Stories of Stalking: Part 2
It started out innocent. He messaged me on Facebook, asking if we could meet up and talk. In a public place? Check. During the day? Check. What's the harm in that? I thought.
We met up for coffee, and I immediately knew I wasn't interested. Any attraction was one-sided, from his end. I was polite; I talked to him for a half-hour and then left. I fully expected that to be the end of the story. I listened to him talk, but it wasn't a conversation. I didn't flirt with him or act genuinely interested in what he had to say.
But of course, he didn't take the hint.
Later that day, he messaged me again, thanking me for talking with him and asking me to meet again. I hedged, not wanting to hurt his feelings but also not wanting to say yes. I thought a vague answer would show him I wasn't interested, but it just made him press harder. I gave in eventually and met with him once more. But I left giving (what I thought was) a clear impression of disinterest.
A month later, another request came. I made up an excuse, claiming to be busy. Looking back now, I wish I would have been more upfront.
Another month went by and then another message came, "We should catch up sometime." Catch up?? I thought. We have absolutely nothing to catch up on. At that point, I started ignoring the messages, hoping the problem would go away. But I know now that with potential stalking cases: it doesn't just go away. The best idea is to be upfront right away. Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way.
Over the next couple of months, he sent several messages with no answer from me. So he decided to change his approach. I started seeing him everywhere on campus: a couple of tables over when I ate lunch, a few seats down in the chapel.
When I would leave my last class of the day (which always got out late), he would be waiting for me. The campus was deserted at that time, so there was no reasonable reason for him to be there. As I rounded a corner, there he would be, waiting for me. I'd rush past the chair where he sat, and he would snatch up his backpack and come after me.
I knew he was following me, but he would never say anything. If I sped up, he was at my heels. If I slowed down, he wouldn't pass me. He never directly threatened me, but after two weeks of the same routine, I was shaken.
I told a male friend of mine, who offered to pretend to be my boyfriend and scare him off. While his offer was tempting, my half-truths were what got me into the mess in the first place. It was time to be straight forward.
I'd like to say that I talked to him in person, but I was too scared. I honestly didn't know how he'd react. So I messaged him, telling him he made me uncomfortable and that I had no intention of meeting with him again. Ever. It was harsh, and I hurt his feelings. But he backed off. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it almost always hurts more the longer we wait to tell it.
The definition of stalking is a pattern of unwanted behavior that causes a reasonable person to fear. I’m sure he didn’t mean to cause me any harm, but I was starting to fear him. And his constant presence in my life was certainly unwanted. I was always checking over my shoulder, wondering where he'd show up next. I was nervous about walking back from class alone. What if he attacked me? If I hadn’t listened to that quiet voice inside me, who knows what would have happened.
If someone continues to do things that make you afraid, even if they mean it innocently, it's stalking. If you have a stalker who probably means no harm, but simply can't take a hint, be straight forward with him or her. Even if it causes some hurt in the short-term, it will be better for both of you in the end!
For more advice or resources on stalking, call the Iowa Victim Service Call Center at 1-800-770-1650 or text “IOWAHELP” to 20121. Our advocates are here to help, any time.