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!