Her Story: I Had a Stalker

After a rough junior year of high school, I was convinced my hardships were over. I had gotten a concussion and stress fractures in my legs that made it impossible to exercise without severe pain, and as a result of both, I had suffered from anxiety and depression. As a 17-year-old high school senior, I was so excited to move on with my life. I had college mapped out, I had a career path and my family life was better than ever. Everything was going my way… until it wasn't.

I was at church, as I usually was on Sundays, and I headed into the bathroom with my sister Brit. As we opened the door, an unfamiliar, squat, balding man who looked to be about 60 approached me and whispered, "I love you," before continuing to walk down the hall. I asked Brit if she had heard what I had, and she replied she wasn't sure.

Brit left for college a week later, and I was on my own. This man, who I later learned was named Earl*, continued to track down where I was in the church every Sunday and approach me, but I had no idea how to deal with it. He would follow me and tell me he was in love with me, but it never got any worse than that.  

There are several emotions that come from being stalked: confusion, disgust, fear, annoyance and embarrassment. It's not flattering; it's scary, and you don't know why it's happening. It's like stalkers see something in you that reminds them of themselves, or they have a chance to be with you or something. Then you wonder if there’s something that you did wrong to make someone think of you like this. You can try to avoid them all you want, but somehow they find you, and then you have to just ignore them because a response is what they want.

Earl continued to follow me and stare at me and try to talk to me, but only at church. I thought if it would just stay there, I could handle it.

It all came to a head as I was driving over to my friend's Emily’s* house to take prom pictures in early April. I pulled up to a light, and a flurry of motion next to me made me turn my head. Earl had found me, and I could see that he was trying to get me to talk to him.

He rolled the window of his car down, threw his hands out the window and yelled at me. "Jamie*! It's me; it's Earl! I love you! Why are you fighting this?"

I quickly turned my head and tried to control my breathing. I was in a car. I was fine. There was a barrier between us. I would get to Emily's house. I was safe.

The light turned green, and he turned to follow me.

He tried to keep right next to me, constantly gesturing, always watching me. I knew that if I didn’t get off the road quickly, he would cause an accident. I saw an exit coming up, waited until it was almost impossible for me to get on it, and then swerved sharply over, effectively losing him... and also getting myself hopelessly lost.

I finally pulled into an Arby's. I was fine until I parked, at which point I started shaking and couldn’t stop. I called Emily and told her I was lost. Sensing something was wrong, she asked me where I was and sent her dad to find me. 
It was only about 10 minutes later, but to me it felt like a lifetime. When Emily's dad pulled into the parking lot, I got out of the car and handed him the keys. He kept joking and trying to make me feel better, but I couldn’t play along. I went to prom and was able to have fun with everyone else, but when I closed my eyes, I remembered everything, and I was afraid for the next day.