Right about this time, right after I publicly talk about stalking, the questions come in about being stalked. Here's the catch-all answers for the common questions that people ask me, and other crime victims.
Why don't you give your stalker's name?
Answer: This is an long and complicated response. I'll boil it down to the simplest answers:
* First. I'm avoiding potential libel suites. Even though I have evidence against her, eye witnesses, police reports, the less I say ensures a smaller headache, later.
* Second, my stalker has left me alone for years. I enjoy the silence and don't want to remind her that I exist.
* Third, you know that initiative to not publish the names of mass shooters, so that copycats don't get ideas? I'll let you fill in the blanks.
* Fourth, my stalker craved attention. After her arrest, she held up court proceedings, demanding that the press be called to film her and the proceedings. (Over and over again, she bellowed for the cameras.) Now, of all the ironies, the cameras on me. So, call it stubbornness. Call it rage. But I'm not about to give my stalker the attention she desires. She doesn't get kudos for trying to destroy me.
- Why didn't you tell me all the details while you were being stalked?
Answer: Stalking is confusing, terrifying and devastating. It consumed my life. Did my best to not burden any one friend with all the details. Trauma in general is simply a horrible, horrible thing to let drop in casual conversation. Sometimes, just I needed to talk about something else, unrelated to the big bad scary.
- Do you see how you contributed to the problem? You deserved to be stalked.
Answer: Actually, my stalker was a repeat offender. My contribution to the problem was buying a home adjacent to hers. Getting directly in her sights. What evil did I commit that was worthy of putting my safety, health, peace of mind, finances, home, career, friendships, a good night's sleep and my cat at risk?
- Are you sure you're not misinterpreting events?
Answer: Stalking is a hard crime to prove. Seemingly innocent actions have secondary, malicious, motives. Victims have to explain why those actions are frightening. This is hard to do. Because of this, it takes a long time to build evidence. If all attacks were as blatant as what's featured in the evening news, victims would have an easier time getting help.
- Are you sure you're not mentally ill?
Answer: Describing my stalker's off-kilter actions did make me sound like a lunatic. That element went away after collecting hard evidence: police reports of stalking violations. Previous victims describing their fear. Related arrests and court appearances. After collecting that evidence, I changed how I asked for help. Starting my pleas with, "I need help with a repeat stalking offender. Today she did the following to me ..."
- Why didn't you call the police?
Answer: Sometimes I did. Sometimes I didn't:
* The majority of stalking incidents are hard to describe and appear to be minor. I feared alienating myself from the police for calling over seemingly stupid stuff.
* It's shocking being attacked. It took time, each time, to process what happened. And then decide that professionals needed to be called.
* The laws at the time defined stalking as a physical act of violence or a threat of violence. My stalker did neither to me. So, until the law changed--covering non-physical attacks--the police could only issue my stalker a verbal warning. It was embarrassing, calling repeatedly, asking for help, without results. Without an end to the attacks.
* After a police visit, my stalker retaliated against me. Had to decide whether a temporary relief was worth the backlash.
- Do you see your stalker is in pain? That she needs help? That our system is broken, and has failed her?
Answer: I absolutely agree. My stalker had deep hurts that motivated her to be horrible. In fact, that truth applies to lots of people who commit evil.
I did everything I could to get her help. Hoping it would be an easier, more humane rout to my own peace.
Which revealed more broken parts to our system.
Which lead to a realization: I wasn't the best person to get her help. Especially while managing a panic attack after the last hair-raising attack. Someone better qualified needed to handle that area. That person wasn't me. I had to focus on protecting myself. Otherwise there would be two victims, her and me.
- Can't you just ignore your stalker? Maybe she'll go away.
Answer: It's hard tuning out someone who acted erratically (sometimes putting me in danger) while vying for my attention. The more I ignored her, the more desperate she became for my attention. Leading to more attacks. I used discipline to keep her from being the center of attention, but could never fully ignore her.
- You're an overly-patient fool. Why aren't you doing more to protect yourself? Fight!
Answer: Re-read the above list. It explains (in part) everything I was already managing. It also takes an incredible amount of time to prove the crime. Time that I became critically aware of, while my stalker's strikes increased. Adding to that was my transition from bookish career woman to warrior. Learning self-defense, legal limits, personal rights, diplomacy, strategy, moving costs, documenting events, and ...
All while trying to hold onto my old life, fighting for mental health breaks necessary to prevent one woman's obsession from consuming my life.
All while not operating under a full night's sleep. With compromised health from a tanking immune system.
It was exhausting.
So. Really. What more should I have been doing?
- Aren't celebrities the only people who are stalked?
Answer: I'll respond with another question. Why do celebrities seem to be the only ones who get help quickly?