I know only too well that it is difficult to know whether someone using social media sites is telling the truth and are really who they say they are. I know, because I have been stung myself, forming friendships with people who were later exposed to be lying. Frankly I am gobsmacked when this has happened to me, because I thought I was super careful about who I get to know.
I am involved in a number of closed Facebook groups, primarily for the purpose of supporting others with mental health issues. I’ll say right now that I have met some wonderful people and truly feel supported in my quest for health from these groups. But on a regular basis I am asked why they don’t see pictures of me. It’s the same reason why you see a daisy staring out at you rather than an image of me. Let me explain.
For 14 years I was stalked by two men. Yes, at the same time. It was an utterly awful experience, not just for me but to some extent also for those close to me who did their best to protect my privacy from these men. Hopefully you’ll forgive me for not going into the details, it really doesn’t do me much good to remember the details. It is also another way of that can be used to identify me. Needless to say I lost a lot. Aside from losing an ownership of my own life, I lost friends, and mostly I lost freedom.
There are a number of ways used to identify just what stalking is and why it happens.
I like the definition by Meloy (1998):
“the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person”
As you can tell the definition is broad, and it needs to be as it involves a wide range of actions and behaviours including anything from telephone calls, following a person, threatening them or in some way invading the privacy of a person’s life.
The two men who stalked me had little knowledge of each other’s actions. One was an ex-boyfriend who couldn’t accept the relationship was over (The Rejected Type). The other, who I always regarded as more dangerous to me, could be classed as a cross between a Intimacy Seeker Type and an Incompetent Type. What that means is that I became an obsessional love interest that was perhaps increased by his inability to form relationships through a perceived normal means. He was a client of my father’s and was twice my age. I guess I regarded him as more dangerous to me because of a known mental illness he had which made his actions unpredictable. I really didn’t know what would happen next, and he did threaten both me and my family.
When I saw this pic posted recently, I was one who didn’t ‘like’ it. Actually I thought it was far from funny. I am just not amused by making fun of other’s suffering, let alone my own. But it does serve the purpose of telling you why you don’t see my image here or anywhere else on the internet. Basically I don’t want to provide an update to those who made my life hell.
For 14 years I lived my life in a type of prison. I was free to come and go as I liked but I knew there was always the possibility that one, or both would be following me and might try to initiate contact. I lived with confidential numbers, utilities accounts not in my name, I shifted regularly to stay one step ahead. As time went on more people came to know of what was happening and more people tried to help me. Unfortunately I was given some incorrect advice about my rights and this prolonged the experience. Interestingly my first contact to mental health services was refused, when they would not, at my request, work with their client to put an end to the stalking. Something about patient confidentiality was mentioned even though I didn’t want information. I was trying to give them information on what their client was up to. They weren’t interested. My fear was that this man would kill me, because he couldn’t have me. I had no idea when, and if this might happen, but I knew enough to know that he wasn’t thinking straight most of the time and because of my refusal to give him any attention there was always a possibility that he would turn to violence
In the end I gave in and left town. For years it had been suggested I do this but my attitude was why should I leave? I had done nothing wrong. But the opportunity came up, I was tired of all this and so I took it. The second stalker has never contacted me since. The first (the ex-boyfriend) unfortunately has, although not recently. He took advantage of knowing I would be at a function in my old city some years later. He still wanted to restore our earlier (brief) relationship, even though by now it was about 20 years on.
What I was told was that when a stalker loses the object of their attention, then because of the type of personality the stalker has s/he has to move on and find another focus for their attention. I have had difficulty of finding some evidence of this but I have repeatedly read that:
- Truly obsessed stalkers are committed to the hunt; and
- Even with a complete identity change, it is very difficult for someone to completely “disappear”.(1.)
So even though I have shifted cities several times, used a different name for a while, made sure my address doesn’t get listed anywhere, and my telephone number is listed as confidential, etc… I am very cautious of where I go when I return to the city these events took place. I have family and friends there but I’m not in a rush to go there. I’m sure you will understand why I still feel a little bit anxious.
In the years following the stalking, when I was treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I was repeatedly told that both stalkers would have moved on to someone else as the object of their affection. So does that work for me? Academically I can accept that these men had obsessional natures and so would need to target someone else. But realistically, I still have a little fear and frankly I think that’s actually healthy.
The stalking I experienced and the ongoing fear since has affected my life in big ways. Establishing and maintaining an intimate relationship is still hard because my first boyfriend ‘taught’ me that the other party can hold on and never let go. So I get scared and run from the relationship before that happens. I see what I consider stalking behaviour in perfectly normal and healthy relationships. On a practical level my phone numbers will always be unlisted and I can’t bear to have a gap in the curtains when they are pulled (in case someone is outside looking in). For too many years this was reality and now my bedroom curtains are clipped shut with a clothes peg. Actually I had to resort to do that because my cat Penny liked to get up on the window sill in the middle of the night and would move the curtains in the process. In the morning I would be full of fear. I find it difficult to walk down the road by myself (because I might be seen). I hang my underwear on the inside of the clothesline, hidden behind other laundry. There are probably many other things that I do still that are down to my experience.
When I published my book Infinite Sadness in 2009 I made a decision to no longer hide myself away. I decided at that point to allow my name on the internet. And I wasn’t going to hide behind a pen name, as I had done for some years. This time I was going to be me. So my name is correct. What I’m still not prepared to do is to link a photo of myself with that name. That would allow them way too much information if they could identify me by both name and photo.
I think this makes sense considering what I have been through. I’m not letting them continue to have complete power over me but I am also not prepared to go back to where I’ve been so not prepared to totally let down my guard. Using my own name is like taking back a bit of me. But I would be crazy to totally open myself up that way. I’m still not convinced that they are gone for good. Can you blame me?
PS. If you are interested in following my blog on Facebook click here.
- Stalking (hughesdomesticviolence.wordpress.com)
- How to prevent someone stalking you (seagalinvestigations.wordpress.com)
- Help! I’m Being Stalked!!! (nakiafleming.wordpress.com)
- What you should know about stalking your ex (thenewtruelies.wordpress.com)
- Oh Stalker…Come out, come out wherever you are! (startstrongaustintx.wordpress.com)
- New Stalking Offences (choptheknot.wordpress.com)