TELL ME WHEN: A Personal Stalking Story

Tell-Me-When-blog-hop-badgeSo, we’re going to set writing aside today and talk about something a bit darker: stalking.

I had a stalker in high school.

In grade 11, I had a falling out with my parents in a big way. I moved in with a friend whose parents owned a motel. They let me stay in one of the rooms with their daughter and in exchange, I helped out as a chambermaid on weekends. They were a wonderful, accepting family.

During this time at school, I took drama class as one of my high school electives. It was a mix of grade 11 and 12 students, including a grade 12 student named Doug (not his real name.) Doug was huge. I mean HUGE. He was about 6’4 and I’m guessing well over 250 pounds. He liked drumming and weed and skipping school for the most part.

In class, he would find ways to talk to me. And he didn’t have a lot of friends, so you know, I’d talk with him, no big deal. I was bullied a lot in younger grades, and I knew all about not having friends. I didn’t see the harm.

Over time, he became increasing insistent I skip school with him. I kept making excuses, because something about him bothered me. I tried to partner up quickly whenever we had to do so in Drama, because Doug would always make a beeline for me.

One morning when my friend and I left for school, we found an empty 26er of Jack Daniels outside our door. We got into trouble over it, because her mom assumed it was ours and we’d drank it or our friends did. We had no idea who had left it.

The next day, another empty bottle. And the next. I started to get a sinking feeling. After all, it was no secret at school where I lived. The next Drama class, I asked Doug, and he admitted it was him. I didn’t know what to do, other than I felt it wouldn’t be a good idea to make a big guy like him upset. So, I carefully told him not to come by because I was getting into trouble over the bottles. I figured if he thought he was creating problems for me living there, he would stop. And he did.

The next drama class, I performed a monologue where I was covered in fake blood. (I think I was a car crash victim or something.) Anyway, after it was over I went to clean up. When I got out of the washroom, I found out everyone had paired up for the next assignment and by default, I ended up with Doug. Worse, he had picked our play, one that had a kissing scene in it.

I didn’t know what to do. How could I go to my teacher and explain? All I knew is that there was no way I could do this play. So I managed to convince Doug that the script was lame and we should write our own. We created one about two people in line talking back and forth and it’s only at the end you realize they are both dead and waiting in line to go to the Hot Place (yeah, that’s a dark window into my teen years, pretty much.)

Rehearsing this play was the most terrifying part. We had to use these soundproof music rooms at the end of a hallway buried in the drama auditorium, somewhere no one but band and drama kids went. One time as we practiced our lines, Doug got this look on his face. My gut shriveled. The room felt so small, the door had only had a slit window. All I could think about was how no one would be able to hear me. No one. I got out of there, fast. Said I was sick and had to go home.

Bottles started appearing on my doorstep again. And then finally a note. Twenty-one pages of rambling and poetry that made up a “If I can’t be with you…” letter. Something inside me snapped. I was done trying to not make waves, done trying to keep everything under control. I confronted Doug about the note and said if he ever came near me again, I would take it to the principal and the police. I told him I had given it to a friend for safe-keeping. Thankfully it was near the end of the school year. Doug graduated, and I didn’t see him again.

Looking back, I should have gone to someone sooner. But I was embarrassed–embarrassed by Doug’s creepy attention, embarrassed that I would be the talk of school if it got out. Too, I figured my teacher or the principal would think I was overreacting. How could I try and convince them “I had a feeling” that something was off? I had no real proof, not until that note.

It scares me how it could have turned out differently. If I had stayed in that room that day. If I’d let it go on any longer. If I hadn’t listened to my intuition.

Why am I telling you this story? Because my friend Stina Lindenblatt is doing a blog hop to raise awareness of this very issue: stalking. It’s something we don’t talk about and we should. Men can be the target, but often it’s women. Looking for the signs, listening to what our bodies tell us…this is how we protect ourselves.

Stina’s debut New Adult novel releases on January 20th, and it deals with stalking. I know this is a touchy topic, one that some may want to avoid because it hit close to home. I completely understand this. But I love Stina’s writing, and I want everyone out there to have a chance to experience it. So if you’d like to read Tell Me When, leave me a comment here, and I’ll put your name in a draw to win a preorder of her book. Here’s the sound bite:

Tell-Me-When-coverAmber Scott should be enjoying life as a college freshman. She should be pursuing her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She should be working hard to make sense of her precalculus math class.

She shouldn’t be waking up her college roommate with screaming nightmares. She shouldn’t be flashing back, reliving the three weeks of hell she barely survived last year. And she definitely shouldn’t be spending time with sexy player Marcus Reid.

But engineering student Marcus is the only one keeping Amber from failing her math course, so she grudgingly lets him into her life. She never expects the king of hookups will share his painful past. Or that she’ll tell him her secrets in return, opening up and trusting him in a way she thought she’d never be able to again.

When their fragile future together is threatened by a stalker Amber thought was locked away for good, Marcus is determined to protect her–and Amber is determined to protect Marcus…even if that means pushing him away.

I’d love to get some dialogue going on about this topic. If you want to comment but protect your identity, please use the Anonymous function. Share your stories, or what we can do to protect ourselves from being a target. And…thanks for reading this. I haven’t really talked about what happened to me before, and I feel better at getting this story out.

One last thing: Becca is visiting Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Mystery Writing Is Murder and unlike me, discussing something writer-centric: How Morals and Basic Needs Influence a Character’s Positive Traits. Rumor has it she’s doing a giveaway as well, so please stop in. :)

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56 Responses to TELL ME WHEN: A Personal Stalking Story

  1. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [01/20/14]

  2. You’re right, this story could have turned out any number of ways. Sometimes, what it takes to get rid of someone like Doug is to stand up and refuse to take any more. Glad that situation worked out in a positive way.

  3. Kate Nichols says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think too often girls worry more about how other kids will see them than their own safety. If more people spoke out, maybe more girls would trust their intuition, like you did.

  4. Robyn LaRue says:

    I’m glad you are now talking about it and took the risk to share it. I think women can so easily slip into shame if we don’t talk about the things that happen to us. I’m glad for Stina’s book. We need to teach the generations of women after us that talking is good and if your gut says it’s not okay, it’s definitely not okay. Thank you.

  5. I’m so glad that Stina is using her book launch as a way to gain visibility for this issue. It’s terrifying to think of how many high school and college-age kids go through this. I went out with a guy in college who had a hard time accepting that I wouldn’t go out with him again. He would show up at my house at odd times, and after night meetings, he’d be just standing near my car in the parking lot. Creepy. For awhile, my friends walked me to my car and I was very careful at night, but after a while, he got the message and left me alone. I’ve often thought that if he’d been more aggressive in nature, it would have been a much more dangerous situation. Thanks Angela, for sharing your story, and Stina, for bringing this issue to light.

  6. Jemi Fraser says:

    So glad you were able to listen to your instincts and keep yourself safe! It’s amazing what we do and don’t do because we’re worried about how others will react or think or how we might look. I don’t know if I would have been as brave as you were. Good for you!!!

  7. Very scary! It’s so easy to push away our fears, but thankfully you listened to yourself. I love that Stina is doing this as her book release day approaches. Such a great idea!

  8. Rosi says:

    Your story gave me chills. So glad you handled it so well. Every time a hear about stalking I can’t help but think of that Sting song “Every Breath You Take” which is such a pretty song and sounds romantic until you really listen to it. Stalking stories scare me silly, although I’ve never been stalked. I had a problem with a guy I worked with once a long time ago, but reported it almost immediately and it stopped. I would love to read Stina’s book. I’m glad this is being discussed. I have two beautiful daughters and I admit I worry about them.

    • Oh man, you are right about that being a creepy song when you listen to the lyrics. That’s one thing I find creepy about twilight as well.

      Ad the world gets more messed up, the more we fear for our kids. But open communication, being honest about the dangers when they are ready to hear about them and encouraging them to listen to their gut is the best thing we can do as parents. :)

  9. Debby Hanoka says:

    Angela, I understand what you went through. I had a stalker as well, during my teenage years in the 1980s when no one had heard of stalking or even took it seriously.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. TechGuy to the Muses says:

    Hey Angela,

    Sorry to hear about your stalker situation and glad it wasn’t worse than it was. I’ve had a couple stalkers of my own and the business partner has a violent felon who has been harassing him on and off for the past 15 years. (Details in private.)

    If you haven’t noticed, I’ve not been on FB or Twitter as much lately since I’m currently spending a lot of time helping two people collect evidence against and avoid their respective stalkers.

    -Jay
    @jaytechdad

    • Crazy–I’ve had a few off line discussions about digital stalking and social media stalking. People feel protected on the internet, that their identity is hidden and so they can say whatever hateful thing they want, so I’m glad there are guys like you uncovering who these people are.

  11. Jami Gold says:

    Angela,

    *hugs* Thank you so much for sharing your story. Know that you’re not alone.

    I’ve debated participating in this blog hog because the topic is very touchy for me. Your bravery has inspired me to try. If I manage to write it up, I’ll let you know.

    • It is a hard topic Jami, and only post if you feel it will be helpful for you to do so. I am saddened by the sheer amount of responses from people who have been stalked or know someone who was stalked. It is very disturbing that so many people are out there trying to take away the power of others and terrorizing them. Sending you some hugs, ’cause it sounds like you could use them <3

  12. Titi Funto says:

    I read your experience sitting at the edge of my seat. Thank God you got out of that room that day. And also for the courage the confront him. Thw whole thing must have been terrifying. Stalking is actually something people joke about nowadays (especially when it comes to social media) and in so doing people forget how terrifying it actually is.

    Thanks for sharing. It couldn’t have been easy revisiting that.

    I’d like to read Stina Lindenblatt’s book. Is the draw open to the US only?

    • We do joke about it, and maybe we shouldn’t. It’s like mental illness–we joke about being off our meds, but really, that’s not a funny thing for someone who is and the people around them.

      I don’t mind joking as long as people aren’t trying to take away from the huge problem that exists. Stalking is something we all need to be aware of and to educate our kids about.

      The draw is open internationally as it’s for an ebook. So consider your name in the hat! :)

    • Jami Gold says:

      Yes! I can’t joke about “stalk me” on social media the way others can. I’m too sensitive about it most of the time. :)

  13. Johanna says:

    That’s such a terrifying story. I don’t think you should blame yourself for not doing something sooner. Kids often feel like things will get better if they just wait. The fact that you finally did take proactive steps speaks to your maturity.

    • Thanks Johanna. I know that at the time I did what I could. Certain things had happened to me before that point that made me afraid to go to people–I had trust issues, especially with adults. I’m just glad I listened to my gut. Intuition is a powerful thing, and the more we pay attention to it, the stronger it gets.

  14. Angela Brown says:

    I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional turmoil of having to deal with such a rather creepy situation. As touchy a subject as this is, stalking should be addressed. There really is a fine line between flattery and obsession.

    • I agree, it is a fine line. Thanks so much for posting. I know I got off lucky, and some people have had it much worse, as we can see in the comments. I’m glad people are sharing their stories, though. It’s important.

  15. Mart Ramirez says:

    Oh. My. God. What a story, Ange!!! You are such a great storyteller! I’m glad your story ended well and you were safe. It’s great to see you participating too. I’ll have mine up sometime this week. STINA ROCKS!!!!!!!!

  16. Steph says:

    Though it’s not something you’d probably want to relive in depth, but your story grabbed me instantly. You should consider fleshing it out and publishing it.

    • You never know. I’ve never really talked about it before–sort of one of those things that you tuck away in the past. But if it helped a few people not feel alone and maybe learn to be a bit more wary, that’s a good side of storytelling.

  17. Trula Varnum says:

    I was stalked by my second ex husband. This took place in the 70’s. I was pregnant with my first child. My parent’s came to rescue me after he had beaten me up to the point that I could not stand up straight. I was living in Denver, Colorado, and they settled me in a little apartment in Mesa, Arizona, my home town where they still resided. I started getting the “I’m watching you” phone calls. He would proceed to tell me where I had been that day, and what I was wearing. I remember he was threatening my life.

    Mom helped me move to another apartment in the cover of night. It wasn’t even two days (thinking I might be safe) that I get the phone call,…..”I’m looking at your apartment right now…..”

    One day when this call came I remember fear turned into rage. I thanked him for giving me the information so I could tell the authorities about it. He was bragging about driving a cadillac, how much money he had. I said that’s good to know because child protective services could use this information to enforce his legal obligation to pay child support. Some mad momma bear courage possesed me and I was ready to kill or be killed. I never heard from him again after that call. What came out of my mouth (can’t remember it all) was so point on. I had a lot of prayerful help at the time, and am sure these words were from something bigger than myself. I will be forever grateful for them.

    • How awful! Thank goodness your mother was there to support you, and good for you for turning the tables on him. Some partners have major control issues after a break up. They have lost control and can’t deal with it, so they try to assert their power over the person who made them feel that way. I’m so relieved you got out of that situation.

  18. Curtis says:

    I’ll make this short; a book title:

    The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker

  19. It’s so important for girls (and guys, too!) to know that they should always trust their instincts, and to tell someone if they feel uncomfortable for any reason. And if the first person doesn’t believe them, keeping telling people until someone listens.

    I was in radio before I started writing, and when I was 20 I took a job as the overnight deejay at a popular rock station. Being a deejay is kind of a surreal job, because when people listen to your show on a regular basis they come to believe they know you. This is especially true of overnights when often the deejay on the radio is their only companion. Radio announcers get very good at deflecting offers for dates from listeners, and most of the time those listeners take it good-naturedly. But about six months after taking that overnight shift a listener who called in frequently really began to creep me out. It became harder and harder to get him off the phone, and he became more persistent about wanting to meet me. Then he started sending flowers to the station. I’d come in at 11:30 and find yet another bouquet he’d sent during the day. My co-workers teased me about it, but I didn’t find it funny at all. I finally went to the station manager, and he was concerned enough that the had the front door to the station reinforced and asked the local police department to patrol around the station more often overnight. Then one night the guy showed up at the station at about 1:00 a.m. He was banging on the door, yelling that he had flowers for me and he “just wanted to talk.” I yelled back that he had to leave or I was going to call the police. He didn’t believe me until the police showed up and escorted him off the property. Then I got scared that I’d really pissed him off. I never saw him after that, but I was constantly looking over my shoulder. I finally took a job at a station in another state because I never felt safe at my old job. It totally pissed me off that I felt forced to leave a job I really loved because of this guy. Honestly, I don’t know what anyone could have done differently, but when I left my job I couldn’t help but feel that he had won somehow. Luckily, that was the only time something like that happened during my radio career, but I still get apprehensive when it appears a stranger is showing a little too much interest.

    • Wow, what a situation. I can see what you mean, how a person who is unstable can feel they have a connection with a voice on the radio, but how scary to see how this built into an obsession. You handled yourself really well.

      It’s awful you had to change jobs. I don’t think he won–you just took yourself out of the game. Still, it should have never impacted you like that.

  20. Bish Denham says:

    I’ve been in some strange situations that were very scary, but I can’t say I’ve ever been truly stalked. I’m glad you listened to you instincts, or, as you said, things could have turned out much differently. And it worries me that so many teens are afraid to share their fears with an adult. Why the disconnect? That too, is something worth exploring.

    • I don’t know if it is different today or not, but back there then was a real “adults” vs “teens” feeling, like we were on different planets. It could be that I also didn’t have a strong relationship with my parents, so i didn’t feel comfortable going to an adult–i assumed they would not understand me.

      I hope it’s different now. ;)

  21. Hi Angela!

    I think you and I were cut from the same cloth in high school. (I’ve listed a number of times I was pursued by inappropriate people in my post over on Swagger Writers.) I was fairly outgoing and I think some insecure or socially awkward people misinterpret that friendliness as interest. It’s not us, it’s them. Probably, like me, you never dressed revealingly or had any desire to “tease” anyone. But based on the reaction I got from a certain type of person, I did adjust my public persona over time and ultimately became less friendly, at least with new acquaintances.

    • Yes, like you, I never did anything to warrant the attention–I wasn’t a flirt or anything like that. I just didn’t snub people because I’d been on the receiving end and would never do that to someone.

      It’s important for us all to be able to read signals and body language, not just our characters. Maybe I would have done better if we’d taken a course on that in high school.

  22. I was stalked in college by a law student. He appeared at the restaurant where I worked at closing time. He made midnight hang-up phone calls. He followed me. He was also a peeping tom. He was cured of his fixation because I surprised him as he peeked through my upstairs window one night. He fell down a flight of stairs. He limped away never to be seen again. Very grateful that nothing further happened. I later became a second degree blackbelt because ya never can tell…..

    • Wow. I must admit I had a burst of satisfaction when you said he fell down a flight of stairs. And good on you for getting some self defense skills. That’s something else I think should be standard in schools.

      What’s worrying is me wondering what happened to all of these people who did these things. Did they get their heads on straight to lead normal lives, or did they keep doing it to other people? Did they escalate?

      A friend of mine stayed in our hometown after high school. She worked the night shift at the jail. I asked her once if she ever had anyone there that we knew from school, and she told me there were more than a few, and it was better if I didn’t know what they were in for. I didn’t press her…somethings you realize you really don’t want to know.

  23. Angela, I’m so glad you were able to get up the courage to confront “Doug” about his stalking. It must have been terrifying to deal with that. This is a topic that needs to be brought to light. Thank you for sharing your story. Best wishes to Stina and her book release.

    • I’m glad my story sparked some conversation and allowed others to tell theirs as well. As Stina commented earlier, it’s disturbing how many people have been stalked or known someone who was stalked. Scary stuff.

  24. Addy Rae says:

    My housemate in college had a stalker, and it was terrifying. We were never allowed to refer to her by her real first or last name in an attempt to keep him from finding her. He had followed her from another college when she switched to get away from him. Fortunately, our college came down hard on him when another student complained about him lurking about the dorms and trying to find out where she lived. (We didn’t actually live in the dorms which slowed him down hopefully.) It was really stressful for us and terrifying for her. :C

    • I can only imagine what that would have been like Thank goodness the college did something when he was caught at the dorms. How awful for her that she couldn’t even use her own name, or live her life without fear.

  25. Kelly Polark says:

    THat is a scary story. So thankful you were strong and put a stop to it, Angela, before it got worse. You must have been so terrified!
    Definitely a topic that needs to be addressed in a book. Looking forward to reading Stina’s book! Another book that features intimidation and stalking is Fingerprints by Suzanne Casamento.

    • It was definitely scary. I lacked confidence to deal with it at first because I didn’t view myself as anyone who stood out–nothing remarkable about me. I wasn’t a pretty and popular sort. I mean I wasn’t the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but you get my drift. Bullying left me with low confidence which I hid by acting tough. This whole situation threw me completely.

  26. Dawn Allen says:

    This is an important topic, and I’m glad you told your story. Stina’s book sounds good, and I’m glad to see this topic hitting that age group. I’m also glad to hear you reiterate the importance of listening to your gut. It saved at least one young woman from Ted Bundy. Too many times we fear the repercussions of being wrong about judging someone’s motives. Unfortunately, we read about people all the time who let that fear win out and didn’t live to tell us they wish they had listened to their guts.

    • I really think it is a topic teens and young women should talk about more too, Dawn. Back then, I was a tough kid, but I felt helpless in this situation. I didn’t feel that I could go to an adult, I questioned whether I was overreacting. Most of all I couldn’t believe it was happening, because that kind of stuff never happens to us…it happens to other people, right? At least this is what think, and of course it can happen to anyone. We need to know it’s all right to speak up and share our concerns before things go further.

  27. That is too scary. I’m glad you spoke up–and I’m glad he didn’t get violent. That’s always a scary thing about a stalker. You don’t know how unbalanced they might be. Thanks for sharing this.

  28. One thing I’m learning pretty fast with this blog hop is that many of us have dealt with a stalker or know someone is who has. And unfortunately it is common for high school and college students to experience it–and not tell anyone. You did the right thing in the end, Angela.

    Thank you so much for participating!!! XOX

    • Which makes it all that more important to talk about and write about. People aren’t always comfortable talking about it in person, and books can be a safer way to learn about what to do, and know what feelings are normal for a person to experience if it does happen. I’m glad you had the courage to go there in your book, Stina.

  29. So sorry for your personal, scary experience. I didn’t have any stalking experiences, but a lot of fear about it because I had to walk home late at night a lot during college alone. And I have a lot of fear of my daughter experiencing it or something similar when she goes out on her own when she goes to college. I agree that this is a terrible problem that girls and women shouldn’t have to be experiencing or fear.

    My post goes up on Wednesday.

    • Yes when we live in a high risk neighborhood or work at odd hours, we’re more of a target for violence. I had a job in college where I had to walk to work at 12 pm. Doug would run through my head–was he still in the same city I was? Did he know where I lived then? I didn’t know.

      I had a waitress job a year after high school and had a male customer, maybe 10 years older than I was, who would come in and sit in my section with his buddies. I didn’t think too much of it–people have their favorite tables and all that. But one day when I was working as a prep cook ( I cooked, prepped and waitressed, depending on what was needed) another waitress brought back a gold necklace for me, saying it was from a customer. It was from this guy! I took it out to him and told him it was a sweet thing to do but I couldn’t accept it. I didn’t even know his name! He said he understood, and I didn’t see him again. I don’t know, maybe I’m too friendly to people? Ugh. That really made me question myself and what was wrong with me.

  30. Sheri Larsen says:

    Angela, I can’t imagine how much anxiety creating and acting out that scene for that play was. That must have been so hard. Thank God for your intuition. I’m glad you shared this with us.

    • I won’t lie–it was awful. I was glad when it was done. That was the last time I practiced in the soundproof room, too. I told Doug it made me claustrophobic. (and it did, just not for the reasons he thought.)

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