According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 61 percent of female victims and 44 percent of male victims were stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
Stalking is a serious crime. Society may minimize the words or content of “stalking” and/or “harassment”, but what the victim and survivors feel are not minimal.
I am proud to say I am a survivor of stalking. Stalking should not be tolerated. Thankfully, my experience was short lived and I was never physically harmed. Feeling unsafe and trapped in your own home, where I should feel safe is overwhelming and paralyzing.
When I graduated college and began my career, I had a break after 2 year relationship. He had substance abuse problems and the volatility in the relationship was not healthy. I stayed in the relationship for longer than I should have. Honestly, it wasn’t the healthiest decision to begin the relationship. I’m a fixer, a helper, and at times an enabler.
After the break up, his substance abuse issues increased. We had been separated for months. I assumed he had moved on, as he was in a new relationship. In the middle of the night, I awoke to knocking at my door. Looking at the time, I realized it was 1am, so I did not get up. Then there was a knock on my bedroom window. He was calling my name telling me to let him in. He said he just wanted to talk.
I got up, went to my front door and talked to him through the door for a couple minutes. He states he would go away, if I opened the door. I did. I saw the look in his eyes and knew he was under the influence. He rambled on about being sorry we had broken up and it being a mistake. I explained it wasn’t a mistake. He wanted to come in. I allowed him in the hallway. We talked, it but it was pointless in his state. I finally was able to get him out of the house. I shut the door and eventually, he left.
I was very unsettled by this, but I shrugged it off believing it was a one-time incident. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. This happened several times, usually in the middle of the night. I didn’t open the door after that that first time. I threatened to call the police and he would usually leave. I began to wonder how he was getting to my house (he did not own a car). I found out from his sister that he had moved close to my home, not within a few blocks or a couple miles, but across the street at an apartment complex. His sister went on to say that he had noticed a truck in my driveway and a male at my residence. This information scared me. I knew he had been watching me.
I contacted an attorney for some advice. I was told that because we had not been married, were not living together, and had no children in common, I had no legal ramifications in relation to an EPO (Emergency Protective Order)*. I was told I could apply for a restraining order, but based on where he lived he had a right to be on my street, near my house. He had access to see who was coming to my house, when I was home, when I wasn’t, and who knows what else.
This terrified me. I was paralyzed with fear. Feeling too much shame to tell anyone. I believed I was to blame by beginning the relationship in the first place or opening the door the first time. As my fear and anxiety increased to an unmanageable level, I told my parents. Having told my parents and having their support was the best thing I did.
It did not remove the fear that he might show up, but it did help me feel supported. I felt panic when hearing noises and knocks at my door. I had difficulty sleeping wondering if I would be woke in the night and truly worried what he was capable of under the influence of substances.
After months of this, I discovered he had been arrested on an unrelated matter, due to theft. I was then finally able to begin my road to feeling safe again in my own home.
I tell this story not for pity or sympathy as I know there are many people out there, maybe some of you reading this who have experienced far greater acts of violence, stalking, and trauma.
I share my story to say YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Even in moments where you feel shame and fear, know that NO ONE has the right to make you feel unsafe in your home. Not individuals outside your home or those in your home. Reach out for help. It can be to those you know who will love and support you or a stranger through a violence prevention hotline. Start your road to healing.
Please check out my earlier blog, “Be Informed” for contact information for national centers who address stalking and domestic violence.
*NOTE: At the time of this incident there no laws in that particular state relating to stalking alone. Since that time there are active laws, charges, and punishments for the crime. Each state has different laws, check with your state or contact the national domestic violence hotline for more information.