A couple of days ago, I wrote an open letter to HarperCollins and why I won't be supporting them any more. It revolved around something one of their authors did. A criminal act which, hopefully, the person in question is now getting help for.
Let's talk about stalking. Let's talk about how it can affect lives. Let's talk about how it's not cute and funny.
As I mentioned before, I was the victim of a stalker. He was an ex who'd decided that me saying “No” to him wasn't enough. He was determined to follow me and harass me until I changed my mind and said “Yes”. And I came so close so many times just to get him to stop.
He called my family constantly. He contacted them on Myspace (this happened pre-Facebook and Twitter). He sent them text messages DEMANDING that they made me get back with him.
I had to move. Twice. And he still found me. He found out where I lived, what classes I was taking, where I was working, where I shopped, where I went out, who my friends were. I'd come out of class and find him standing around and chatting to my friends. One of my workplaces called to tell me he'd been in asking about me. Every place I worked at stood up for me and barred him. Yet he still tried to get in.
He called me. Constantly. I'd turn my phone off for lectures and, when I turned it back on again, there were be ten, twenty, thirty missed calls. There would be angry voicemails asking me why my phone was turned off. For some reason, he didn't understand the meaning of going to university. Didn't understand that I had to sit and concentrate and couldn't be on call 24/7 for him. Apparently I was supposed to be available at all times, even though I was 200 miles away.
He chased me along deserted roads as I tried to escape him. I pushed and kicked and hit and screamed. But he still kept on coming, grabbing at me and demanding I didn't leave him. But I had left him. I'd left him because I couldn't cope with his neediness and needed to get my head down and study.
I called the police. Oh, believe me, I called the police. One day I called them while he was standing outside of my house and screaming at me. I held the phone up for the police to hear. My voice was filled with the terror of the hunted. But their response remained the same. “Sorry, ma'am, we can't do anything until he does something to you”. “Does something” basically meant they couldn't touch him until he hit, raped, or, God forbid, killed me.
This was one of the many reasons I turned to drink and drugs. They were a weapon to obliterate what was happening around me. They made me forget about him, and all that he was doing. To me, my three years at university were a waste because I didn't really achieve anything. This was before campuses and establishments took things like harassment of students seriously (admittedly, my original college in the Midlands dealt with it very well when one of the students followed me home. I had the choice of what could happen to that student. My university, however, failed me miserably). I dropped out at the beginning of the third year and spent the next twelve month drifting around the area before I finally made my way home. Even there, he didn't stop.
Once back home, he found me again. It didn't matter that I was in the throes of going through drug withdrawals. He started calling again. Started writing letters. All the time he was begging me to return to him. This was four years after I'd left him.
When I was clean and sober, I had to move. Again. This time I had a secret weapon in the form of my brothers. They saw my stalker one night. When he asked how I was, one of them replied, “She's dead”. They, like myself, were tired of the constant harassment. Tired of being dragged into the drama that I'd unwittingly forced them to be a part of. And they'd managed to free me when I couldn't free myself.
I never heard from him again. But I still carry the scars. Whenever I'm in the local area, I'm super wary of who's around me. If you've travelled anywhere with me, you may notice that I get a little jumpy and nervous. I also get quiet. Deathly quiet. I know he's not there but I can't help feeling that there's someone, just waiting around the corner for me.
Stalking isn't funny. It isn't something to joke about. And it's definitely not something to brag about. It leaves scars. Not physical scars but mental ones. And they're hard to break free from. It crushes a person's self esteem and confidence. It makes them feel worthless and alone. It traps them and makes them feel like there's no way out. People have killed themselves because of stalkers and I'm only happy that I've had people who've helped, and still help, me get over those boundaries I've put around myself.
Many of those scars still live within me. I've unconsciously made myself ugly so that I don't attract attention. I dress in baggy clothes and rarely wear make up. I don't have the confidence to get dressed up and look nice. I still jump at shadows and unexpected noises. I still creep around the streets, waiting for someone to jump out. I still doubt myself. I'm still looking for the confidence I used to have.
If you have a stalker please speak out. Email me. Call someone. Call the police. The authorities are now admitting that this is a problem and they have agencies in place to help you. They will help. Please don't live in fear. There's a master list of phone numbers here:
You're not alone. And we'll look after you. We promise.