On Being Stalked & Why it’s Not “Harmless” or “Flattery”

When I was 25 I got pulled over for driving illegally. The cop thought I was 14 and out joyriding in my parents’ car.

I’m telling you this so when I share my story, it gives you some perspective and that I’m not being down on myself in anyway.

You see, in college (when I was 20) I had a stalker.

I’ve mentioned it here or there, but I’ve never really talked about it before. But, with everything going on (the writer-stalker, the show, Adam Levine for some unknown reason making it sexy, etc), I wanted to share with you what that time was like for me.

One night I was hanging out in a friend’s room. Her roomie was a little odd and into stuff I had no interest in, but a nice enough girl so it wasn’t uncommon for us to all chill together when we were in the dorm. One night, when we were coming home, the roomie stumbled in with two guys, surprised we were already back.

I hung out for a little while, but one of the guys was making me really uncomfortable. He was older and it seemed weird he’d be showing that much attention to someone who was awkward, looked like a 13yo, and who hadn’t grown into herself–> I had horrendous hair, no sense of style, and wore as many layers as possible to hide myself in.

This is not the romantic vision of the girl who gets stalked, is it?

We portray that girl as beautiful, graceful, something to be desired OR that “loose woman” prototype who “deserves what she gets”…only, for most stalking victims, that’s not true.

Most of us are just your average girl next door who did nothing to cause unwanted attention (as if anyone does) to become so heavily focused on us.

The next day my friend, came to my room to tell me how “taken” the guy (let’s call him Joe) was with me.

I told her he freaked me out and to keep him away from me.

The next night he showed up at her room while we were studying. He wouldn’t take the not-so-subtle hints to leave, so I did.

I told her not to tell him where I lived.

She brought him to my room 2 nights later so he could give me the poem he wrote for me about how he KILLS ME AND DRINKS MY BLOOD so we could be together forever….so, that’s a friendship ender.

In the meantime, he started showing up at the place I worked, the place I hung out, parties I went to, my dorm, the cafe attached to it. I’d catch him leaning against my car.

I started having nightmares. My roommate (a psych major) thought it would be interesting to write down what I was screaming in my sleep instead of waking me up. To this day, I still have a note that has “When they find my body, they’ll be hell to pay!” written on it as a reminder of how careful I feel I need to be as a women.

At some point he started standing outside my English 432 class watching me through the little glass window. This went on for a week until the professor asked if he was someone’s boyfriend. When no one owned up to him, the professor (who was a good and aware man) went out into the hallway and watched Joe follow me down the hall, out of the building, across the quad, and to the door of my dorm where I pulled it shut behind me and wouldn’t let him in.

The professor had me called to his office where, after some pointed questions, I broke down and said this had been going on for weeks and that my dorm adviser said there was nothing she could do. She couldn’t keep him out of the dorm since he was technically a student. If someone signed him in, she wasn’t responsible for what he did once he was in, the student who signed him in was.

The professor was great. He called the school and basically got the same answer. He called the campus police and they stated that a student couldn’t technically stalk another student because we both “lived on the land considered his predatory area.”

Um, yeah.

The local police said the same thing.

Oddly, the one group we hadn’t told was my friends. If they lived on my floor, they knew because they were told to be aware by our RD who DID try to keep things safe. We hadn’t told our larger group of friends and we definitely hadn’t told our guy friends.

Looking back, I’m unsure what my thought process was beyond “this is so embarrassing. I don’t want anyone to know some crazy is following me because what kind of girl attracts crazies.”

Now, as an adult, I see how that doesn’t line up. That I was partially blaming myself for the situation. That I was afraid others would blame me, say I’d done something…lead him on…something.

Then the tipping point came.

One day I said I was going to back to my room to take a nap. I’m sure it’s not a shock to hear I hadn’t slept in weeks at this point. But, I was tipping over tired and hoped I’d fall into a dead sleep and get some rest.

My best friend (who had become almost as paranoid as me) watched me cross the quad and head into the dorm. To this day she swears she had no idea why she should stand watch another few moments, but about 30 seconds behind me, Joe did something to the door to get in without a key.

She found me, dead asleep in my room, with him standing over me. We’ll leave the story there.

Things were thrown. Joe ran out. I was scared to death now.

You can see why I was offended that Edward would watch Bella sleep before they were together (ok, and even after that, it’s just a wee bit weird).

My girlfriends tried not to leave me alone. We finally told the broader group, including the guys. I went back to the dorm & pollice and got the same answers.

I’d like to pause here to ask, what about this is romantic or sweet or endearing or flattering? I lived in fear for months, afraid to leave my room alone. Afraid to be in my room alone. Afraid that some guy was just psycho enough to kill me because he’d somehow fixated on me.

That sounds fun, right?

This is a peek at what every stalking victim feels. There is NOTHING in your control. There is danger in everything you do. There is very little help unless “something happens” and that “something” is defined by whoever the policing agency is in your situation. Some are amazingly helpful. Some need to see you half-dead before they do anything.

So, what happened?

One day, I was walking down the hill from another dorm with two guy friends, one of which just happened to be the football captain, and his roommate. Joe was coming up the hill. We spotted each other at the same time. I must have froze or jerked or something because Football Captain said, “Is that him?” I squeaked yes (because Joe had turned me into a girl who squeaked and jerked). Football Captain handed me his keys and told me to go wait in their room and not to open the door until they got back.

I didn’t ask what happened, but Joe was off campus for 6 weeks. I was free for 6 weeks. I started eating again after 9 days. After 2 weeks, I was almost sleeping through the night. That might have something to do with one of the guys sleeping in our spare bed (a roomie who dropped out) for the first few nights.

When Joe saw me in the cafe when he got back, he turned around and walked out.

Yes, that could have gone horribly wrong. Whatever conversation (and I honestly don’t know what happened, they just came back and said they’d talked to him and he’d be leaving me alone) the guys had with him could have turned ugly. Instead, I believed it saved my life.

This situation changed everything for me. I was fearless before Joe. It took me a long time to become a relatively-fearless woman again. It made me a safer woman too, I suppose.

But, it also made some things difficult. When everyone else was first getting on the web and sharing and posting, my friends knew they couldn’t post my name or picture. I didn’t particpate in things for a long time. If you look at my early Romance Diva’s membership (my first foray into online memberships), the name is just “Bria” and there’s no picture. It took years to start to be involved in things. A guy I was dating said the only place he found my name when he goolged me (which is another story) was my grandmother’s obit.

That was my life for years. Years until I felt like I was probably just that girl from college he’d liked and gotten in a fight over and rewritten history to hopefully forget about me.

So, when you say that stalking is harmless or you should feel flattered, remember that lives are changed or destroyed. Fearless girls learn not to walk alone in broad daylight in the safety of her quad, worlds shrink…and that sometimes the system will let you down.

I hear the “yeah, but…”s coming now. But what if it’s professional…what if it’s another woman….what if there’s no “real” threat…what if he really is harmless…what if…

What if you try having someone stalk you and get back to me? NONE of it is harmless. People don’t become that psychologically focused on another human in a “safe” or “normal” way.

So, next time you hear about someone being stalked, don’t dismiss it. Don’t down play. Don’t romanticize it. Take it seriously because there’s nothing fun or flattering about being stalked.

 

###Obviously some things have been changed to keep privacy and safety issues in check…Look, another thing this has done years later.

 

Comments

  1. I am so sorry you had to deal with that, Bria. I can’t even imagine how horrible that situation was. I’m so glad your professor caught on … and don’t even have words for the police and the campus. (There’s a lot of **are you fucking KIDDING me?!**) I’m also glad for your friends, and that your situation ended up ~okay.
    ((hugs))

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      Thanks – unfortunately my story is remarkable COMMON. Too many times women are told that nothing has “happened” so nothing can be done…or that it isn’t stalking…or that they must have done something to lead him on…then the questions about you start.

      I’m incredibly lucky that I had support in place (friends, a protective professor). There are women who don’t. We need to make a society where they feel (and are) protected.

      • I stumbled onto your blog from a hashtag leading to another hashtag. I’ve never commented on a blog before, but I felt I needed to here. This story echo’s mine. Only I was stupid enough to think I wouldn’t be a strong woman if I turned to my friends for help. I told no one but campus and police and they did nothing. I moved out and into an apt with a total stranger in the middle of the night, took a semester off, and transferred schools to get away from him.

        It’s an awful experience and I’m sorry to hear this happen to anyone!

        • Bria Quinlan says:

          Jo that’s HORRIBLE BUT COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE – no one can understand what becomes rational to others who are living it. It changes your thought process completely. You do what you have to, right? I’m just glad you’re safe and okay!

  2. I just want to add something. This whole, but she’s a woman so it’s not the same, thing is bullshit and I’m sick of hearing it. She’s not cute, she’s not funny, and she didn’t do it because she’s just kooky like that. The bitch is unhinged, and you can tell by reading both her accounts of stalking that she lacks the self-awareness to know she’s gone too far. What’s to stop her from going farther? Her moral compass? She doesn’t seem to have one. The first girl she assaulted was with hydrogen peroxide. Is it such a leap to imagine that the next time might be something worse? People need to stop defending this sick twist.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      *nods* this is specific to Kathleen Hale for those who aren’t following that.

      Also, I’ve been struggling with the opposite “but he’s a boy” articles about the teen and the two female teachers and the sex tape. It’s frightening how quickly we’ll justify things that are harming others.

      • Oop, sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed on that. It’s terrible what you went through and I’m sending you intrawebz hugs. Not…like…creepy ones. No one deserves to have their peace of mind disturbed because some sick ass doesn’t understand the concept of boundaries. Some people don’t seem to understand that things like this change who you are as a person on a fundamental level, and not in any good way. No one should be allowed to do that to another human being, much less be lauded for it or have excuses made for them.

        • Bria Quinlan says:

          Agree with all of that. I just added that name of your ref in case no one had heard (google it and be shocked).

  3. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I cannot even imagine coping with that kind of crazy — esp that “friend” who led him to your room and the roommate who decided you’d be a good guinea pig. 0____o
    So glad that the guys did have that talk with Joe and that it ended up being resolved…ish. I can’t believe how the school and the police didn’t try to deal with it, warn him off or something. That’s crazy. I’m so glad you had your friends to look out for you too.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      Thanks Katje – the most frightening part is nothing happened to me BUT this is how women on campuses are treated every day after horrible assaults and scares. We need to remember that some things start when they can be stopped and support needs to be in place. And sometimes, that support needs to be even more ready and excellent for the woman who has gone through something even worse.

  4. I was stalked for 8 years.

    I came out of a relationship where the guy didn’t display jealousy over who I was seeing and didn’t give me the emotional support I needed so I was ripe for falling for the Stalker guy who was jealous, who wanted to know where I was and what I was doing who so “needed” me.

    I was so blinded by this so that I never noticed the warning signs. That the jealousy was out of proportion. That the casual relationship I thought we were in was not the same for him. He stole my spare key and had copies made. He took the sim out of my phone and copied all my contacts to his phone. If I said I was meeting someone he would text or call them. He threatened to kill my cats. He poured weedkiller on my houseplants. Little things that escalated.

    He threw me down the stairs. Tried to strangle me. I ended up with multiple hospital visits. Fractured ribs, concussion, sprained wrists, black eyes, scratches, cuts, bruises. Loss of confidence. Loss of self-respect and self-esteem. Until I just lost myself in this sea of endless aggression.

    I changed the locks, changed my phone, changed my routine. He just adapted and changed too so that he could still stalk me. After waking up at 3am with him standing over my bed I told the police that if he broke in again it would be me or him. I said that if he came near me again I would kill him. They were not receptive to this.

    He was warned to stay away from me (many times by various people) until finally his father intervened and he was placed in a secure facility.

    By this stage I had stopped everything I loved doing, I no longer went out, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t write, and even though the stalking has now stopped I lost eight years of my life to him. I’m single now because I just don’t think that it is fair to risk someone being in my life when he is out there.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      Wow, T. That’s so scary. I’m amazed that his father was the one to step in. Thank goodness for that. I hope that one day you get some true piece from this. The extent of your situation is insane and something most of us can’t even imagine. Thank you for sharing your story!

      • Saturday night at 4am…. my housemate woke me up and said that there was someone in the back garden…. My garden is enclosed so they climbed over a 6ft high fence to get in.

        By the time the police got here whoever it was had gone… and with no proof aside from the ramblings of my drunken housemate the police couldn’t do anything….

  5. Thank you Bria. I’d like to say the world is a better place – but I think that maybe sharing your story so honestly and so eloquently will help make it a tiny bit better.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      Thanks, Anna. I’m amazed with what women are sharing here and in my email this week.

      I didn’t post this expecting anyone to really read it. I just was so sick of everything going on in the media around stalking right now. We sometimes need to put faces to the stories, so, here’s my face. 🙂

  6. I am so sorry this happened to you, Bria. This sort of behavior is sickening and scary. *hugs*

    It also disgusts me that people are claiming that it’s not the same in the case of Kathleen Hale. What she did to Blythe is just as bad as any guy stalking a girl. And there is evidence that Kathleen is no stranger to weapons and hunting. So yeah, I would be afraid no matter what.

    This is all so very disturbing. These people have no idea what damage they inflict on the other person with this behavior. You’ve suffered and for a very long time and that is such a huge blow. I cannot even imagine.

    xoxo

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      We seem to live in a very relative world right now. She’s a woman and it’s not “romantic” so it must be okay. It’s a shame we’re here.

  7. PATRICIA M DENKE says:

    Yes! you have put it very nicely! this is of special interest to me right now not just because of the show (I am not watching, and will not), but also because there was recently a write-up in a paper I read of a stalking situation. somehow, the write-up managed to be rather flippant, almost as if it were humorous. the comments from women were not funny. duh.

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