Months ago, my stalker was arrested.
A Google Alert notified me of the arrest. I’d set up two alerts after my stalker’s arrest: one on my stalker’s name, and another on my name. Call it a need for an early-warning system, in case she decided to flaunt my stalking order, and resume making me her chew toy. Law enforcement does not proactively warn victims of their assailants’ whereabouts. Google, on the other hand, will cheerfully do so, as long as their escapades are posted online, and you’ve set up alerts on the right key words.
Her arrest resulted with a criminal trial. I left you in silence on the outcome. For quite a few months, in fact. That wait annoyed some of you. It annoyed me, too. Your experience was my experience, in real time. I’ve learned that it’s common for several months to pass between an arrest and the actual trial.
I got the trial results roughly three or four weeks ago. Had to process it before writing about it. It’s easy to get knee-jerky and irrational about these things. None of them making for good writing.
Out of respect to my stalker’s latest victim, I won’t give details of the latest crime. It’s a complete head-twist, being targeted. Leading to dirty feelings of violation, which go several layers deeper than the crime itself. Consequently, victims tend to fiercely crave privacy. It would be a completely dick move on my part, outing those personal details. Especially online. It’s the victim’s business. Not mine. Not yours. The victim’s.
However, since I’m still looking for … well, I’m not sure what: closure, perhaps? Silencing that nagging worry—similar to that nagging doubt of whether I left the stove on before leaving for vacation—that my stalker and I would cross paths again? ... well, I quietly followed the trial proceedings from afar. Calling the courts for updates. Ordering paperwork, and realizing, “Yes. Unquestionably yes. The victim’s account is exactly what my stalker would do, and did do to me. Absolutely. Unquestionably. My stalker did those horrible things.”
It’s a heavy feeling. My worst fears taking form. My stalker didn’t reform. It happened again. I grimace. Wincing into a—
—flashback. The last day I tossed with my stalker. Negotiating through her court-appointed attorney, in the courthouse waiting room. Sitting in a booth. An atmosphere of a decaying diner. Hashing out details of an out-of-court settlement, instead of going to criminal trial. Both parties coming to a mutual understanding to spare us all the horrors of the American judicial system.
(Over 90 percent of criminal trials are settled out of court. The DA made a strong push for a settlement. That regardless of being found innocent or guilty, the trial would end with my stalker’s release, because despite her prior altercations, it was still considered a first offense. Knowing that, did I want to get ripped to shreds on the witness stand? Why would I want to go to all that trouble of trial, knowing the outcome would be the same? Settling was within my best interest.)
Settle. I still wince at that word. Like being desperate to marry (who wants to be an old maid?) and … settle for … well, he’s single isn’t he? … stop being so picky … you don’t have to always look at him … at least he has a job and …
… that’s how I felt in courtroom diner. Settling. Wincing. Settling. Four years of being terrorized by that horrible stalker. Settling. Me. Her third victim. She’d walk away. Once again walk away. Like she did with her two previous victims. Without a life-affecting black mark. An official criminal record. Settling. Be so glad you at least got a stalking order. Isn’t that enough? Settling.
I leveled my stalker’s attorney with an unblinking stare. Protesting the negotiations. The parts she wanted me to gloss over. Yelling at the attorney because I couldn’t yell at my stalker. Making her squirm while I hissed like Voldemort's viper, “Your client put me through four years of hell. She stalked before. She will do it again. And again. And again. And you’re the one getting her off.”
But my rage was directed more at myself. Recalling my anger at my stalker’s past victims. The legal system supposedly representing them. Answers to my questions, “Why didn’t everyone before me do more to stop my stalker?” and “Didn’t anyone see that their sloppy treatment made me her next victim?” were being answered in that crappy booth, in the court’s waiting room. I thought. I just thought. Really thought I’d do more to stop my stalker and keep this habitual terror from affecting one more—
—Flash forward. To the latest arrest. Me. Keeping voice calm as I called the court’s records department. Asking for the trial update. Wanting that closure. Finally. My stalker would get her comeuppance. It was so blatant. Like all the other times. Surely …
… and I paused as the court clerk read off the verdict. Stammered while asking, “Acquitted? She was acquitted?” I paused. “Acquitted means ‘not guilty,’ right?”
The clerk didn’t hide his annoyance as he confirmed by definition.
I hung up the phone.
Attempting to process.
How did my stalker manage to escape another conviction?
My experience. Now a fourth victim’s experience. My stalker’s record now shows at least three arrests. Three stalking orders. One trial dismissal. One out-of-court-settlement. One acquittal. But those altercations aren’t a criminal record. To my knowledge, she still doesn’t have an official criminal record.
Does Victim 4 know about my stalker’s three other priors? Is Victim 4 as angry at as I was at Victims 1 and 2, over not being able to stop that horrible woman?
Will Victim 4 find out all the talking I’ve been doing about my experience with our shared nemesis? Perhaps finger-point? Say, “You’ve done all this work. Freakishly public work. Talking about stalking. And you couldn’t stop your own stalker? You couldn't help me?” I'm sorry, 4. I'm sorry. I feels horrible, knowing you came after me. Knowing as well that there will be a fifth victim. A sixth victim. A …
I need to stop letting my mind go wild. Remind myself: after being stalked ended, I started the long meticulous process of starting over. Moving from the home I loved. Getting a new career. New memories. Time to keep going forward. Remembering how to live as I did before the Dark Years. Wondering if settling into normalcy means deleting those Google Alerts. Officially breaking with the past. After all, it’s been five years since the last time my stalker hosed my mojo. She targeted me because I lived too close to her. Nothing personal. Just collateral damage. There’s absolutely no evidence that she’ll bother me again.
Except for uncomfortable new information I gleaned from the police report on Victim 4. It revealed my stalker’s latest assault happened uncomfortably close to my new stomping grounds. The ones I’ve been working so hard to rebuild. How does this happen? That moving away from the memories puts me right back in my stalker’s new territory. How can our world be so small? How does this happen? How?
I can’t and refuse to live my life in fear. Continue my new life. Besides, if I started over yet again, well, what if my stalker moved again as well? I continue to live my life, but understand it is wise to keep my eyes open. Continuing the delicate balance between learning from the past, but fighting to not let it haunt the present.
Having the truth sucks.
Which is why I’m not deleting those Google Alerts.