I met a man in the 90’s who on the surface seemed like everything I could want in a man. He as attentive and affectionate, like to surprise me, protective and very loving, or so I thought. There are many red flags upon meeting him and getting to know him that I now know I overlooked. For instance his reason for surprising me on Friday nights by leaving his job early was so that I wouldn’t go out with my friends. His protectiveness was really cloaked jealousy, manipulation and control and of course these were all cloaked in attentiveness and affection. I second guessed myself and told myself that I was too distrusting and I really needed to lighten up and learn to trust again.
Our relationship wasn’t long, it lasted about a year and we ended up living together for maybe 8 months of that year. That’s when I began seeing who this man really was. He called me one day and said he quit his job and was moving in with me, at that time he lived about an hour and a half away from me. When he told me this, alarm bells started to ring loudly in my ear and inside I was screaming a very loud “NO”, but outside I agreed rather than go with my gut feeling and heed those alarm bells.
I would go out with my friends and he would show up, I would go to get my children from their father’s house and take longer than he thought and he would be out looking for me. He tried to plant seeds of doubt in my mind about my friends in order to isolate me. He had to be with me everywhere I went and the final straw was when he beat me up because I forgot to introduce him to a man I was talking to and that man asked me to dance one night. Of course there were the usual “I’m sorries” and it was the beginning of the end for me, but him he thought pressuring me into marriage was a good idea and I let myself be pressured and said yes again, when I really wanted to scream another loud “NO”.
Within in two months of this incident I told him he had to leave and gave him 30 days to find a place to live. Of course once 30 days arrived he was still there after checking himself in to the psyche ward to try to get me to feel sorry for him, he made sure to leave his car in my drive way. Since he decided he was not going to leave I had to call the police to have him removed and leave my own home for two days while he was being removed.
This triggered a whole year of stalking and possibly longer and I am just unaware of it. He proceeded to move in with one of my friends boyfriends at the time. presumably so he could keep tabs on me. He called my workplace several times and got through to me even though I had left instructions not to put his calls through. He sent me things anonymously including a puppy in a cab and had the cab driver lie for him. He called my house many times in the middle of the night and then started blocking his number after the police spoke to him about his actions. Then he decided to befriend the person across the road from me and moved in with him so he could keep closer tabs on me. He started to show up at places when I was out with my friends and it got scarier when I found out from another person he was following me and I didn’t know it. Apparently one night this person saw him and was talking to him as he sat outside my friend’s house while I was visiting. He was calling my family behind my back and telling them not to tell me and they had to finally tell him not to call anymore. He was calling and visiting my mother and had her manipulated to the point that she was supporting him and not me.
This didn’t until a year later when I began dating someone else or did it? The reason I ask that question is because approximately 5 or 6 years later on the day that I was moving I just happened to receive a call from him. I saw his number on the phone and didn’t answer. I packed up the last of my things and walked out the door, hopefully leaving him and his stalking behind for good. This was the sixth rung on the ladder of PTSD for me.
What is Stalking?
Stalking – Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.
Hunting and Haunting:
While most of us are taught to be most fearful of strangers, in most cases of stalking the perpetrator is someone known to the victim. The stalker may be a family member, friend, spouse, co-worker, partner, ex-spouse or ex-lover – the common denominator being a sense they have an emotional ‘tie’ to their target.
Stalking is a form of harassment which is illegal in many countries, where it can also be valid grounds for a Protective Order or even criminal charges depending on severity.
Stalking can be overt (confrontational) or covert (hidden), and a stalker may employ one or both forms.
Overt Stalking is characterized by confrontations, demands for attention, threats, pleading for recognition, persistent unwelcome advances and intrusions, phone calls, personal appearances and the like.
Covert Stalking is hidden and includes following, tracking, spying and secret manipulation, for example.
A vivid portrayal of stalking most people are familiar with is Glenn Close’s character Alex Forrest in the movie Fatal Attraction.
What it Looks Like:
- Following an individual or tracking their movements and actions.
- Presenting oneself repeatedly to a person who has asked to be left alone.
- Persistent unwelcome phone calls, emails, text messages, letters, parcels, third-party messages or Online postings to personal web pages.
- Intruding or inserting oneself into the relationships of another person without their explicit permission.
- Intercepting another person’s mail, email, phone calls or messages.
- Uninvited handling, manipulating or observing the property, assets or communications of another person.
Stalking may or may not be accompanied by acts of violence or threats of violence towards the person being stalked and their possessions.
What is the impact on stalking victims?
Individual responses vary, but commonly include:
- Fear – of what the stalker will do next, of leaving the house, of the dark, of the phone ringing
- Anxiety – about the unknown consequences, the safety of family members or pets, what the future holds, whether the stalking will ever end, how other people will respond if they find out what’s happening
- Vulnerability – feeling totally exposed, never feeling safe, not knowing who to trust or where to turn for help
- Nervousness – feeling anxious, fearful, jumpy, irritable, impatient, on edge, getting startled by small things
- Depression – feeling despair, hopelessness, overwhelmed with emotion, tearful, angry
- Hypervigilance – being continually alert to known and unknown dangers, taking elaborate safety measures against the perpetrator or any suspicious people, repeatedly re-checking locks and bolts on doors and windows
- Stress – having difficulty concentrating, forgetting things, feeling generally distracted and worried
- Stress-related physical symptoms – such as headaches and stomach aches
- Eating problems – not feeling hungry, forgetting to eat, eating all the time
- Flashbacks or intrusive memories – reliving frightening incidents, not being able to break away from disturbing thoughts, feelings and memories
- Sleeping problems – nightmares, interrupted sleep patterns, not being able to fall asleep, wanting to sleep all the time
- Isolation – feeling disconnected from family and friends, feeling no one understands
- Use of alcohol or drugs – to numb fear and anxiety triggered by stalking incidents, to induce calm and sleep