as though nothing had happened. Then I came home after work one day, two or three weeks later and found her sitting on the steps of my apartment building. Again she asked for a ride across town and I gave it to her, simply trying to be nice. I hadn't given my address to her and after calling my parents I found that they hadn't either. A few weeks later I was bored, flipping through a phone book. Randomly I checked, and my address wasn't listed there either.
The next week I found several voice mails on my home phone from the woman. Another number and facet of my life I hadn't given out had been invaded by this seemingly sweet old woman. The next time I saw her she was bringing me a garbage bag full of teddy bears. I was perplexed but accepted it as nothing more than a simple thank you gift for my previous kindness. I asked where she’d gotten my home phone number and address and had been told that she used an online program to find me using my cell phone number. I was flabbergasted and when I tried to explain her what was wrong, she said it was nothing but a force greater than either of us that brought us together. That was the first time I became frightened.
I started to avoid her, but she would turn up everywhere. It seemed I couldn't go anywhere without seeing her. She showed up at my work and even began calling my boss to inquire what my schedule for the week would be like. I was nearly fired for this but luckily my boss showed a moment of kindness and understanding towards my situation. The woman would be waiting for me at home, and I couldn’t visit my family without the intense discomfort of seeing her. Constantly both my cell and home phone would be called and filled to the brim with voice mails, containing nothing but a ‘hello’ or breathing sounds.
Every time I would see her in person I would tell her that she couldn’t come in, and that I wasn’t available to chat or be her chauffeur again. Each time I came into contact with her she would constantly try to touch or hug me. I would gently push her away and try to step away. For each step I took back she would take another two forward. Every time I would push her away and refuse a hug she would instead grasp and hold my hand in a grip so tight it frankly hurt. I was becoming more and more at ease and having trouble sleeping.
After two months, I was confined to spending my days off locked in my apartment. Even with my blinds drawn and windows blocked by pieces of cardboard I would have to leave my lights off. I was afraid to turn on a television or music player or move around very much for fear that she might hear me. There were times when she would arrive not ten minutes after I had gotten home from work or an errand and hold the buzzer on my door down, trying to get me to let her in. Having a basement apartment didn't help either. She found where my windows were and would stand outside them, knocking and trying to talk to me through them.
Other times she would sit outside and call me. One day she called fourteen times within an hour and I was beyond stressed, beyond frightened, and simply sick of being made to feel uncomfortable in my own home. I cannot express the horrors of being made to feel as though that one place in your life, your personal sanctuary, has been made unsafe and discomforting by an outside force. Finally the last time the phone rang I hit my breaking point. I picked up the phone and proceeded to yell at her, to stop acting like a crazy stalker. I told her point blank that it wasn't okay to call someone fourteen times in an hour and to take a hint and leave me alone. I felt awful for yelling at a clearly lonely old lady this way but after that I was left alone.
Six weeks later I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. No more phone calls had occurred and she hadn't shown up anywhere. I even felt safe to visit my parents again. Then at Christmas time it started up again. The woman mailed me a picture of herself with a short letter written on the back. The letter told me that she wasn't a stalker and still ‘loved’ me despite my ‘mistake.’ I simply shook my head, resealed the envelope and mailed it back to her. A few days later I found the picture slipped underneath my door with a note attached saying it had been ‘mistakenly sent back.’ I positively shuddered with trepidation and took the photo into the local police department. Once there I was informed that there was simply nothing they could do at that point in time. The incidence was recorded and I was told to report any further occurrences in the future. With a sigh and a heavy heart I attempted to continue on with my life.
A few more weeks passed without another incidence and then I started to notice footprints in front of my windows, imprinted in the snow. Having an apartment whose windows face a small alley way in an area where one simply does not go without a direct purpose instantly set me on edge. I had only noticed the footprints when cleaning off my window frame, boxing up old holiday decorations and happened to look outside. The window the footprints stopped in front of were those of my bedroom. I waited three days and nights and on the third night I heard the woman outside, well past midnight calling my name. Peeking out I saw her standing there, trying to catch my attention. Naturally I called 911 emergencies and reported the incidence. Unfortunately by the time the police arrived she was already gone.
I could no longer sleep, every night whether she was there or not I would have nightmare visions of her presence and hear her voice calling out to me. I ended up asking my neighbor to sleep on my couch just so I wouldn't be alone during the night. Finally my friends and family convinced me of what my only solution to this ongoing nightmare would be. Within a week I had filed a restraining order and had both my cell and home phone numbers changed. I was tired of living in fear. I may not have been physically harmed but the harm to my mental and emotional well-being was undeniable.
It’s my hope that others reading this will learn from my experience and understand that stalking isn't just some cookie-cutter scenario. It can happen to anyone and anyone can make you feel harassed and afraid. If you're being stalked or know someone else who is, report the incidences to the police and keep records of any gifts given, calls, or times when that person has shown up in your life. All of this can go a long way towards helping you to get a restraining or protective order filed. If a stalker then violates such an order something can be done to protect you.
After all of this I still experienced the aftershocks of the trauma I went through being stalked. I have nightmares, and every day I battle with a small portion of guilt at having to get a restraining order against a fifty-eight year old woman. There are support groups and being able to talk to my friends, family, neighbors, and even my boss about what happened to me has gone a long way to helping me heal. I know for a fact that I'm still a long way away from being completely at ease, even in my own home, again, but I’m getting there.