I’ve been stalked several times in my life: by an acquaintance of a former husband, by a fellow student at university, by a man I’d met at the Y, and by a former partner. In the first two instances, I was naive, and only when the situation escalated did I become concerned. I confronted my stalkers and told them in no uncertain terms to lay off. I was pissed. I was also young and naive.
In the third instance, I’d had no idea it was happening until the police warned me. At that time, I was a store owner, and the fact that someone I saw at the nearby Y might also come in the store, didn’t seem inappropriate. Then the police told me his history, and my eyes were open.
“Call us if he comes around,” they said. Fortunately, he stopped.
The last instance was more disconcerting. After a whirlwind relationship, S and I moved in. I was divorced with three children, as was he, and we soon became the Brady Bunch. It lasted a year, and ended just as abruptly as it started when I found out he was running an ad in the personals.
“S keeps showing up at our bus stop,” the kids told me some time after we’d split. “It’s kind of freaky.”
Odd, I thought, still not alarmed.
Then one day I received a message while in a parking lot waiting for my children to finish shopping. It read:
Top 10 things women do to endanger themselves:
- Sit alone in their cars in parking lots…
I locked my door and looked around nervously. It had been well over a year since I’d had any contact with S. Was he following me?
When he tried to befriend me on Facebook, I blocked him, but my daughter was too polite. He had an in.
He showed up at my workplace a couple of times, but I wouldn’t talk to him. I tried to be clear that we were over.
Then I started dating again, and my new boyfriend called me up one day:
“Do you know anyone who drives a black Grand Prix? He’s sitting in my driveway.”
S. showed up at my work again shortly after.
“That guy you are seeing is a player!” he warned me.
“How would you even know?” I blurted in disbelief.
“Cause I went on a dating site and met someone who knows him. She told me all about him. He’s bad news.”
“You are the only bad news around here,” I ushered him to the door.
“He’s going to marry you,” he mumbled under his breath. “I shouldn’t have let you go.”
I told my daughter to block him. As far as I know, S stalked me for two years, but I have no clear idea of when it might have ended.
Ric and I did marry, and I’d hoped that was the end of it.
Some women are not as lucky. According to the Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women, stalking was the fifth most crime perpetrated against women in 2011. The majority of cases of perpetrators were known to the victims. Only 38% of victims report to the police.
I only reported the first incidence – my husband’s acquaintance. The police told me they could do nothing until he actually harmed me. The man would spy on me in my home and then call me and tell me what I was wearing. That was not considered harmful enough. It was 1980.
When the police approached me in the third incidence, it was because the man was on parole and two other women had reported him. They actually saw him following me. Still nothing was done.
I didn’t report S because I felt like it was partly me my fault. I’d left him. He’d tried to get me back, but I knew from a neighbour that he was seeing someone else, so I told him no. Somehow though, he seemed to think he could win me back. He obviously wasn’t willing to let me go that easily.
Sometime during S’s stalking, I found a book by Gavin De Becker called The Gift of Fear. De Becker who’d worked with the FBI, specializes in recognizing when a threat is real. In the chapter on stalking, the author speaks to the efficacy of restraining orders, the escalation of stalking behaviours, and what women can do. It was a godsend at the time, and a book I continue to recommend to women.
One of the things I learned from De Becker is to be clear with S about my intentions. I’d always worried more about being nice and not hurting his feelings. To a stalker, it’s the ‘nice’ that they hear and not the ‘no’, which is why they keep trying.
The other thing I learned was to cut off all communication. Answering phone calls, emailing back, or responding to text messages only lets the stalker know that the door is still open, regardless of the message.
If you are being stalked, or suspect you might be, get a copy of the book. Cut off all contact with the perpetrator, and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure your safety.