Before starting this, I'd like to apologise for not writing anything for a while. I've just moved house and had a lot of family stuff to do recently, and I've not been feeling particularly inspired about anything enough to write about it. I've also been busy because it's the INTERSECT conference in a month's time (yes, this is a hint for you to go buy a ticket).
Today is National Stalking Awareness Day, and so I thought I'd tell my story. I'm hoping that telling it will help show people how easy it is to be stalked, and how horrible and scary it can be. I'm also going to tell you about the reactions I've had when I've told other people, and hope that this will show you how not to respond to people who go through it.
It all started at the end of 2010. I had split up with my ex-boyfriend, who I'd been with for 5 (horrible) years, and started going out with friends again. About six weeks after the split, I met J. J lived around the corner from me, and was unemployed, while I was working odd hours at a pub. We started hanging out together almost every day, going out for a few drinks, chilling at mine listening to music, going shopping... you get the idea. I knew he liked me, but I made it very clear that there was no way I was going to start dating anyone so soon after getting out of a half-decade long relationship.
People warned me about him. He was an alcoholic with a history of breakdowns and lots of other problems. He was fucked up. I didn't care, because I was fucked up too. He was nice to me, and when you've been told every day for as long as you can remember that you're the scum of the earth and never shown any appreciation, you cling to that. For a short time, he was genuinely helping me deal with my breakup.
Anyway, after the first couple of weeks, J started to get really clingy and repeatedly asked me to be his girlfriend. I repeatedly told him no, and after about three or four weeks, I told him I didn't want to see him for a while if he couldn't accept that I wouldn't go out with him. He 'accepted' this, and I didn't hear anything from him for a couple of days. I went to a pub we used to go to together, where it turned out he'd told everyone that I was his girlfriend. Needless to say, I was Not Pleased. That night he texted me asking if I wanted to hang out, and I replied telling him I didn't want to see him at all any more, because I couldn't trust him to respect my wishes about the nature of our relationship.
That didn't go down too well.
For the next six weeks, I couldn't escape him. He'd text me between 100 to 300 times a day. He'd call 20 times a day. I'd maybe respond to 1/60 texts, but only to tell him to leave me alone. It was utterly incessant. Every few days he'd start sending messages purporting to be from someone else worried that J was going to kill himself, trying to guilt me into replying. I remember going for a meal for my nana's birthday and all I could concentrate on was my phone vibrating literally every two minutes for the whole time we were there. He turned up at my house repeatedly, demanding to 'talk' (funnily enough, my ex had a habit of doing the exact same thing at the same time. I do not like answering the door now). I can't go into much more detail than that, because it's a period of time I try not to think about too much. It's like your life isn't your own any more. You can't have fun, or do nice things, because the moment you start to enjoy yourself, you get a reminder that they're thinking about you, or watching you. You worry yourself sick wondering what the next thing will be. It seemed to take forever, but his contacts finally dwindled away.
During the whole time, I barely told anyone. How could I? Pretty much everyone I knew had told me not to go near him and that something bad would happen, and now it had. The people I did tell tried to offer help, but it was always with an air of 'I told you so', so I stopped telling them, or only made jokes about it and never let on how scared I was. I didn't tell people who genuinely could have helped, like my family, because I felt stupid for 'getting myself into that situation'.
Eventually, I told the story on a forum I was a member of, and the responses unanimously blamed me for 'leading him on' and basically implied he was just a 'Nice Guy' or a hopeless romantic, and I was a stuck up bitch. But hey - at least he hadn't actually committed a crime, right?
It took me a long time to get over that and to know they were wrong. I mean, a LONG TIME. I still have doubts now.
But fuck that shit. He was not 'entitled' to any of my time, attention or affection. No person is, and to suggest that putting a woman in fear just proves how keen you are on her is fucking disgusting. It's wrong and it's just another example of a pervasive culture where the victim must always be at fault - if the victim is a woman, at least. In a way it's almost like an abusive relationship. You think they will change. You think you must 'deserve' it. You're too scared to tell the people who can help stop it all because you don't want them to think you're stupid or weak. Your whole life and your movements are controlled by the other person and what kind of mood they happen to be in.
This does not need to happen. No one who truly loves you or cares for you will stand by while you are scared and judge you because someone else decided to scare you. If anything like this is happening to you, PLEASE tell someone you trust or get in touch with the National Stalking Helpline (details in link at the top). The thing about behaviour like this is you never know if it's going to escalate until it does. I was lucky. It doesn't matter whether the person has 'broken the law' or whatever - if a person is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, tell someone. You are not being over-cautious or stupid, and more importantly, you are not alone.
Remember, other people choosing to do something to you is NEVER your fault.