Recently I had an incident that shed light on the importance of safety. To many, calling someone a “stalker” is used in a jokingly manner, but this was all too real in my situation. To give you a preface to my story about stalking, I was asked to give someone a ride to a job interview, but it turns out that the passenger had other intentions – me.
I want to note that in no way did I deserve the situation, no one does, but there are some mistakes I made in that initial contact with my stalker, that could have stopped this all together (I’ll get more into that later).
Let’s be clear, everyone should take cautious measures in their daily lives, but as a single woman, I must be especially careful. Of course, things happen to other women as well, but when you live alone and partake in various activities in solitude, you have to be careful. These are some tips that I learned throughout my experience:
Never Freely Give Your Number Out
This was one of the many mistakes I made in my situation. Because the person was being driven to an interview, they mentioned that they wished that they would have had a resume or cover letter, so I offered my services. They seemed nice, so I gave them my number to help them out in the future. Big mistake! Instead of giving my number out, I should have taken their number or email down to get in touch with them at a later date.
Do Not Disclose Any Personal Information
During the car ride, I was asked questions that related to my personal life. Fortunately, I did not oblige and give any detail, but this is something that I could’ve easily given into. I did, however, make a HUGE mistake- because this person was picked up at my apartment complex, they nonchalantly asked if I lived in the complex and I said yes –
like an idiot! Never give any details!
I Switched Up My Routine
I am a creature of habit. I go to work, home and maybe the gym (shopping may occur on pay days), but I learned quickly to get out of that mindset. I stopped declining offers to hang out and started engaging in activities that took me out of my comfort zone. At first, I did this simply because I did not want to be at home and wanted my car out of sight, but now I am continuing to stay out of my comfort zone because I feel more well-rounded.
Take Measures to Protect Yourself
This is extremely important. Once I finally realized that this person was more than just your average “stage 5 clinger”, I decided to take measures to protect myself. I asked for advice from a former police officer and a friend got me pepper spray (be careful when handling this stuff!). I also recommend channeling this mentality and take a self-defense class. You want to empower the strength in you any way that you can.
Note: Pepper spray can be very helpful in threatening situations, but please be very careful when handling. Also, though it is legal in all 50 states, some states may have regulated/prohibited use, so please check your state laws.
I Stayed Connected with Friends and Family
During this time, I made sure that my friends and family knew where I was at all times. I do not have a lot of relatives close by, but daily check-ins with my parents and staying around close friends gave me comfort. I am fortunate to have overprotective friends and family because they were CONSTANTLY checking in on me – even when I wanted to be alone.
Since I was being harassed mostly via phone, I resisted the urge to block the person immediately to keep documentation of everything that was sent to me. This includes:
- Text messages
- Log of incoming calls
I know it sounds crazy, but this person was contacting me 10-15 times a day, which means I gathered a lot of information. You may need this documentation later on if the harassment continues.
Note: I do recommend blocking individuals as well. Please use your discretion when making this decision.
I Took Care of Myself Mentally
At first, I wondered why this was happening to me and why I didn’t just drive past this person. I reenacted that day in my mind so much to analyze what I had done to give this person a message that it was ok for them to harass me, but it was a waste of time. I’ve learned to not blame yourself for an instance like this because the problem is less with me and more with the mental stability of the other person.
I Got Over My Fear of Calling the Police
I had been told many times to just call the police and I never wanted that to be the first option in hopes of giving the individual the benefit of the doubt. I decided after weeks of continuously being harassed and I am certain it was the way to go. If you ever should call to make a police report, make sure to call your local police department (only call 911 if you are in an emergency). Walk the police through every event and keep note of your report number.
Note: If necessary, you may need to take out a restraining order for this individual. Talk to your local police and they will walk you through the process.
I Changed My Privacy Settings on all of My Social Media
After I was sent a friend request on Facebook, I was completely freaked out, but this also gave me a chance to understand EXACTLY what my privacy settings were on. Here are some things that I had to change:
- My place of work
- Any recent posts/pictures
- Any events that I was attending
- I also removed the option that people could search for me by phone number
It may sound silly, but I did not realize how much information I was putting out there on the internet. Everyone must be careful with this.
I Will Not Allow This to Limit My Life
I admit that I was completely too trusting, but I don’t think that I will stop being optimistic when it comes to people. I will establish more caution when dealing with strangers, but I refuse to walk around in fear. I am looking towards the future and I am sure new people will come along, but I have to be cautious with what information I give them.
I hope the knowledge that I’ve gathered through my experience can give heightened the awareness of someone else who could have easily been in my shoes.