As some are aware, I’ve had a few stalkers in the past. This weekend something triggered the fear, concern, annoyance, and a bit of anger that came with the last bout of stalking though.
While living in a house of individually rented rooms (back in England we called them bedsits, don’t think we have an American term for it though) there was a co-renter – later found out he is part owner in the house – that would follow me around a fair bit, if I drove up the street or even up the cross street without coming home, my phone would ring… lots of notes under the door, every now and again a feeling someone had been in my room, a key that appeared/disappeared but nothing overtly threatening, he’d sometimes ‘fix too much dinner’ and ask if I wanted to join him but it was in the common kitchen area so no big deal, he gave me a ride to pick up my car when it had a mechanical issue once, you know… just ‘stuff.’ Although most of his actions could be considered being neighborly, it quickly started feeling very off.
One evening we were standing on the front porch talking, think it was about Shakespeare and the use of puns, he forcefully turned my face toward him so hard that it wrenched my neck when I apparently wasn’t looking at him as he was speaking to me. I was a bit stunned at first but quickly recovered, became angry and walked off, locked myself in my room then made sure the windows which opened onto the porch where we had been standing, were locked and barred. The next day he said that he didn’t think I was the type to hold a grudge! Grudge? No, I don’t hold grudges. I am watchful of how others treat me though. You just physically moved my head because you felt I wasn’t paying enough attention to whatever it was you were saying. I held my tongue on the rest of what was going through my head. Controlling, physical, scary… yes. A threat? not exactly.
Shortly after that I moved out. After I moved, he would call/text quite a bit. I was getting up to 20 texts a day which I ignored. The last straw was when I answered a (as in ONE) text advising I was at the hospital, my sister was in a coma and I wasn’t going to respond further. Implication being, stop it! Yet, I kept getting very self centered texts about how he missed me and was drinking too much since I moved out, and on and on, all while I was in the ICU waiting area as my sister was in the process of passing away.
I’d told WRT about the situation a few times, the response was fairly typical – you must have done something to make him act like that. I don’t think that it was meant meanly, nor was it really a criticism of me. Just a statement reflecting the very common misconception that someone has to DO something to be stalked. If I did, it was not intentional. Yes, I sometimes talked to that roommate. He’s intelligent, and not a bad person to talk to. When he’s sober. He was also very aware that I was in a committed relationship, had seen WRT pick me up, drop me off, come visit, etc. numerous times.
Anyway… back to the situation.
After the nonstop texting, I changed my phone # and the cell phone provider. Problem solved. I thought. He knew I’d moved out of the county. Good enough. After two years of not hearing from him, I received a letter addressed to me at my new apartment. Yes, I was a bit unnerved. I didn’t have a house phone so it’s not like he could have just found my address in the white pages. I told WRT and stayed at his house for a few days then resumed life as normal. But it meant that he knew where I was, that I had just moved in and probably a lot more than that.
Nearly a year later there was a knock on my door just after the automatic front porch light came on. I couldn’t see anyone out the peephole and it was getting dark so I thought perhaps it was one of the neighbor kids. On opening the door, I saw it was the former roommate. He had to have either stood in the neighbor’s doorway adjacent to mine or back behind the porch light in order to avoid being seen. Hmmm… not comfy with that. He wanted to come in and talk, uhhh no. He handed me a letter which I ignored and asked again. Same answer and added, in fact, WRT will be here any minute as he’s on his way over. Rather than just leave, he stuck his hand in the doorjam and handed me the letter with his other. I basically closed the door on him, hand and all. Fortunately, he moved it out of the way so I could close and lock, then breathe. And of course, call WRT and ask him to come over, RIGHT NOW.
The letter said that he has stage 4 cancer and the rest was filled with rather odd things like I was ‘his pearl of great price that he let slip away’ and well, it went on and on. I could tell it was photocopied, there were no pen indentations, it was just strange. More than strange. Although there was nothing overtly threatening, the fact that he knew where I lived, had sent one letter and now shown up was scary. WRT was at my place within minutes, and took a good look around the parking lot as well as the apartment area and assured me that he saw no sign of the former roommate.
The next day, I received the exact same letter in my mailbox. It was a photocopy of the same letter that he had hand-delivered the night before. Nope, not okay with this. I’d already planned to get a restraining order that afternoon so left immediately for the courthouse.
When I tried to get a restraining order, I was advised that I needed a case number – meaning that I had to have called the police first. So, I called them. I was lucky. Very lucky. As the individual had been a roommate in the past, even though there had been no other ‘relationship’ it qualified as a domestic situation. Had he been a random stranger (well, he is very random and not a lot more than a stranger) there wouldn’t have been anything they could do without an escalation in his behavior.
The police officer that took the initial report was nice, down to earth, actually took me seriously and advised that this was fairly a-typical of men over 40. I answered all the questions as best I could. Yes, he has weapons, a rather extensive gun collection and several hunting knives. I don’t remember the man’s exact age or birth date but am fairly sure he’s 55-58 or so, I have no idea what his middle name is, etc. but could give an accurate physical description and information on where I lived at that time, and assume he was still living. He’s married but been separated for many years, his wife lives in another town (and provided the name of that town, not sure why I remembered it but… I did). He did date other women and had one or two over at that house several times while I lived there. I provided the phone number in all 3 letters that he was begging me to call.
The officer asked if I knew how he had gotten my current address, had I given it to him? Absolutely not! I’d changed my phone number twice, I’d moved out of the area for over two years then back to the same general area but at least 5 miles away from that house. Although it can be a pain, I don’t even drive up the major cross street that is by the house unless I truly have to.
As the man works in collections for a major credit card company, I’m 99.99999% sure he pulled my credit report to find me although I have no actual proof at this time. The officer assured me that if a full on investigation was required, they could easily determine if that’s what happened but the officer agreed that was the most logical way to have found me. So now this guy has my address, social security number and everything else that’s in a credit report. Great! Just freaking great!
The officer also gave some good advice – take my phone with me EVERYWHERE. Even the bathroom. My apartment has a rather odd configuration with the bathroom off the bedroom. So – lock my bedroom door before going into the bathroom. Just one more barrier. But could give much needed seconds if it came to a break in situation. I also hung heavy denim drapes in my bedroom, they cut the light significantly but as they fully cross the window (not two panels, one wide drapery), anyone trying to come in the window will most likely get very entangled. I also have shutters on the inside, they’re locked. The apartment complex trimmed the large shrubs outside the front porch to provide less ‘hiding space.’ In fact, they recently took one of them out so there is virtually no hiding room now. There are also other precautions and alarms.
If someone truly wants to get in, they will find a way. But make it as difficult as possible.
So… what if it hadn’t been considered a domestic stalking situation and I couldn’t have gotten a restraining order? It’s still far more difficult to get restraining orders and protection than it should be. It’s common knowledge that stalkers can be dangerous, volatile, unpredictable. A truly determined stalker won’t be afraid to violate a restraining order, but those who aren’t completely ‘off-balance’ realize that the authorities are now aware of what they are doing.
Anyone who has been stalked knows the fear, the constant looking over your shoulder, the making sure, the double checking, the absolute intrusion into your life it is. It is NOT a casual, ‘it will go away’ type of thing.
Stalkers are typically male, 25-40, above average intelligence, somewhat loners, and have mental/behavioral issues that involve very different thought patterns from ‘the norm.’ This man is definitely over 40, but other than that fits the profile. He is intelligent, can carry on a conversation on nearly any topic, I don’t remember any of his friends coming to visit nor do I remember him mentioning close friends in conversation. Then again, I wasn’t really paying that much attention. It didn’t seem necessary at the time.
Unfortunately for female stalking victims, the men in their life often down play the seriousness of the situation until/unless a specific threat is made. Threats are warnings, warnings that we don’t always get.
Guys, seriously! If your wife/girlfriend, daughter, sister, mother, friend tells you she feels someone is following her or harassing her, take it seriously. Unless she is a total attention-seeker (and even if she is, the situation can still be real, ya know!) there is something very wrong. It’s not going to just go away. It is extremely rare for a stalker to just lose interest and stop.
Families of people who feel they are being stalked – do NOT give out information to anyone no matter who they say they are. Unless it’s a uniformed police officer standing at your door and you have verified their badge number, do not not not give out any information. Clear enough? I had to give my parents a very short list of people who could legitimately get information. If someone said they were an old friend, potential employer, a bill collector, whatever – in the past, my parents had given out my address, phone number, pretty much whatever the person was asking for. Please don’t do this.
WRT and select family members know the case numbers, know where copies of those letters are, and have enough information to give the authorities if anything should escalate. I value my privacy, do I have any? Good question. Wish I had the answer.