Sunday, January 23, 2011

Surviving a Stalker Part I : A Little History

A friend recently posted on Facebook that she is being following by a woman from her husband's past. She mentioned several incidents that had occured, which all sounded like scenes from "Single White Female."

I have a unique perspective on the subject: I am a stalking survivor.

Though I suspect it started while I was in high school, I can not say for certain. The voice and the circumstances surrounding the incidents that began way back then are too similar for it not to be the same person. Many stalkers pick their victims early and maintain a sick obsession for many years. While most victims know their harrasser, I only learned the identity of my stalker when he was finally caught.

I know now that his name is Dan.* He was two years behind me in school. I would later learn that we were often at the same events, parties, outings etc... He was no one of consequence: not the sports hero, or the cute guy, class clown, or award winning brainiac. What he was, however, was a lurker.

A lurker is one of those people who kind of lurks around in the background. Someone who wasn't identified with any particular group (the jocks, the band, the geeks, or the stoners), but yet found a way to be included in everyone's goings on. They weren't really friends with anyone, but are always at the parties. Usually they didn't come with anyone,and likewise left alone. They are in the background of all the pictures, being quiet,lurking in the half-light, and observing. They want to be part of the action, but lack the personality to pull it off. You might not know their name, but occasional when faced with them somewhere like the mall , you might recognize their face from school. I bet you remember one from your own high school as I describe this. Having once been a wall flower myself, I did not allow people at parties to languish on the sidelines. Ironically, Dan slipped through, completely unnoticed, while I, on the other hand, apparently captured his attention.

I had been plagued on and off throughout high school by a series of obscene phone calls,beginning aroud my Junior or Senior year. A late bloomer, I had begun to blossom and was being noticed. I was also a majorette, which had elevated me into a status hovering just between "band geek" and "jock/cheerleader." And I had just ended my first, steady relationship.

The calls would come at all hours, the same whispery voice, saying the most vile, unspeakable things. And he knew things, like what I had worn that day, or where I had been. There had also been a series of unexplained gifts, that no one ever admitted to sending. Flowers, candy, stuffed animals, all left for me on my car at work. I had attributed them to an exboyfriend, trying to win back my attention, but he never claimed credit.

Before long, the calls escalated, as I recieved my own phone line as a gift. Canned air horns, rape whistles, and the threat of prosecution did little to deter this pervert, who would call every night for a month, then suddenly stop calling for two. It was not long before the obscenities were joined by threats on my life. That I should be dead, that the world would be a better place without me. He had a knack for calling the moment I would get home, regardless of the time. Only then did it dawn on me that I could be being watched.

Terrified, my mother and I sought the help of the police. I signed an affidavit that I would proceed with prosecution. While the phone trap proved successful in theory, our mom-and-pop local telephone company could not obtain permission from the larger carrier to proceed toward prosecution, and the matter was dropped. Despite my desperate pleas, the local athorities dismissed my concerns. One misguided individual went as far to say "You are a pretty girl. You should be flattered." I do not know if the possibility of being caught was too close for comfort, but it was enough to stop the calls for about a year.

After marrying my first husband, and moving into a local apartment complex, the whispery voice started calling again. Apparently changing not only my phone number but also my last name was no match for this person. The calls increased in frequency and came at all hours of the day during my six weeks maternity leave,when I was at home all day by myself. My husband's position at a local country club, led to overtime opportunities when the club would host night time events. This left me alone at home with our newborn at night. Disturbingly, the calls would come on nights when I was alone, sometimes hours on end, stopping only as my husband came in. I was certain our home was being watched.

A few months after our daughter was born, my grandparents offered to let us move into a house they owned in a neighboring town. It was also closer to my inlaws, so we happily picked up and moved. Several years went by before the calls started again, the same whispery voice, taunting me.

By this time, our marriage was disenigrating. When I told my husband about these disturbing calls, he accused me of infidelity. The fact that the calls only came at times when he was not at home, and his daughter could also be in danger, did not seem to concern him at all. One night, in a fit of panic and rage, I told the whispery voice that I would soon be meeting them in court. The calls stopped, but so did my marriage. My daughter and I lived with my grandparents as I tried to piece some sort of normal life back together. It was the better part of a year before I felt safe enough to move back into the house, alone.

A new relationship kept me either out of the house, or on the phone for the next year. I used a pager so that those who needed me could still reach me and I carried several dollars in quarters for returning calls. The whispery voice drifted back into my past and I gave it very little thought. As all rebound relationships eventually do, my new relationship ended and I was devastated. Aside from caring for my little girl, I did little more than eat, sleep, and go to work. Because my job was to answer the phone, the last thing I wanted was to talk on the phone when I got home. I unplugged it most times, relying on my pager for making contact.

The week before Christmas, the late night calls started again. They were nothing at first. Almost like someone had knocked the phone off the hook and I had been the last number dialed. No one said anything, but I could hear a radio or tv somewhere in the back ground. On average there was one or two a week, just enough to be coincidence, not enough for concern.

I met the man who is now my husband the following January. We had much in common, including a shared childhood, and would talk until the wee hours of the morning. Then we'd race to see who would be the first to call and wake the other for the day, sometimes picking up the phone to dial and finding the other already on the line. We had laughed about how surprisingly well we functioned on so little sleep. We took great delight in being the last voice either heard as they drifted off to sleep and the first when we woke in the morning. Anyone who called either house would definately get a busy signal.

Then one night, after a spirited game of "no, you hang up first," the phone rang the moment I set it back on the base. I quickly picked it up and cooed "I have to go to sleep, so you can wake me up again." The voice that responded was not that of my sweet, new boyfriend.

The whispery voice was back again.

(Next: Surviving a Stalker Part II: Seeking Justice)

*names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me.

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