The Concept of Safety
August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
The greater part of my mental free time lately has been spent looking back at the last four years. The reason for this is the decision to end my relationship, which started four years ago, but it really has been an interesting series of events. Falling in love for the first time, moving in together, graduating from college, taking a year off from school, moving 700 miles away from home for the fun/fuck of it. Those are all things I’ll investigate in depth later. For now I want to look at how being stalked online impacted my life.
The few people I discussed the issue with responded in two very opposing ways. One response would be essentially a shrug, a “can’t you just block him?” kind of response. The opposing response, which I think I got more of (yay, people care about me!) was “call the police” and other statements reflecting how seriously they took the harassment. When I did eventually call the police, I had a similar split in response. Due to my constant change of address, I had to call multiple police officers in multiple jurisdictions throughout the time period that this was going on (I think about a year and a half, depending on how you count). Mostly they seemed sorry I was being harassed, and they all said there just wasn’t anything they could do, at least until he started directly threatening my life or physically stalking me. But that’s the problem. About half the police officers said “don’t worry, if you never respond to him he’ll eventually lose interest” but the other half of the officers warned that if I did block him or continue to ignore him, that there was a good chance he would pursue other ways to harass me and that he could start doing more extreme forms of harassment in order to demand my attention. As with most things in my life, I had to decide for myself what was best for me to do since the advice everyone gave me was either A or B, with A and B completely opposing each other.
I don’t want to get too into the nitty gritty details of the situation, but I do want to say that I tried absolutely everything I could think of to get him to leave me alone before I went to the police. I screamed at him in nothing short of clear and concise, well-chosen words. I spoke calmly in nothing short of clear and concise, well-chosen words. I told our friends to try to discourage him in clear and concise, well-chosen words. I sent a letter to his parents in clear and concise, well-chosen words. Then I started ignoring him completely and called the police. Then I ignored him completely for a year. Then I ignored him completely and called the police again. Finally he just stopped, for reasons unknown to me. There was a 6 month span where he didn’t contact me at all during the year when I completely ignored him. Then it started up again, again, for reasons unknown to me.
Now had he only harassed me for a month, I wouldn’t have been effected at all. It’s happened before with other guys, and was usually short-lived, but this just went on and on and on. No matter what I did, no matter how I tried to appeal to reason and respect. Nothing I did could stop me being harassed.
People seem to underestimate the psychological damage feeling helpless can cause. The paranoia I felt, too, grew with time and took its toll. I kept wondering if and when the situation would escalate. I would constantly worry that I had somehow hinted at my address on facebook or elsewhere online. I became suspicious of our mutual friends, wondering if I told them where I lived if they would tell him. I would become suspicious of them if they were asking questions about where I lived or work, in case they were asking for him. When I moved into an apartment where I didn’t have roommates, I worried that no one was there to protect me or warn me if he started coming around. I felt trapped, helpless, and yet I still felt like I was overreacting, because after all it was just online harassment. He wasn’t physically stalking me. Well, I couldn’t prove he was to the police, despite the coincidences of him showing up where I was.
It also scared me how out of touch he was with reality, how his perception was based on absolutely nothing beyond absurd fantasy. There was absolutely nothing to support his claims, yet he continued to pretend like his fantasies were fact. It terrified me that someone could be so off-base, so insane, and refused to listen to any countering arguments, assurances, and evidence. Years later, I still feel that paranoia. I feel paranoid that if I so much as look at some guy with an unclear expression, that he could take that ambiguity and run with it. I feel like I don’t know who I can trust with my personal information. I didn’t even realize I was still subconsciously protecting my address until yesterday, when I passed a street sign that would make an interesting photo, but since it was a street sign in my neighborhood I automatically thought “no, I can’t post that. people might figure out where I live.” People shouldn’t have to live like that. I shouldn’t have to live like that. And I hate that I live like that even after I’ve moved hundreds of miles away and haven’t heard from him in almost a year.
I leave you with a picture of Utah I took on my trip a few weeks ago. Their road signs are few and far between (because why the hell would anyone who isn’t from there go there) and the few road signs that are there have multiple names, including things like “Johnny Cash Highway” (a one lane road) and W 300 N.