When I became a stalking victim…

November 23, 2009

Last year at this time I thought I had accomplished all my dreams.  My husband and I had built and moved into our dream home just a few months earlier.  Almost three years earlier we had relocated to New Mexico, a place I had wanted to live since I was a young girl.  I had a great job.  The trial of Jodi Sanderholm’s murderer was scheduled to begin in January and significant evidence had mounted against him.  Everything was coming together well or so it appeared.  It is amazing how quickly everything can change.

The trial came and went with what by all accounts was very swift and uneventful.  The verdict was guilty.  The penalty was death.  I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. 

It was approximately a month after the trial concluded that my life was changed forever.  I had exposed myself to some dangers by working to strengthen anti-stalking legislation and increase awareness on the crime of stalking.  A passion to create a change that would not allow someone else to suffer at the hands of a stalker like Jodi had just two years earlier.  Somewhere along the way I got a stalker.  I was prepared on some level and knew it was a good possibility.  That awareness did not leave me prepared for the next few months though.  After speaking with countless stalking victims I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what it would be like.  I was dead wrong!

Initially, I kept my situation very quiet and tracked everything that was happening.  My stalker chose anonymous emails, notes on my car or home and driving by my house.   I told no one.  Not even my husband.  I had identified the person I felt was stalking me.  It was a person known to both of us and knowing my husband I knew he would confront her angry that someone would target his family this way.  Confronting a stalker is never a good idea.  They are after the attention and even negative attention will satisfy that need and likely cause the stalking to continue.

By May, I realized the situation was only getting worse.  More emails.  The drives by my house were almost every night.  I tracked it all just like I have told many other victims to do.  I finally told my husband.  He was in disbelief that I had not come to him sooner, but just as I had expected he confronted the stalker.  The situation got worse again.  The tone of the emails changed and became more threatening.   We sent our daughter to my father’s house for a month to get her out of the situation.  Shortly after we applied for and received an Order of Protection for five years.  We hoped we would find some peace, but I knew that the Order of Protection was a necessary step, but often did not stop the problem.  I was right it did not. 

Before June, I had never shot a gun in my life.  In June, I bought two handguns and learned to shoot.  I carried a gun everywhere I went.  This was a big step for someone who was terrified the first time the gun shop put an unloaded gun in my hand.  I chose to confront the terror of holding a gun to be better prepared just in case the threats came true.

By July, we were done.  We were ready to leave everything to have our peace.  A funny thing happens when you are confronted daily with the possibility that you may not make it thru the day and if you do you could be made a widow by the end of it.  My husband and I found an even deeper love than we had in the past.  We went back to basics for lack of a better term.  We spent all our time together because we wanted to, but also because I was told by law enforcement to not be alone at any time.   We began looking at relocation options.  Neither of us felt like we could transfer due to the fact that we could easily be traced.  The unemployment rate was higher than ever.  How could we pull this off?    We took a chance.  We chose a location and moved.  I would do marketing consulting and John would find a new job.   It was the gamble of a lifetime, but all we cared about was that we would be together and safe!  Some people may see this as running from the problem.  We simply saw the problem as not worth putting up with any longer.  It was a difficult decision.  It felt like we were giving up a lot at the time.  But once we made the decision it was easy.   We both quit looking at it as giving something up and began looking at it as protecting what was important…our family.

The first month in our new (and undisclosed) location I was miserable.  I missed my old job, my friends, our dream home and New Mexico.  I found solace in the fact that we did find peace from the stalking and we are together.  No one got hurt or killed and we were a thousand miles away from Santa Fe.

I resumed consulting and working on the official launch of Jodi’s Voice as a charity.  I had originally planned to launch the charity last April, but when my own stalking started I postponed it.  Everything began falling into place.  Celebrities began signing up to help with the cause.  Clients that I love working with began signing contracts.  Within a matter of two months I had replaced my income and was enjoying the work.  All of this has been great and I have met some simply wonderful people in my new home town.  The most important part of my happiness is my family.  I lost track of the real importance in life with my career and volunteer work clouding my vision in New Mexico.  It is all crystal clear now though.  My husband and I work on Jodi’s Voice together driven by an even deeper passion now that we have been victims too.  We are still together all the time, but now only because we choose to be and not for the safety reasons we had in New Mexico.

Please do not think this is my way of saying I am thankful for being stalked.  That is far from the truth. Stalkers in general are obviously very troubled people in need of some intensive psychiatric help.  However, I am thankful we are out of the situation, safe and together with a deeper appreciation for each other.  My life is changed forever in many ways.  I am more aware than ever of my surroundings and I am prepared to protect my family and myself.  But the biggest way my life changed is to reopen my eyes to the most important part of my life…my family. 

This Thanksgiving I am more thankful than ever.  Not for things. But for my family.  For opportunity to pursue my passion of increasing stalking awareness and legislation.  For some great friends I have met along the way that want to help too.