We have a guest blogger, Stephanie, and she was brave enough to share her own stalking story with all of us. Thank you so much Stephanie!
Here is Stephanie’s story…
Many people don’t know that in the summer of 2009 I was pursued by a man who stalked me. It all started when a long time family friend invited me to watch his new band perform. I was 17 and had just moved from another state so I was really excited to get out and hopefully make some new friends. I went and saw the band play, caught up with a bunch old friends and met a few ones, including a member of the band named Matthew.
Matthew was much older then me and being a long time family friend I thought I could trust him. We talked before the band went in and I thought nothing of it, I was friendly, but not because I was looking for a relationship, but because I was looking for friends. This is also when I first met my current husband Seth. Everything went great for a few weeks until randomly Matthew showed up late one night at my mother’s house where I was living at the time. At first I didn’t think anything of it, we DID discuss him giving me guitar lessons and maybe having me help his band with some photography. We hung out and I soon realized he wanted something much more. I then realized I had never told Matthew WHERE exactly I was living which struck me as strange that he could have just shown up there. After that my mother told him he needed to leave and never come back because he made me very uncomfortable.
Matthew had tried to come over a few more times after that, and tried catching me on the street, because he said he “just wanted to talk.” I ignored his advances even more after I learned he was married and his wife sent me a nasty message on Myspace (Ahhh Myspace – those were the days!) telling me that I needed to “back off her husband.” I soon blocked the two of them on Myspace and soon after this I started spending time with Seth more as I was realizing we had a lot in common. Seth and I started off as friends and after a few months he invited me to a show he was playing at with his band. Of course I went. It was on Halloween and of course because Matthew was in the band with Seth I had to face him. He cornered me near the bathroom and told me he was sorry for the way he was acting and that he was concerned as I was getting close to Seth. He said that Seth had a history of violence and assaults on his record (which I did later find out to be true, but I just figured sometimes people make mistakes as teenagers and this was one of those cases), he continued to tell me if I got too comfortable with Seth I could end up getting hurt. I ignored these comments and decided to enjoy my night.
I started dating Seth in the fall of 2009 and things moved quickly, this of course angered Matthew even more. He started cornering me EVERY chance he could get telling me that Seth was going to kill me and I needed to get out. His “concern” quickly turned to threats with him telling me that he was going to “kill Seth” and “slit his throat if he got the chance.” He also become very touchy and would constantly try to touch me or reach out at me and would show up at places I was at. He would ALWAYS corner me when I was by myself making threats on Seth’s life and telling me that “If I cant have you, no one can.” I grew incredibly concerned and reached out to Matthew’s wife via social media. Of course this is when the Gas Lighting started.
Gas lighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.
He told his wife I was the one that was obsessed, and that I was making unwanted advances at him, she of course believed him and she threatened me over social media numerous times AND in person. Matthew would also try to tell me he was “doing this because he cared” and “I was talking it the wrong way” and I “must not ever have had someone that cared.”A few months went by and I didn’t see a sign of Matthew until he started following him around his car when I went out jogging and then started showing up at places I would check in on on my phone (which I found odd that he could have seen since I had him blocked on social media). All this tension caused Seth to leave the band and cut all ties with everyone in the band. Soon after Seth left the band Matthew took to harassing him by booking gigs at Seth’s new place of work and threatening to hurt him if he saw him.
Seth also started causing tension in the circle of friends we had and local folks. He told them I was severely mentally ill and that I was obsessed with him. He lead everyone to believe HE was the victim.
I finally had enough, I contacted the police and they refused to do anything, Matthew had told the police that I was mentally Ill and was off my medication, that I had mistaken his kindness, and that I was stalking HIM! He was even able to get his place of work to write statements saying I would follow him to work (keep in mind I was 17, had no car, however my father did work in the building next door). His wife was able to submit statements and so were people I had never met before, but statements from my family were rejected. The police also refused to give me a restraining order against him, saying that since we were all living in a small town, the fact that he showed up in places where I was, did not constitute concrete proof. They simply told me to “ignore him” and if I felt he was stalking me that I should just ignore him and it would ALL go away. Matthew also threatened Seth that if he submitted a report that he would “kill him.” Seth and I told the police this, but they completely ignored it as “hearsay” because I had no proof.
A few weeks after this I was doing some shopping with Seth, at this point we were living together. As we entered the store I saw Matthew enter behind us. I knew Matthew was there to start trouble. I entered the store and completely ignored him, that’s when he started walking behind us and began threatening the both of us saying he could “kill us right now, and it would not phase him” and that “we were both pieces of Sh*t”. I finally had it at this point, I spun around and told Matthew in a loud voice to “LEAVE ME ALONE!” He looked me dead in the eyes and didn’t say a word. He started to walk away and so did I, Seth had left at this point to call the police. as I walked away Matthew stepped towards me and started to grab something from inside his jacket pocket. My heart sank – I thought maybe he was pulling out a gun or a knife. I ran towards him and shoved him, thinking I could shove him away and take whatever weapon he had away from him. At this point he punched me in my face and everything went black for a few seconds. I SCREAMED “Oh my God, he just punched me.” And just as I saw him punch me I saw a knife in his pocket. My heart seriously sank.
At this point we both made a dash for the store manager who was zero help. He told me I needed to leave the store as I was causing a disturbance and that if I didn’t leave he would have me removed. I left the store and called the police, my face was red and I was hysterical, the man that had threatened to kill me and Seth for the past TWO YEARS had just assaulted me!
The 911 operator was nothing but rude, I was hysterical and she threatened numerous times to hang up on me if I didn’t “shut up and calm down.”
15 minutes later they sent the police down and OF COURSE it was the same police officers from previous encounters. They collected statements from people and the store manager that had all sided with Matthew. I requested video footage, but was told “the camera’s were broken that day.” I was searched by police and even though there were a few eye witness reports that stated Matthew had a knife they never searched him. I ended up being arrested that day for disorderly conduct and banned from the store for a few months.
I was brought into the station, fingerprinted, and had my mug shots taken. The police interviewed me and constantly kept asking me if I was “taking my medication.” I had expressed to them NUMEROUS times I was not prescribed any medication by a doctor so No I was not taking any. For 2 hours I was treated like I had no idea what I was talking about. All the information I gave them they didn’t believe even down to my SS#, which the officer told me “it sounds fake”. I requested to file a restraining order against Matthew and the officer told me “I could not be granted one” and that I should “leave Matthew alone.” I became very stern with the police and told them I was the victim and tried to explain my side of the story. I was laughed at and told that I should “seek professional help” and was given the information for the local mental health center. I was outraged! They didn’t even photograph the HUGE mark on my face, which the officer tried to say “looked like nothing”.I later found out the officer and the store manager had personal ties to Matthew. I was so outraged I went home and started packing my stuff! A few weeks later Seth and I moved a few towns away and contacted the local woman’s advocate group there. I was so lucky as they were very supportive and even helped me file a claim against the dispatcher AND the responding officers. They gave me some GREAT information and made me feel safe again. They couldn’t do much as I moved to another state just a few towns over, but they faxed ALL my information to the local Woman’s Advocate Center in the town that this all happened in. (When I asked the police about the Woman’s Advocate Center originally I was told our town didn’t have one)I ended up going to court and was forced through the courts to write a letter to the store AND Matthew apologizing. I was disgusted that they made me WRITE MY STALKER a letter apologizing! I felt victimized ALL over again. I thought about fighting what the courts said I had to do, but was told if I did I would be held in contempt and most likely face jail time. I didnt want to go to jail so I sucked it up, wrote a one paragraph letter that I pretty much stole off the internet, and submitted it to the court. I asked that my address NOT be included. Matthew received my letter and of course boasted to everyone about it. At my court hearing I was also finally able to obtain all the police reports.
I was disgusted! Matthew had been able to manipulate the police! Yes, I had a history of mental health issues (severe anxiety, ADHD, and PMDD), but I had NEVER been arrested before, never even STOPPED by the police. The police reports made me out to be a “severely mentally disturbed young woman who was off her medication by refusal” which was false. I had been seeing a doctor for my ADHD and severe anxiety, but I was NOT refusing my medication, I was disgusted that my PERSONAL life could be dragged out like that and used as an excuse for a man to mentally abuse and stalk me and GET AWAY WITH IT!I paid all my fines ($500 worth), did a stupid class the courts made me do, and the courts FORCED me to see a doctor THEY picked. I was left completely publicly humiliated. Matthew had posted the letter on social media and was allowed to harass me still! I asked the social media site NUMEROUS times to remove it but they refused.After I moved the harassment and the stalking luckily stopped. I ran into him a few times in public and instead of ME running away like I use to I stood my ground, I wasn’t going to let him control my life anymore. After awhile it completely stopped, I would see him in public and he wouldn’t even make eye contact.
However because of this incident I suffer from severe social anxiety. I don’t like being in public and I like to know my “exit” route at all times. Even almost 4 years later I still have sever anxiety going out in public ESPECIALLY in the town this incident happened in. I have since had no issues especially after contacting the Women’s Advocacy Group who reached out to the police AND Matthew FOR me and is helping them to deal with situations like this in the future.
Since all of this I became married to Seth, I have a fantastic stepson, a dog and a cat. I run my own online website, and I spend my time volunteering with animal and domestic violence charities.
I hope by sharing my story people can see that no matter what someone’s background is or what mental health issues they suffer from its NOT okay to be abused or stalked and that if you feel like you are being stalked or abused and they are manipulating the police there are many woman’s advocacy groups out there that will help. I went to my local one in tears and they helped me accomplish so much.
*Some names and details HAVE been changed*