What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Stalked

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The summer of 2017 was one of the most memorable of my life. As a sophomore in my undergrad years, I felt as though the world was my oyster. For the first time, I found friends who shared my interests. I was just starting to explore some professional opportunities and I was seriously considering my future education. 

But had I known what was to come, I’m not sure I would’ve felt that way.

An acquaintance I met less than a month prior started to make themselves an extremely present figure in my life. What followed was more than two years of living in fear of that person who became my stalker. I never knew when or how they would appear, or what would show up in my mailbox. The stories and messages they sent seemed to be nonstop, and it wasn’t until I graduated that I felt I could finally rest easy.

I know my story isn't unique. As estimated 6 million to 7.5 million people are stalked in the U.S. every year — and that’s just the reported number. Although stalking is a crime in all 50 states, many victims are afraid to report their incidents, unsure of how to proceed. After all, nobody expects stalking to happen to them. Who do you turn to for help, and when?

Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know now — that it wasn’t my fault, that people want to help, and that my life didn’t have to be over. Here’s what I wish I knew before August 21, 2017.

It’s Okay to Say ‘No’

I grew up with the personality of a wilting daisy. Because I wanted to please everyone (or at least have lots of people like me), I wouldn’t say no to anything. As you might imagine, this also got me into trouble — especially with people who were not well-intentioned.

If you are uncomfortable being around someone — especially someone who’s more aggressive than you’d like — it’s perfectly okay to say no. If you can’t do it alone, someone else might be more than willing to do it for you. Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to put your foot down. Someone who is creeping you out doesn’t deserve an iota of your time.

Collect Plenty of Information

Over the years, I’ve spoken to many people involved in a stalking incident who asked, “Why didn’t you save those screenshots?” Truthfully, it didn’t occur to me to do this at the time. That was a critical mistake.

Keep tabs on voice messages, text messages, emails, or letters sent to you by the stalker in question. This documentation will work wonders in front of a court, especially if you are attempting to get a restraining order. It might not feel good to see all this disturbing material laid out in front of you, but it’s well worth the result.

Seek Help From Trusted Friends

My biggest mistake was not telling people what was going on. Embarrassed, I didn’t let anybody know what was happening until it was already too late.

Tell your friends what’s going on in your life long before a stalking situation develops into something worse. A real friend isn’t going to put you down and will keep your best interests in mind at all times. That means finding help as soon as possible. 

Know What to Do During a Stalking Situation

If you think or know someone who is being stalked (including yourself), don’t hesitate to contact the right authorities immediately. No, you’re not being annoying, and no, you’re not a bother. These people want to help. And trust me — going at it alone isn’t an option.

Stalking authorities vary according to your state, although there are plenty of resources available online. According to the Department of Justice, here are the steps you should take during a stalking event:

  • Call 911 if you feel you are in imminent danger.
  • Report the incident to your local police office. 
  • Contact the National Center for Victims of Crime (1-855-484-2846) for extra help.

The sooner you reach out to authorities, the sooner you’ll have access to stronger protections like restraining orders. Be sure to be clear, detailed, and open with the police officers in question.

The Bottom Line

Stalking is no joke. It changed my perspective on life. But while it might have left me worse for the wear for a time, it didn’t crush me. I hope my experience, and the lessons I learned, can help others in the future. Just remember, to say ‘No’ when you need to, collect and save incriminating screenshots, and more importantly, to seek support from strong friends in your life. If you are experiencing stalking, know that you have what it takes to survive it.

Tags: Self Care

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Written By

Meagan Shelley

Meagan is a professional writer in VA who specializes in content marketing. See Full Bio

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