Stalking Victim’s Path to Regain Control of His/Her Life

March 10, 2010

It has been almost a year since I became a stalking victim.  During the year, my family and I have made numerous changes to ensure our safety and gone through a spectrum of emotions.  Becoming a stalking victim is a true tragedy.  You experience the five stages of grief, but it is your choices during those stages that will make or break you!

1. Denial – “I am sure he/she is not stalking me.  He/she is just really friendly/persistent/having a hard time with the break up.”

This is what I hear most often from people.  Yet, they have made an effort to reach out to me at this point so they do understand on some level that what they are experiencing is stalking.  As a stalking victim, I skipped this stage.  I knew and understood almost immediately although I did not tell anyone including my husband and the police for almost two months.  I guess that was my denial.  Ignore it and it will go away. 

2.  Anger – “Why me?”

Stalking victims who reach out to me usually at least initially feel like the stalking is in some way their own fault.  This could not be further from the truth.  Stalkers have some bizarre sense of entitlement to their victims.  As with rape victims stalking victims do not choose their fate, rather it is forced upon them.

I have spent the most amount of time in the Anger Phase.  I have been angry that the stalker would do this to me, that the stalker was not fully prosecuted, that I moved out of state, that I moved out of what I thought at the time was my dream house (built for us only a year earlier), that apparently I was targeted based on the stalking advocacy work I have done, and the list goes on.  I have moved in and out of the Anger Phase throughout the past year often.

3.  Bargaining – “He/She wants to talk to/see me one more time.”

 I hear this most often from intimate partner stalking victims.  The stalker has told them if they do this then he/she will leave them alone.  Out of pure desperation for the stalking to stop the victim often believes them.  Too often it is the last meeting the victim ever has as well. 

I did not go through much of a bargaining stage at least with the stalker.  I guess it is due to my work with other victims and understanding that it never does any good.   I bargained with myself by needing to understand and thinking it would make a difference.  I hired a private investigator to tell me about the stalker.  Some people look down on this.  I have even heard it called “stalking the stalker,” but I assure you the P.I. did it legally without following her and via public information.  As a matter of fact, the P.I. was located in another state.   I simply thought by knowing more about who this person was and why she would stalk me I would feel safer.  The conclusion was you can never understand why someone would choose to stalk another person.  It is like trying to understand why Justin Thurber chose to take Jodi’s life.  A sane person simply cannot understand the thought pattern of a stalker.  You cannot assign rational thought patterns to an irrational person.  We did find a very troubled lifestyle and a pathetic person who apparently simply likes to cause problems for people.

 4.  Depression – When your life no longer feels like it is your own it is the most helpless a person can ever feel. 

 Stalking victims have every bit of privacy and independence taken from them.   My husband and I found spyware on our cell phones meaning that every love note, call, argument, etc could have been heard/viewed by the stalker.   It took a few months for us to realize the information was coming from the phones.   I was unable to walk from my car into my office without a security escort and went absolutely nowhere by myself until we moved out of state.  I am a very independent and private person by nature so all of this made for a very hard adjustment. 

5.   Acceptance – Moving on

 By acceptance I do not mean accepting the fact that you are a stalking victim, I mean taking back control of your life.  I have seen victims do this in a variety of ways, but what worked for me was the following.

 I purchased a handgun (three actually) and learned to use it.  A lifelong fear of guns meant nothing anymore.  I wanted to protect myself.  After purchasing the first gun, I spent every day at the range learning to use it safely until I was sure of my skills.  Now I am a great shot.

 I moved.  This is an extreme solution and not possible for everyone, but in my case it was apparent that even though the stalker had been arrested on felony aggravated stalking charges it would not result in a prosecution due in large part to local politics.  The stalker had continued to stalk me after her arrest and informed me that she would not be prosecuted on multiple occasions as the hearing drew near it became apparent that she was correct.  So my family and I left.  We left great jobs and many friends behind, but for us it was the right choice.  We have never looked back either.  Since our relocation, there have been challenges and triumphs, but in the end we are much better off having moved. 

As is the case with any life experience becoming a stalking victim changes you forever.  It makes you a much more private person and much more aware of people’s true intentions.  Is this all bad?  Probably not.  All the changes are not bad though.  It reminded me, and my family, what is truly important in life…each other and taking no moment together for granted. 

Everyone will find his or herown way through the chaos of being a victim  of stalking unfortunately there is no magic bullet to make someone feel safe again.  It takes time and understanding of those close to them.  I have met some of the best people I have ever known since “restarting” my life after being stalked.  Victims must make the choice to first ensure their own safety and then move past the stalking.  Learn from it and realize that for the horrible stalkers that are in our world there are also wonderful people!


Remembering the 4th Day Jodi was Missing…

January 8, 2009

I waited for news, but nothing new came.  The Internet begins unofficially to reveal a suspect’s name, but did that really matter when Jodi could still be out there?  I still wanted to believe that everything was a misunderstanding or at worst that Jodi was hurt and waiting for help to arrive.  After all this is a small town.  It is a town that I grew up in.  Everyone knew everyone and no one would want to hurt Jodi. 

 

The news began reporting and my father confirmed that law enforcement was closing in on an investigation at the Cowley County Fishing Lake.  Some of Jodi’s clothes and the mail from the day she went missing had been found in the restroom there.  I finally acknowledged that Jodi had been a victim, but I still did not believe she could be dead.  My father continued to try to prepare me for the news to come.

 

Rumors continued as law enforcement waited for Texas Equine Search to arrive in the small town.  Texas Equine Search has worked many high profile cases and was on the way to assist in the search.  Jodi began to appear in national news.  Today Show.  AOL.com.  I turned everything off and waited. 


Remembering the 3rd Day Jodi was Missing…

January 7, 2009

The third day Jodi was missing we had planned to have another couple over for dinner.  I went ahead with the plans thinking it would be a welcomed distraction.  However, I am confident that I was not a good hostess that evening. 

 

All day I called my father for updates feeling helpless that I was so far away.  All day I received the same update.  Nothing had changed. 

 

Throughout the day I remembered Jodi.  I thought about when we moved into the house next door to Jodi and her family.  She was about 1 years old and one of the cutest babies I think I have ever seen (her niece is a mirror image).  Cindy (Jodi’s mom) had come outside to introduce herself as we moved in.  Cindy was an at-home day care provider at the time.  As Cindy stood talking with us Jodi crawled out as well to be quickly grabbed by her older brother, Jason.

 

It was becoming apparent that memories could be all we would have left of Jodi, but as simple as they are they were all were great and accented with a smile that showed care for everyone.  

 

Later that day law enforcement began asking people to look in their out buildings “for anything.”  Kansas had a few extremely cold nights and I hoped that she had found shelter in a building and was waiting for someone to find her.  That was not the case.

 

Jodi was probably about ten or eleven when her dad, Brian and my own father decided to joke with her older sister, Jennifer’s high school boyfriend who was coming for a date.  Jodi laughed about the joke, but quickly added, “I hope they don’t do that to my dates!”  She dated the same boy all thru high school though.  She was still dating him when she went missing and he planned to propose later that year.

 

No additional news on Jodi came throughout the day.  My mind raced with locations that she could be waiting for help.  As if I could solve this from more than 600 miles away better than the law enforcement. 

 

Some good news did come from the Sanderholm family that day. Jennifer (Jodi’s older sister) delivered a healthy baby girl, Emma.  What should have been a time the Sanderholm family and Jodi celebrated was overcast with the uncertainty and worry for Jodi.

 

Every day we read, listen or watch stories similar to Jodi’s.  It may not be stalking every time.  It may not end as horribly.  But the victim was always someone’s daughter/son, brother/sister, uncle/aunt, niece/nephew, friend or babysitter.  The details you hear on the news merely scratch the surface.  Help protect these people!  Everyone has a choice.  Do nothing while continuing to shake your head and say too bad every night or call your legislator and ask for change in the current anti-stalking laws!

 

“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke 


Remembering the 2nd Day Jodi was Missing…

January 7, 2009

It’s been two years since Jodi Sanderholm was murdered.  Over the next few days I will recount my experiences from those days she was missing.  It was the day after she went missing that I received the news.  I lived in New Mexico and received a call from my father.  He informed me that Jodi was missing since the day before.  I immediately thought it was a misunderstanding.  After all the first stage is denial. 

My father’s simple reply was, “I don’t think so.” 

I looked into my rearview mirror and saw my ten year-old daughter sitting in the backseat.  She had known Jodi her entire life.  Jodi and her sister had babysat for her until we moved to New Mexico.  They were the older girls that she looked up to.  How would I tell her?

 I asked my father to clarify.  He responded, “They have someone they are talking to.” 

 I still thought it must be a misunderstanding, but got off the phone and told my daughter that Jodi was missing.  With concern in her eyes she nodded her understanding.  During the twenty minute drive home I shook my head in disbelief that something like this could happen in the small town of approximately 12,000 people that I grew up in.  This was a typical small town where people may or may not lock their doors.  Jodi had never met someone who wasn’t a friend.  Who could possibly want to harm her? 

 My daughter and I went home where I pulled up the story on the Internet.  Already stories were flooding the Internet.  Jodi’s beautiful and exuberant smile was on every news website in the region with comments pages full of prayers for her safe return that would not come.

 

I called my father several times the rest of the night hoping to receive the news that Jodi was safe.  Every call was met with the same news…nothing had changed.  Every call he tried to make me understand that conclusion to Jodi’s disappearance would more than likely not be happy.  I didn’t have a suspect’s name at this point.  I didn’t have and still don’t have a reason.  I sat in disbelief.

 Daily posts through the time of Jodi’s disappearance in the hope of bringing to light the pain that victims and their friends and families feel.  Laws need to be strengthened across the nation.  Please call your legislators today!  To the best of my knowledge Jodi did not know she was a victim of stalking.  However, court documents show that her accused murderer had been at the very least window peeping since she was 9 years old.  She was 19 when she was murdered.


Thurber Case Hearing Information Not Disclosed

January 3, 2009

A hearing held yesterday in the Jodi Sanderholm murder case will not be disclosed.  Cowley County Attorney Chris Smith expects the trial to begin January 26th with another closed hearing on January 9th. 

More informaton can be found at:

http://arkcitynetbreakingnews.blogspot.com/2009/01/undisclosed-hearing-held-in-thurber.html

Monday will mark the two year anniversary of Jodi Sanderholm’s disappearance and subsequent death.


Thurber Declared Competent

December 17, 2008

Justin Thruber has been found competent to stand trial in the death of Jodi Sanderholm.

http://www.newscow.net/story.php?StoryID=2615


2nd Competency Hearing Scheduled for Justin Thurber

November 9, 2008

Justin Thurber has reportedly been returned to Cowley County for a December 16, 2008 hearing to discuss the result of his competency hearing at Larned State Hospital.  Thurber was taken to the mental hospital for an evaluation after a mental health professional hired by the defense found him to be incompetent to stand trial.

Additional information on Thurber’s transfer can be found at the following links:

January 5, 2009 will mark the second anniversary of Jodi’s death and Thurber has yet to answer to the charges against him.  

Jodi’s friends and family are left to hope and pray that December 16th will bring a competent to stand trial decision and a trial date set for the very near future.