There is a new campaign against stalking starting in the UK today and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to talk about stalking on Just Frances. The National Campaign Against Stalking aims to talk about stalking and to educate people on what stalking is and the rights that victims of this (in my view) act of psychological terror.
So, today I’m going to do my part to bring the conversation into the open so that we can eliminate some of the stigma (and misunderstanding) about the issue. First, it’s important to know that, whilst we joke about it, stalking isn’t a joke. It is a frightening experience for the person being stalked.
Second, it’s important to know everything you can about the laws in your region and what you can do to protect yourself. Every country is different; every state different. So educate yourself. There is no way that I can go into all of the information here, but some great starting points for your information gathering are at the end of this post. But if you’re truly in fear at this moment in time—contact your local police. It’s better safe than sorry. Or dead.
I can’t tell you the number of times each week I hear (or make) jokes about stalking my friends online. I’m sure you can relate to this. We tell people we know that we’ve had a good look around their Facebook page and we ‘feel like a stalker’ all of the sudden. We Google people we know (or used to know) to see what they’re doing now. We search for information, and in the case of social networking platforms, we’re freely given information from our friends and acquaintances. This is (generally) not stalking.
Stalking is unwanted harassment. It’s unwanted attention. It’s unwanted contact. And most of the time, it’s done by someone the victim knows. (Find more information here.)
If you find yourself in a situation where you are receiving unwanted contact, tell the person to leave you alone. Tell them NO in no uncertain terms. And then ignore them. But keep records of each and every time they attempt to make contact. Yeah, sounds easy, doesn’t it? But take it from me, that first NO can be difficult, especially if it’s someone you know. And that’s where I’ll segue into my own story of being stalked.
Stalker Sam (madey-uppy name) and I started out as friends. But he wanted more than that. And I wasn’t forceful enough in saying no because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. So I still agreed to meet him for coffee ‘as friends’ because I thought he would learn to be OK with that. Instead, he became more adamant that I would change my mind.
And that’s when the gifts started to appear. That’s when the flowers started to arrive. And that’s when the phone calls and text messages and letters (soaked in his cologne) started to increase. He would track my car down and leave cards on the windshield when I was out running errands. He even gave gifts to my parents and my sisters.
I took the advice of lawyer and law enforcement friends and told him NO one last time. I told him to stop contacting me—full stop. And then I began to ignore him, whilst keeping a record of every contact he made.
Then one day, he cornered me after Church to tell me that God told him that I loved him and that we were meant to be together—I was just playing hard to get.
I was frightened and also embarrassed because I wondered if it was my fault. Maybe I should have been more forceful in saying no. Maybe I should have been kinder to him and tried to maintain a friendship. Maybe I said NO in a way that could have been interpreted as YES. (Wrong! No means no and this was not my fault!)
Eventually, his contact waned (helped by the fact that I returned to Scotland) but every once in a while he gets in touch again. Like right before my wedding. Like right after my husband’s death. Like when he started a Facebook account. And each contact has been ignored then recorded in my Stalker Sam journal.
I’m not as afraid of Stalker Sam now because I like to think he’s moved on and is no longer a threat to me. But when I’m in the homeland and I see him, I panic. If I see a car that looks like one he used to drive (I don’t know what he drives right now) or if I smell his cologne, I panic. If I see someone out of the corner of my eye with his build and hair colour/style, I panic. Even though I am thousands of miles away from him.
Was I ever in ‘real’ danger from Stalker Sam? I don’t know. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d done things differently; I don’t know if he was capable of causing me physical harm. But what I do know is that he scared me and that his actions were wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
OK. I’ve gone on for a bit here. But I hope that my rambling helps you to become more aware of stalking. Don’t do it. It’s not nice. And if you feel that you’re a victim, reach out to someone for help. Below is a list of links to help you find more information—because information and knowledge are powerful tools!