Monday, May 29, 2006

Stalker

The stalker memoir that I've posted seven excerpts from was written in the Spring of 2001 from a detailed chronological outline that I wrote in August of 1999.

1. The Escape
2. New Year's Eve
3. After the First Break-in
4. Threatening Gestures
5. Locked in and Threatened at Knife-point
6. Spying and Terror
7. One Last Chase Scene

All of this really happened, which is why I haven't posted the complete memoir nor used anyone's full name -- to avoid posting personal information about real people.

I don't have the statistics, but I understand that when a woman meets a violent death, it's more likely to be at the hands of her own husband, boyfriend, or ex than anyone else. Fortunately I lived to tell this tale, so I'm posting this because I'd like to talk a little bit about this danger.

One thing you'll notice while reading the above is that I voluntarily met with this person on a number of occasions even after he started displaying pathological behavior. But keep in mind that the memoir was written in retrospect, and I specifically distilled and presented the worst of it. So, unfortunately, the story gives the misimpression that it was totally obvious the whole time that the guy was a psychotic fruitcake, and that the lesson to be learned is that as long as you avoid blatant psychos you're fine.

The point that's missing is that this stalker was someone I'd know for more than a year before the events described in this memoir. I was in regular phone contact with him -- with occasional visits -- for a year, and then had been living with him for about three months when I finally broke it off.

During all of that time it was essentially a normal relationship with no glaring red flags to indicate that he was potentially dangerous.

The somewhat red (pink perhaps?) flags were that he had kind of a fiery temper, and had vivid stories of how he and his brothers and his mother were beaten by his father. But I've known people with bad tempers who won't snap to the point of hurting a person, and just because someone is a victim of abuse doesn't mean he will necessarily follow the same pattern. He had told me how much he hated his father, and how he would never even consider forgiving him. So I assumed that meant he would be very wary of following in his father's footsteps. Yet, from my various discussions with him during the time period covered by this memoir, it became clear that on some level he had internalized some bad ideas about how a relationship functions by observing his primary relationship example: his parents.

So when he started behaving in a pathological manner, I felt frightened and angry, but I also felt sorry for him because he was someone I knew and had some feelings for, and I could see that he was having serious problems. Additionally, I felt somewhat responsible because I knew basically from the beginning that the relationship was more serious for him than it was for me. So I felt guilty when he accused me of having led him on.

So I guess the primary lesson I'd like people to take from this is that no matter what your feelings towards the person may be, when a guy starts acting in a violent or threating manner (physically restraining you from leaving, breaking into your apartment, etc.), really it should take a lot fewer of these signals for you than it did for me before you cut off contact, put some distance between yourself and the guy, and consider that helping him get better is someone else's responsibility...

Anyone who is compiling a website of true stories of stalking can feel free to link to this page. Obviously I don't want people reprinting, distributing, or making a movie out of this story without my consent, but if someone is compiling an anthology of real-life stories of domestic violence or something like that and wants to include this one, they can contact me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com.

27 comments:

Joseph's Left One said...

I'm glad you posted that. Scary stuff to be sure, but it's an important story to share.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Yes, I am glad you shared it. When I have a little more time, I will read the last few excerpts.

:-)

Rebecca said...

Good advice. I've never known anyone who's been involved in anything violent, but my sister was in several weird friendships in high school -- she'd get deeply involved in a one-on-one best friend relationship with some girl with serious problems, and always felt that it was her responsibility to help them. After three or four of these (bulimia, threats of suicide, and drug abuse were just some of the problems) she finally started steering clear of those kinds of people. Sure, it's a good thing to help people, but she finally had to realize that she couldn't save them, especially at the expense of her own health.

Anonymous said...

Cripes, this sounds like the French version of my ex and my reaction to him. He was from a massively screwed up and abusive family, and so I cut him lots of slack when he treated me like crap. I got the empty suicide threats when I began to leave him, and the stalking (although minus kidnapping and weapons, thankfully)and long, stupid "we're friends" visits.

Thanks for sharing this. I hope at least one person reads it and decides to get the hell out of a relationship like this.

C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks for the support!!!

I hope this story ends up being helpful to people.

Part of the reason it got this bad was that I naturally had the idea that this is the sort of thing that only happens in scary movies and couldn't happen in real life to a smart person like me...

I don't want to sensationalize and suggest that this is more common than it really is (I really don't know how common it is...), but at least I'd like to provide an illustration as to why it should only take a few warning signs before you start thinking of your safety first and foremost...

bitchphd said...

Hi. I don't remember how I found your site, but since you specifically address the question of links at the bottom of this post, I want to ask permission before I link to you. My readers are largely feminist and smart, so I don't think there's anything to fear from them, but my site *does* get a fair bit of traffic, and I don't know if you want an onslaught of people reading this. If it's okay, just leave a comment here and I'll check back; if it's not, that's okay too.

Denise in Vegas said...

Very scary stuff. I'm glad you eventually got out of there. I can't believe nobody came to help you when you were being chased in public.

At my doctor's office, they now ask the patient at every visit whether anyone has been hurting them.

I think that's a great start and just maybe somebody will speak up some day.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hi bitchphd,

It's no problem at all if you'd like to link to this. I hope it will be helpful and interesting to your readers.

Denise in Vegas --

That surprised me a lot too, but I think people just assumed he and I were together and it was a private matter. I wonder if there's something I could have said or done differently so people would have understood: "No, I really mean it, I want one or more of you to restrain this guy for five minutes so I can get away."

CT said...

I came here via BitchPhD and am very glad you posted this. If you don't mind, I'd like to link from a fairly smart & savvy small forum of friends (~302 regulars). Actually, c.l. hanson, it occurs to me that you may want to address this general question pretty soon -- i.e., "Is it okay to link to your blog, even if I'm not compiling a website on this topic?" I have a feeling your well-written and thoroughly documented tale is going to strike quite a blogosphere nerve, especially after bphd's linking it.

I won't bring much traffic, but I'd like some of my young friends to read this from the source. I do want to be respectful of your autonomy about your writing, though.

ct said...

(make that ~30
*laughing)

bitchphd said...

CL, you might want to know that at least one reader of mine says that she's being hassled by an ex, and that reading your posts has helped her realize that she is uncomfortable with the situation and doesn't need to put up with it.

So you've helped at least one person. Thanks.

Ann Bartow said...

Whoops, I linked without asking first, after reading about your posts at Bitch Ph.D. - will remove post and link if you prefer, just e-mail me at feministlawprof@yahoo.com

poligal said...

As someone that went through such an experience -it is the normalcy that cushions the blows - precisely that idea of love and understanding and personal responsibility that make is possible to wake up in a cage one day. thanks for posting this...details always differ, but this was bone shaking in similarity. I am happy now, but it took some years.

Anonymous said...

I saw this link from a friend of mine on myspace.....At first I was sympathetic to your situation, but then it seemed like every step involved you continually perpetuating this man's sickness...you either have a creative imagination or worse, a consistent victim/co-dependency complex. In fact, this blog itself is nothing more than ego-stroking, play-the-victim nonsense. I'm sure you will delete this comment since it is unlikely that EVERY mature reader actually is sympathetic to this silly story (interesting how no negative comments exist)

C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks for the support!!!

By the way, anyone can feel free to link to any part of my blog for any reason.

To the last anonymous -- I agree that I should have gotten away earlier. That's basically my whole point in posting this story. That I was wrong to go along with it when he told me I owed it to him to keep in contact for this or that reason.

No matter what your past relationship with the person has been, after a few threatening warning signals, you need to just get away. period.

ubiquirk said...

I’d like to add that this kind of situation may not take a turn for the physically violent, but can still be very emotionally damaging – let’s call it emotional stalking. I’d been dating an amazingly charming man for over a year. At times, things seemed a little off, but I was unable to determine why. Finally, I discovered that he was a sex addict who had been sleeping with multiple women weekly (usually late at night, 3-5 am, so as not to get caught). This was enough to cause me the typical angst of such a situation – was I not attractive enough?; how could I ever trust men if they could be such good liars (as he was)?; etc. But the even more damaging thing was that when he begged me to stand by him while he got help because he loved me, etc, I did. My gut told me he was such a good liar I’d never know if he were telling the truth. My heart told me that I couldn’t abandon the man I’d loved – especially not if he were going to get therapy, etc. The self-sacrificing instinct women are indoctrinated into is powerful. While I know that some people strive to make it through addiction with the support of loved ones, this person did not. It took six months, but I found out that while he was pretending to go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings and therapy sessions, he was actually seducing any woman he could. I went through the pain all over again, when I should have listened to my gut.

And what was his stalkery behavior during this time? He begged me to be his friend, to not abandon him. Every time I tried to put some distance between us, he was there with a story of how difficult his recent SAA meeting or therapy session had been – he said he was finally working on childhood issues. He constantly told me how much he needed me, couldn’t do it without me. He’d cry and I’d comfort. He did all this knowing it was a lie.

Hindsight being what it is, I did allow this behavior to continue. However, at the time, I thought doing anything else would make me a cold-hearted ‘bitch.’ Well, I’m older and hopefully wiser now. I’d be glad to be a bitch if confronted with such a situation again. But it’s pat to tell a woman that it’s easy to break social conditioning – it isn’t, it’s damn difficult (as anonymous seems unable to realize). We need to put ourselves first, but we’ve never been told we could. Thank you for your story, because it clarifies one of the major shortcomings of how women are socially constructed, even in the US. Hopefully it can inoculate others against said indoctrination.

minako said...

You're really brave to tell this story. It must have been awful.

I didn't read any "Should have known better" from what you read because myself had a difficult break-up experience with a "suicidal" ex. It's really hard to look at the situation face-on and figure out that all you can do is get as far away as possible.

I'm so sorry you had to leave France to put that distance between you. I'm glad you foundt he courage to go back.

What ever happened to E- and G-? Do you know if St- ever got help? Went to jail?

ct said...

The social pressure on women to be nice, forgiving, helpful, and "positive" in such situations can be so powerful (reminds me of the "keep sweet" restriction of some fundamentalist polygynist groups). In other fora I visit, when a young woman posts about a gut sense of wrongness about a man, often I read several comments about how unfair it is to make such judgments, and how young men sometimes have less than stellar social skills.

It does make me shake my head in amazement. Sure, it's possible that the gut reaction is unfounded in some objective sense, but the risks are so high. I think anyone who's been through this sort of thing once considers it an amazing eye-opener. Unfortunately, the behavior is common enough that a significant number of my friends have experienced it almost as a rite of passage.

Yuck.

C.L. Hanson said...

minako -- you're exactly right about how hard it is to see thee situation objectively when you're in it. Of course I'd been taught about the sorts of tactics abusers use to make their victims feel responsible, and from the outside it's a no-brainer. But when you're in an abusive situation, it's amazing how difficult it is to step back and say "that's what's happening to me now."

As far as E- (and his brother) are concerned, I married E- (he's sitting next to me working at his own computer right now). And don't worry -- it wasn't some sort of rebound/reaction relationship to the horrible stalker relationship. He's someone I was already friends with for years prior to this incident. That's a story in and of itself, and is the main part of the memoir that wasn't posted. ;-) I would post it, but my husband doesn't like to have personal things about him posted on the Internet.

I have no idea what happened to St-. I hope he got some help (as I mentioned, he was getting some treatment during the time covered by the memoir).

I'm glad I came back to France as well -- I love it here!!! As you can see if you follow my little blog... :D

Though I have to admit bringing this whole story up again is starting to make me paranoid... But I figure that St- probably doesn't identify his behavior as "stalking", so I don't see any particular reason he'd discover this story on the Internet even if he knew enough English to read it. Plus this whole thing happened more than seven years ago, so even if he found me, I doubt he'd becom obsessed with stalking me again. I hope I'm right...

ct, you're right about the social pressure on women to "keep sweet" regardless of their own feelings.

Anonymous said...

Being the victim of a stalker myself, I applaude you for having the courage to talk about it. I have a hard enough time thinking about it (many years later), let alone actually writing about it.
I'm am enjoying your blog, continue with the great posts.

C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks Anonymous!!!

To be honest, I feel like taking the time to go through and write everything scene by scene helped me work through it. I feel like I made a lot foolish errors and was terrified that this could be the result, but somehow writing down what happened in my own words was like taking control of it.

Jane Know said...

I just read the entire story.

I also think it is a lot more common than most people think. With men and women, straight or gay. Some people have psychiatric issues that they never seek help for, until it's too late. Like when they end up hurting someone or worse...

I'm so glad you got out of that situation.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Jane!!!

Yeah, you're probably right that it's not that uncommon. That's part of the reason I posted this -- so others could learn from this example, and possibly avoid some dangerous situations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Stalkers are often those who you least expect, who undergo emotional upheavel at signs during any rejection. As long as the feelings appear to be mutual, you won't see signs of obsessive behavior. I say, "appear," because you never know what's inside someone's brain. You may enjoy a good friendship or even an intimate relationship with someone, then break it off, only to discover the inner stalker in the person you're trying to disassociate from. People who are emotionally balanced will be hurt by a breakup yet honor the other person's wishes. If you write a no contact letter to someone that states:

I do not wish to continue this friendship/relationship. Please respect my wishes by not calling, visiting, or e-mailing me. Calls and e-mails will not be answered.

If the person persists, they are acting against your wishes and engaging in unwanted behavior, that can easily rise to stalking.

In fact, it is your RIGHT to demand no contact whatsoever, and your initial letter should do it. If it doesn't, you're dealing with someone emotionally unbalanced, as long as there was no ambiguity in what you wrote.

"I do not wish to continue this relationship/friendship. Please respect my wishes. Any calls or e-mails will not be returned and will be considered to be harassment."

Simple as that!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Anonymous!!!

Very true, and good advice.

Mike said...

Intriguing story,even though this was 3 years ago, I feel sorry that has happened to you, even though I have never been stalked.
Emotions are a very powerful thing and while this may frighten some people, for some reason I have this tendency to always check up on this girl (through networking sites) I am madly in love with, she said she used to have an intimate relationship with a male and so I would go to her profile on the networking sites and find out who this male was, as well as find out what they did and what she liked about him...... I know this is dubious, but I seem to be overcome with jealousy and obsession, however not devoid of any emotions, I wish I could stop, but the urges are too strong, I think about her everyday, however, I would never harm her in anyway. I love her too much, she seems to be the only good thing in my life. I can sort of identify with your stalker (not with the sadistic or controlling actions, of course), but his mentality.... he seems to be an isolated individual and let's face it, people always strive for what they can not achieve, it suddenly becomes an integral priority to them.
I also think your stalker had Anti-social personality disorder (ASPD)too, and it is pertinent, since if it is genetic for him, his early childhood abuse, would have contributed greatly in effect and while it doesn't justify his actions rationally, it is apprehensible of why he did it. You are a victim, but I think he is just as much of a victim, if you don't know the symptoms of ASPD, I advise you to search it and see if the symptoms correlate to his own, it is an incurable disease.....as important as it is to increase awareness of these issues, I think it's just as significant we understand the functions and psychology in any given context, to gain reasons.
Thanks for sharing.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Mike!!!

I posted this three years ago, but the events I described happened nearly eleven years ago.

You're probably right about your psychological assessment, and I agree with you that he was also a victim and needed help. That's part of the reason I posted this. A lot of violent situations arise within relationships where the people care about each other. Keeping safe would be a lot simpler if all you had to do was watch out for the stranger/assailant in the dark alley. But in cases like this one -- where it's someone you care about and you can see he's having difficulties -- it's easy to feel like you need to stick around and help. So this is a message (to women especially) that you shouldn't let your feelings of responsibility extend to the point where you're putting yourself in danger.

Regarding your own situation, I would highly recommend that you take steps to end your pattern of obsession. I'm not saying this for her sake, but for yours. I know what it's like to get stuck on fantasizing about someone every day to the point where the fantasy is "only good thing in [your] life," and -- honestly -- there is nothing more depressing than that. (Read the novella Youth Conference to see what I mean.)

You need to have something real in your own life that makes you happy. Unfortunately, that's far easier said than done. It's very difficult to just stop being obsessed through the force of your own will power. If you can afford it, it would probably be a good idea to talk to a therapist who can help you re-orient your dreams, goals, and desires towards something that will make you happy.