How to Help a Friend Who is Being Stalked

Credit: Brett Sayer

Credit: Brett Sayer

Take it seriously.

The first thing you have to understand is that stalking is a pattern of behavior, not a one-time incident. Your friend may tell you she’s afraid because her stalker left dead flowers on her porch. That may sound minor to you, but what you don’t know is that her stalker has also been calling just to wake her up every night at 3 AM, driving past her place of work on a daily basis, and leaving notes that say “Whore” in her car. The flowers might just be the thing she mentions because is scares her the worst, not because it’s the only thing that’s happened. For you, dead flowers might just be dead flowers, but the stalker intends it as a symbolic threat that he wants to hurt your friend. They do this on purpose. He knows what dead flowers mean. Your friend knows what dead flowers mean. But most other people wouldn’t see them as a big deal.

Understand that the issue here isn’t so much what the stalker has done, but the fear of what the stalker could do. Every day, most people wake up and they have a good idea about what will happen that day. Your friend doesn’t have that luxury anymore. Will he ignore her today? Will he break into her house today? Will he email her a threat today? Will he kill her today? She doesn’t know. She’s living with an incredible amount of uncertainty and fear.

 

Ask before offering advice.

Is your advice welcome? Is it even needed? Honestly, it probably isn’t.

If your friend has already researched her state’s anti-stalking laws, has already spoken to the police, or has done even the most basic level of research, she probably knows more than you do about stalking. She definitely knows more than you do about her particular case. Your friend is the expert here.

Well-meaning people, who don’t fully understand the situation, can offer dangerous advice. There are different types of stalkers, each with their own levels of risk. You can’t handle every stalker in the same way. And what you see on TV isn’t how these situations play out in real life.

The stalker is trying to take control of your friend’s life away from her. She gets to control how she handles dealing with him.

 

Understand that this is a dangerous situation.

Don’t downplay what’s going on. Being stalked isn’t a minor inconvenience. It’s a life-altering and potentially life-threatening situation. You won’t help your friend by acting like it’s not a big deal. In fact, you’ll hurt your friend if you shrug it off. One of the most important things you can do is offer validation and emotional support. Because stalking is so often misunderstood and dismissed, your friend is likely dealing with plenty of people who either don’t believe her or refuse to believe the situation is as bad as it is.

One of the most damaging things you could do would be to ignore the situation or pretend it isn’t happening. It might make you uncomfortable (it would make any normal person uncomfortable), but your friend needs to know they are heard and you are taking this seriously.

 

Offer to go with your friend when she speaks to the police.

It can be frustrating when reporting stalking. Anti-stalking laws vary from state to state, and some of them don’t allow police officers to arrest a stalker until an explicit death threat is made. This means, even if a police officer believes your friend is in danger and wants to act, they might not be able to do anything to help her.

Having a friend along for emotional support, and as an advocate in case a police officer isn’t taking her seriously, can be a huge help.

 

Help your friend with a safety plan.

What will your friend do if she comes home at night and sees her stalking circling the block, waiting for her to get out of her car?

It’s important for her to have a safety plan in place. She needs a safe place to go, temporarily, if she can’t safely go into her own home. You can offer to let her come to your home, at any time, if she needs to.

Offer to tag along if your friend needs to go somewhere and she doesn’t feel safe going alone.

Even something as simple as offering to walk her to her car at night is helpful.

 

Do not have contact with your friend’s stalker.

Most people are stalked by someone they already know. So, chances are pretty good that you know your friend’s stalker. If this person runs in your circle of friends, cut contact with him. Not only should you do this out of loyalty to your friend, but this will help create a larger buffer between your friend and her stalker.

 

Do not give out any information about your friend.

This seems obvious, but it’s easy to slip up. Your friend’s stalker might not come directly to you and ask, “Where is she?” Instead, he might scroll through your Facebook feed to find pictures of your group of friends out for the night. Now he knows she isn’t home and can break in.

Do not post information about your friend or any pictures of her online without her permission.

What’s less obvious are all the little conversations we have about people. Maybe a mutual acquaintance asks you what your friend’s been up to lately. Don’t give this person information that could lead her stalker to her. The acquaintance (who doesn’t know anything about the stalker) may let that information slip later on and it could get back to her stalker.

 

If you witness anything, write it down.

You can’t get a stalker arrested without good documentation. Your friend is likely already keeping a log of incidents. If you are with her when the stalker approaches, write it down and give a copy to your friend. If you are with her when she finds a note in her car, write it down. If the stalker approaches you, without your friend around, and makes comments about her, write it down. The more documentation and the more witnesses, the better her chances of having him arrested.

 

Don’t blame your friend.

Nobody asks to be stalked. Nobody does anything to deserve it.

It doesn’t matter if she stayed with an abusive boyfriend for way too long. It doesn’t matter if she flirted with him once. It doesn’t matter if she walks around in short skirts.

While victims are advised to cut contact with their stalkers, sometimes they slip up and respond to them. This isn’t wise, but it’s understandable. If someone has been threatening you for months, you might just snap one day and pick up the phone when he calls so you can curse him out. This doesn’t mean your friend is to blame for the stalker continuing to harass and threaten her.

The only person to blame for what the stalker is doing is the stalker. Your friend isn’t controlling his actions. He is making these choices on his own, and unfortunately, a victim can do everything “correct” in these situations and be in the exact same situation as someone who does everything you’re not supposed to do.

Never, ever blame your friend for what her stalker is choosing to do.


Visit the Stalking Resource Center for more information, including anti-stalking laws by state.

This Post is Definitely, Absolutely, Positively Not About Mike Pence

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I don’t normally jump on the latest topic that’s flying around on social media. And I’m not going to jump on Mike Pence. (I mean. I’m a pacifist. Jumping on people is frowned upon.) What I do want to talk about is something I’ve mostly seen people talk around instead of about.

Some people believe that men and women should never be alone together. That might mean they never ride in a car without a third person, or that might mean they can’t even eat dinner together in a public place.

People who have this rule have it for different reasons. I’m not going to talk about all of those reasons. (If someone wants to defend their reasoning, I’d love it if they wrote their own post. Link it in the comments, if you want).

I’m going to talk about the reason I have personal experience with.


Here’s a journal entry I made when I was 16 years old*:

After we were done at the job site [my dad and a few other adults took the youth group on an MDS trip], we went to a Waffle House by our motel. I took a drink of my water and then dumped two Equal packets into it and Nick asked, “Why’d you do that?”

I told him the water was bland, but he said water couldn’t be bland. It can too be bland.

Then we heard a crash and turned around. Joe had spilled his Mr. Pibb all over Angela and Daniel. It was hilarious.

After we got done eating, me, Andrea, and Nick wanted to go watch TV but all the adults were taking forever. So we decided to walk back to the motel. When we were leaving, Candace yelled, loudly, “Y’all need to leave the door open!”

I just stood there, like, “Huh?” I thought maybe I had the only room key or something and she didn’t want to get locked out.

Then she said, “You know, boys and girls. Together.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I tried to make a joke of it, so when we were walking back, I told Andrea, “Hey, are you excited for our big orgy? Do you want to share Nick?”

That’s when I realized Nick was literally right behind me, so I real quick said, “Just kidding,” just so we were clear. I need to stop saying everything that pops into my head.

Anyway, it didn’t even matter because Candace sent other kids out after us and they were mad because they didn’t want to sit in the motel room and watch TV, but they had to because of us.


And then I talk about watching Volcano, but that’s another story.

I want to break this down a little.

At first, we were just a group of kids, being kids. There were absolutely zero sexual thoughts going on. My focus was on bland water and Mr. Pibb accidents. When we went to leave, it never even occurred to me that something sexual might possibly happen while I was watching TV. At that point in my life, I’d never even had a first kiss yet. Never held hands. Nothing.

The woman who didn’t want us to be alone is the one who sexualized that situation, which I tried to defuse with a dumb joke (because, let’s be real… that’s always been my way.) It was embarrassing for her to say that, especially in front of everyone else in our group. And, since my father was there with us, it wasn’t that she was “in charge” of me for the trip or anything like that.

I’d only known that boy for a couple of months. One of my friends was walking over with us. Maybe she thought we were playing a trick with that… I’m not sure. We just wanted to watch TV. It’s an innocent activity.

The suspicion that we might get up to something gave us the impression that we were dangerous to one another. The lack of trust was insulting. The idea that my awkward self might tempt him down some dark, sexually deviant road was mortifying.

I wasn’t Kristy in that moment. I wasn’t a sister in Christ, which is how Christian men should see me. I was a female body that could be the object of sinful lust. I was something to be protected from.

About a year later, this woman was teaching our youth group. She was an advocate for courtship, which required a chaperone to accompany any boy/girl pair. She extended that to adults as well, and gave us an example.

The example she presented was a time, a few weeks prior, when she’d been in the church doing something and my dad had walked in. She told us all she felt extremely uncomfortable being alone with him like that, for the whole, maybe 5 minutes he was in there. My dad was the pastor. Of course he’d be walking into the church sometimes.

How do you think you’d feel if a woman told a group of your friends that she was uncomfortable being alone with your father? What does that make your father sound like?

I pressed her a little on it, asking if he’d actually done anything inappropriate. She said he hadn’t. It was just his presence that made her uncomfortable. Why, though? Because her belief was that you couldn’t trust a man and a woman, alone together. Something might happen, even if the risk was extremely low. And, even if nothing sexual happened, it wasn’t appropriate, even for a congregant and a pastor to share the same space for a few minutes.

What sharing her “caution” did was make my father sound like the kind of creep who would make a woman uncomfortable. (If you knew my dad, you’d know that’s a weird thing to say about him.) What sharing her “caution” did was make me sound like the kind of girl who’d jump a boy the second the motel door closes.

It’s hurtful and shaming.

I can’t speak for every single person out there who’s been touched by the “no boy/girls alone” rule. I can speak for me, though. The idea that this rule isn’t ever used to prevent temptation is just wrong. I’ve got a copy of my very first orgy joke that proves that’s exactly how this rule can be used. This was my introduction to the rule, and when I talk about it, this is where I’m coming from. If that’s not how it’s played out in your life, well, great. But you can’t tell me it hasn’t played out this way in other people’s lives.

*Names have been changed.

Survival Guide for Weirdos

 

Weird

Blessed are the weirdos, for they shall something, something… I don’t know, but I bet it’s pretty great.

There are two main things people who know me well will tell you.

I’m weird and I like it.

I’m comfortable with who I am, but I wasn’t always. It was a hard road and I endured quite a bit of bullying and deflated self-worth before I got here.

Lately, several people have asked me how I learned to own, and even embrace, my weirdness. Maybe it won’t all work for you, but this is what worked for me.

Different isn’t bad. It’s just different.

I didn’t know I was weird until I went to elementary school and the other kids told me. Dad used to teach me random words out of the dictionary, so I walked into Kindergarten spouting all those words and the other kids didn’t know what in the world I was talking about. And that didn’t change until I hit middle school.

I wasn’t any good at sports. I didn’t care about New Kids on the Block. I was more interested in dinosaurs than neon slap bracelets, and I couldn’t have cared less about the school’s popularity hierarchy.

I’m also severely lopsided. I’m the sort of person who’s really good at what I’m good at and not at all good at anything else. It was hard being around all those well-balanced kids who might not have excelled in any one area, but they didn’t tank in any areas either.

I was lucky enough to have weird parents. My dad’s overtly weird, while my mom keeps her weird a little more under the radar. But they’re both big dreamers and “creative types”.

My family doesn't build snowmen. We build snow alligator/unicorn/stegosaurus hybrids.

My family doesn’t build snowmen. We build snow alligator/unicorn/stegosaurus hybrids that eat children.

One night, I was really frustrated over cartwheels. I tried harder than anyone in my gymnastics class, but I just couldn’t do them.

Instead of telling me I was actually super awesome at gymnastics (which would have been a lie), my dad sat me down and drew two pie charts. (I told you he’s weird.) One pie was mine and the other pie represented all the other kids. The other kids had a pie that was evenly divided. They had a decent slice for sports. About the same sized slice for math, language skills, art… My pie only had a tiny sliver for sports. Because let’s be honest. I don’t have any talent and there’s no point pretending I do. But I had huge slices in other areas. In the end, both pies were whole pies. They were just divided up differently. And that’s OK. The world needs people who are extra good in specific areas. And you can’t be extra good in all areas. You’d run out of pie and running out of pie is the worst tragedy I can imagine.

It’s OK to be different. It’s even good to be different.

My parents and I had a lot of conversations about that. While they did try to curb some of my quirks (the stuff that was just obnoxious and served absolutely no purpose), they never tried to force me to be “normal” and they never encouraged me to just go with the crowd so I’d fit in. Instead, they encouraged me to find my own way. That wasn’t easy (see the comment about bullies, above), but it was right.

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Some people don’t like me, and that’s OK.

When I say stuff like that, people will usually rush in to say, “Oh, don’t say that!” or “Those people are just missing out.”

Nah. Some people honestly just don’t like me. Sometimes they don’t “get” me or misunderstand me. Sometimes they do understand me, and they still don’t like me. And it’s really OK. It doesn’t make them bad people or anything. I don’t click with every single person I meet either.

The thing about saying, “Not everyone is going to like me, and that’s OK,” is that it frees you up. It gives you permission to stop worrying, “What will the people think?!”

If they aren’t going to like you, no matter what you do, who cares what they think?

Whether people like me or not is more a reflection on them than on me. Maybe their personality just doesn’t mesh well with mine. Maybe their sense of humor is different than mine. It doesn’t automatically mean I’m doing something wrong when someone doesn’t like me.

(Though, let’s be real. If most people don’t like me, maybe I’m a jerk. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.)

Also, people don’t care about what you’re doing nearly as much as you think they do. They’re all too busy being anxious or embarrassed about their own stuff to put much effort into thinking about whatever you’re anxious or embarrassed about. If you act embarrassed about something, that’s a signal to the people around you that this is something to be embarrassed about. If you don’t act embarrassed, people will usually go along with that signal, and assume it’s not something to be embarrassed about. Really. I’ve done some of the stupidest things, and as long as I shrugged it off and laughed, everyone else went right along with me, whether they were my friends or not. (One time, I spilled an entire mug of coffee on myself during an interview for a job I wasn’t even qualified for. I laughed it off and got the job.)

I was embarrassed to drive the family wagon around in high school. A friend called it a "beast" because it growled going up hill, so I wrote THE BEAST on the back window in shoe polish and started bragging about my car at school. Three kids asked if they could drive THE BEAST around the parking lot. If I'd acted sheepish about it, it could have been a different story.

I was embarrassed to drive the family wagon around in high school. It was pretty beat up. A friend called it a “beast” because it growled going up hill, so I wrote THE BEAST on the back window in shoe polish and started bragging about my car at school. It caught on and kids would stop me in the hall to ask how THE BEAST was doing. Three of them asked if they could drive THE BEAST around the parking lot. If I’d acted sheepish about it, it could have been a different story. When you act like something’s awesome, it becomes awesome.

Here’s a tip: The less you care about what people think of you, the more people tend to be attracted to you. Almost everyone wants to be all indifferent toward other people’s opinions, but most people aren’t. Those people like to hang out around people who don’t care what other people think of them.

It’s OK to Fail

People who are different are so used to being judged that it can make taking a risk extra scary. Not only do you risk failing, but you risk hearing about what a weirdo failure you are from other people.

Years ago, I decided that being labeled a weirdo was a strange sort of gift other people had given me. I’m already a weirdo, so if I fail, how can I be any more of a weirdo than I already am?

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I recently launched a new blog. It’s backdated to the late 90s and written by my teenage self. If that’s not weird, I don’t know what is. And don’t think I didn’t consider what people might think. What a narcissistic thing to do. Who cares about your life, Kristy? Why would she do this instead of saving all this material for a second memoir?

People aren’t always going to understand why I do what I do. I’m not going to let that stop me.

And if I try something and it doesn’t work out, I’ll just try something else. Win or lose, I’m a weirdo anyway.

I know several people who I’d say have “vision”. People who don’t have vision aren’t going to understand people who do. And they often try to box those visionaries in and bring them down. If you have a vision, don’t let them.

Being weird is a gift.

Do you know what’s super rare? The ability to make people feel comfortable around you.

Do you know what makes people feel comfortable? When you’re weirder than they are.

Because, honestly, everyone’s a little weird and everyone feels self-conscious about their own weirdness. When I’m out there, being all weird out in the open, it helps people feel like they can share their own stuff with me. And they can. Because how can the woman who impulsively jumped into a fountain just to make someone laugh, not realizing it was full of really smelly algae that would stain her favorite jeans, judge someone else?

I used to hate my crooked teeth, my ridiculously long arms and legs, and my very Italian nose.

But you know what? Nobody feels comfortable around a perfect person. It’s my imperfections that draw people in. I’d much rather have a warm and friendly smile than a perfect smile. My long limbs are good for a laugh and my big nose is a great bullshit detector.

Use a little common sense when trying to make people feel comfortable.This might be taking things a step too far.

Use a little common sense when trying to make people feel comfortable. This might be taking things a step too far.

I’m Horace Slughorn, except less Slytherin-y.

I’ll be friendly with pretty much anyone who’s willing to tolerate me. I don’t ever want anyone to feel like they aren’t valued or accepted, so unless you’re actually a homicidal stalker, I’ll almost definitely hang out with you.

But I do take a special interest in some people and I try to keep a circle of people around me that I consider exceptional in some way (and a lot of them have no idea how special they are). Some of them are people I can look up to and get advice from (because, hey, I don’t have all this totally figured out either). Some of them are people I want to help in any way I can because I see so much potential in them. I think it’s a real gift to be able to watch someone grow into their strengths.

There are so many amazing weirdos coming up behind me. I can’t wait to see where you all take us.

An Online Conversation With My 17-Year-Old Self

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In 1998—the era of screeching modems and dial-up speeds we thought were lightning fast—I was one of a few people I knew who had a home internet connection and their own website. When Geocities closed down, I thought my teenage website was gone forever, but thanks to Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, it’s still out there, kicking it late-90s style.

I was an opinionated little thing back in the day. (I’m an opinionated big thing these days.) Since I’ve been working on a memoir for the past couple of years, I’ve been super focused on my teenage years. There have been many times I’ve wanted to get my past-self’s attention and set her straight on a few things.

So, let’s do that.

Kristy, we need to talk.

1


OK. First of all, nice Jack Handey reference.

But, honey, you need to go learn about the First Amendment because that’s not what “freedom of speech” means. It doesn’t mean you can say anything you want and nobody can argue with you about it.


2


Just so you know, nineteen years from now, you’re going to feel pretty damn smug about the Y2K scare.

And you remember that research paper you wrote on the Y2K bug for your senior English class? You know all those survivalist websites you read while doing research, and how you thought, “Hey, maybe this information will come in handy someday”? I’m sorry to tell you I’ve never had to help deliver a breach baby, so all those diagrams we saw are just taking up head space. Sorry.


3


You feel like people are kicking you around? Oh, my sweet summer child. You have no idea what’s coming for you next year.

I do like that barking comment. I’d make the same sort of nonsensical comparison between myself and a barking dog, though I have spellcheck so I can spell chihuahua. It only took me three tries to get close enough for the spellchecker to figure out what I was trying to say. Advancements in technology will definitely make your life easier.


4


You know what? I think people are basically good too. (But don’t tell anyone. It’ll hurt my street cred.)


5


Aw, did you really have to take a swipe at organized religion? You do realize you’re a member of a church right now, don’t you? You can be religious and have a personal connection to God, Kristy. I promise.

And I know you’ve heard a lot of noise about those Mary-worshiping Catholics, but they aren’t so bad. Most of them will be pretty nice to you, even when you’re being kind of an asshat.


6


You probably spent it all at the concession stand at the drive-in. Those burgers are the bomb! Well, they were the bomb. Sadly, nothing is the bomb in 2017. It’s a bleak world you live in now.

Also, “Where’d all the money go?” is a question you’ll be asking for the next two decades. Get used to it.


7


Right now, I kind of want to pinch you. I get it. You were told, “Get a degree, and you’ll get a great job!” We were all told that. It’s not your fault you believed it.

You know, ten years from now, you’re going to have a good paying job without a college degree. You’ll still go back to school, which is great, but it wasn’t the degree that got you anywhere. It’ll be your work ethic, willingness to help others, and miming skills that’ll get you ahead. (OK. Maybe not the miming skills. Those haven’t really come in handy yet, but I hold out hope for the future.)


My best advice to you for the future is to settle down a little. Let people disagree with you, and when they do, listen. You don’t have to change your mind, but at least listen.

Learn to be patient. Learn to be humble.

Stick with that frantic writing style you’re starting to develop. It’s the bomb.

You’re a little annoying, but I think you’re going to be OK.

How to Train Your Christian

 

Christian

Christians, while fun and loving, can present many challenges. Proper training is the key to a happy and healthy Christian.

Obedience Training

There are two commands that every Christian should learn.

Down – This command is often difficult for Christians to learn because of its submissive posture.

Leave It – This command is vital, though many trainers neglect it. Do not shy away from it, as it can safely remove your Christian from a fight they clearly can’t win.

Socialization

It’s important to keep your Christian from becoming isolated, which often leads to aggressive behaviors. Expose your Christian to diverse people and experiences as soon as possible. If you delay socialization, it can lead to an easily frightened and startled Christian when they encounter these situations at a later time.  Their fear may lead them to react by growling and even biting.

Nutrition

Start your Christian off with easily digested nutrients. Slowly work your way up to foods that take a little more effort to chew. Your Christian may resist the change, but keeping them on a liquid diet will lead to malnutrition.

Territory Marking

Christians instinctively mark their territory. Do not be surprised when this happens.

Marked territory

Discipline

If may be tempting to smack your misbehaving Christian on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, but this is not effective. Instead, give a clear and firm, “No.” Attempt to redirect your Christian toward a more positive activity. If your Christian persists, repeat “no” until he stops. Reward him with praise when he gives up the negative behavior.

More Mature Christians

While most people flock to cuter, newer Christians, others prefer the company of more mature Christians. This can be both rewarding and challenging.

A properly trained mature Christian can be a delightful companion, bringing warmth and love into your life. Many people appreciate their more patient pace when compared to less mature Christians, who are prone to jumping on people.

However, a poorly training mature Christian presents a real challenge. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to break any bad habits they may have picked up. If you choose a mature Christian who hasn’t been properly training, know that you can still receive plenty of love and affection from them.

 

Taking on a Christian is a serious responsibility. You should not take on the challenge unless you are prepared to fully dedicate yourself. Christians all over the world are abandoned every year. If it’s absolutely necessary, you can find your Christian another safe home, but never abandon your Christian. This only contributes to packs of wild Christians roaming through cities and neighborhoods.

If you do decide to take on this responsibility, you will be rewarded with a few chew marks, but plenty of love as well.

 

Photo credits: Freely

6 Important Stalking Facts Everyone Should Know

6 Stalking Facts

You know a woman who has been, is being, or will be stalked.

1 in 6 women have been stalked at some point in their lives.1 These women believed they (or someone they cared about) would be harmed or killed by their stalker.

How many women do you know? 1 in 6 is a high number. There’s a very good chance you know one of these women. However, many stalking victims are hesitant to tell others about their experiences with a stalker. They might be afraid you won’t believe them, or that you’ll blame them for their stalker’s behavior.

By raising awareness about the reality of stalking, you can show your friends and family members that you’re behind them.

Stalking 1

Men can be stalked too.

1 in 19 men have been stalked at some point in their lives. While women do stalk men, most stalkers (of either gender) are men.1

Men may be hesitant to speak up about their experiences because they’re afraid of looking weak, especially if their stalker is a woman. But these men aren’t weak. Stalking is intrusive and dangerous.

Most victims know their stalkers.

When people think of a stalker, most have this picture in their head of some creepy stranger, skulking down a back alley, taking picture of an oblivious woman.

In reality, two-thirds of women are stalked by a current or former partner. A quarter of women are stalked by someone they’re acquainted with, even though they never had a romantic relationship with them. Only about 13% of victims are stalked by strangers. 1

Stalkers don’t just follow a person around.

Stalkers are creative in the ways they terrorize their victims.

Sometimes they follow the victim. Or they might call non-stop all day long. They might break into a victim’s home.

They often leave items for the victim to find. These aren’t romantic trinkets. A stalker might break into a victim’s house and leave a glass of water on the kitchen table. The message to the victim is, “I can get to you any time I want.”

These types of incidents are difficult for victims to report. Victims are often afraid the police won’t take them seriously if they call to report something as seemingly innocent as a glass of water on their table. If the police officer doesn’t know the incident is part of an on-going stalking case, he might not take it seriously.

Stalkers often threaten their victims with physical harm or death. They sometimes threaten the victim’s friends and family members as well.

Stalking victims are forced to face each day, not knowing what might happen to them or to their loved ones.

Stalking kills

Stalkers kill.

All death threats should be taken seriously.

76% of women who are murdered by their current or former partner were stalked first. 85% of women who survived an attempted murder by their partner were stalked first.2

Only 10% of female murder victims are murdered by a stranger.3

Stalking is a serious red flag that a woman is in danger of being murdered, especially when she is being stalked by a former partner.

Stalking is illegal.

All 50 states have anti-stalking laws. However, some states have stricter laws than others.

“Some state laws specify that the victim must have been frightened by the stalking, while others require only that the stalking would have caused a reasonable person to experience fear. In addition, states vary on what level of fear is required. Some state laws require prosecutors to establish fear of death or serious bodily harm, while others require only that prosecutors establish that the victim suffered emotional distress.”4

Stalking is difficult to prove and restraining orders often do nothing to protect victims. Unfortunately, proving a stalking case can be a long process, during which the victim is continuously terrorized. It’s important for victims to have a strong emotional support system during this time and a safety plan in place.

 

More information is available from the Stalking Resource Center.

 

Sources

1 – Michele C. Black et al., “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report (pdf, 124 pages),” Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. (https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf)

2 – Judith McFarlane et al., “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,” Homicide Studes 3, no. 4. 1999 (http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/mcfarlane-j-m-campbell-j-c-wilt-s-sachs-c-j-ulrich-y-xu-x-1999.pdf?sfvrsn=0)

3 – Shannan Catalano et al., “Female Victims of Violence,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009.

4 – Shannan Catalano, “Stalking Victims in the United States – Revised,” Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012. (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1211)

For the Ones Who Can’t See the Light

Dear You,

I know.

I know what it’s like to trudge through knee-high snow, in the woods, at midnight, without a coat, during a blizzard, and squint through those icy bites, looking for that warm candle light that will lead you home, but there is no effing flicker of light out there.

OK. Maybe I don’t actually wander the woods during a blizzard, but I think you understand what I mean. I think you understand what it’s like to be lost. You know what it’s like when you can’t find the light, and no matter which way you turn, you just find more trees blocking your view, and you’re so, so tired of wading through snow banks.

And you get how scary it is to be alone in the woods at night. Monsters live in the woods. Werewolves and demons and child-eating witches. This is no place to be alone.

But you already know that. Because me and you? We know what it’s like to lose. For every forward movement to be a struggle, and you don’t know what’s ahead of you, or even if you’re going the right way.

Every snowflake’s supposed to be unique, right? Maybe your snow looks like your children not having enough food. Or maybe each flake is an image of someone you’ve lost. Or all the mistakes you’ve made. Or all the false faces you’ve worn. Or the memories of a thousand backhands.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to say something inspirational. But I’m not going to tell you something stupid, like if you just look up you’ll find a star you can follow all the way home. Because I know you can’t see the stars when you’re in the middle of the woods, during a fucking blizzard.

And I can’t tell you things will get easier. That the wind will die down and the snow will let up. I don’t know what’ll happen.

What I can tell you is you aren’t out in the woods on your own. I’m out here with you. A lot of people are. And maybe we aren’t all heading in the same direction, but that doesn’t mean we can’t wade through the snow together for a while. When your fingers go numb, borrow my gloves. When I fall face first into a snow bank (because God knows I fall into a lot of snow banks), maybe you can give me your hand and help me up.

I can’t promise we’ll make our way home, but maybe we can provide a little warmth for one another. And maybe we’ll be a little safer because those monsters would rather pick off lonely travelers.

So, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to walk with you for a while.

Love,

Me

The Spiritual Gift of Shutting Up

 

Have you ever taken one of those spiritual gifts tests?

You answer a few multiple choice questions and the test suggests which spiritual gifts you might have. And then you compare your gifts with your friends, while pretending to be all humble about “leadership” being your spiritual gift. Next, comes the argument about whether or not those pesky charismatic gifts still manifest today or not because Jill got the gift of healing and that just plain doesn’t happen anymore.

Right?

I guess it might depend on what you consider “healing”.

For now, let’s ignore physical healing. Instead, let’s talk about emotional and spiritual healing. Some people are gifted in this area. And do you know what they have in common? They’re good listeners.

When someone with an emotional or spiritual wound comes to you, the first thing they need you to do is listen. They need to know that they are heard and understood. After all, if you don’t take the time to learn what their problem is, how could you possibly help them with it?

Shutting up is a spiritual gift. Listening, without adding your two cents, or making suggestions, or pushing your own agenda, is healing.

After that person is done speaking, don’t just jump in with, “OK, now here’s what you ought to do…” or “Well, here’s why that happened…” Don’t compare their pain to anyone else’s pain. Don’t jump all over them and tell them why they should already be over it.

Take time to make sure they know you’ve truly heard them. Express a little empathy. Keep it short and sweet.

“What happened to you was wrong.”

“That really, really sucks.”

“I’m so sorry.”

And then shut up again. Because just that little expression of understanding and validation will probably unleash the flood. Most people are used to everyone ignoring their pain. Like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, most people just avert their eyes and run-walk past a person who’s hurt. It’s not often you run into someone who’s truly willing to listen to you, so it’s not uncommon for people to unload on the first person who’s willing to listen. That’s OK.

Just shut up and let them unload.

Over time, most people will get to the point where they can move forward again. It takes time and patience, but everything worth doing takes time and patience.

Maybe this person isn’t in a place where they feel comfortable talking to God. In that case, it’s up to Christians to step in. We represent Christ to the world, after all. Let the Holy Spirit work through you to be the ears of Christ for that person.

The next time you encounter someone who is suffering some emotional or spiritual hurt, I encourage you to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit, and shut up.

#Triggered Jokes

January 2000 - About 6 months after the first break in. You know what makes you grumpy? Not being able to unpack your belongings for 4+ months because you don't have a permanent home yet.

Three months after my family uprooted ourselves and moved across the country to escape the man who repeatedly broke into our home and threatened to murder me by setting me on fire and burning me alive. I guess all the nightmares and fire and noise-triggered panic attacks I experienced for years after this were pretty funny when you think about it.

“Sherlock sucks.”

#Triggered

He posts it as a joke. He’s making fun of all the little internet kiddies who use “triggered” when they really mean “I don’t like that thing you just said.”

But those little internet kiddies aren’t reading his comment. I am. And those kids misappropriated that word from the people who need it. Those kids aren’t triggered. They’re irritated. They’re offended. They’re angry. They are not triggered.

What is a Trigger?

When a person has lived through a trauma, sometimes they develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This isn’t the “trauma” of having your favorite TV show cancelled. This is serious, you really could have died, trauma.

These are people who’ve survived wars, survived terrorist attacks, survived sexual assault, survived murder attempts. We’re talking some hardcore shit here.

When you’re faced with a life-or-death situation, part of your brain kicks in to protect you. Your heart rate goes up. Your system gets flooded with adrenaline. Your breathing changes. Because you need to either fight off something that wants to kill you or you need to run like hell away from that thing that wants to kill you.

And you can’t control how fast your heart races. I mean, go ahead. Try telling your heart to stay at exactly 90 BPM. Didn’t work? Well, it doesn’t work for people with PTSD either. They have no control over how their body reacts when their PTSD symptoms are triggered.

And that’s what “triggered” actually means. It doesn’t mean you’re mad. It doesn’t mean you’re offended. It means your PTSD symptoms have kicked into high gear.

Some symptoms of PTSD hang around most of the time. A person might be extra jumpy and always scope out the nearest exits when they go somewhere new. Other symptoms lay dormant until they’re triggered.

Acorns trigger my symptoms.

When I’m in my house at night and an acorn falls on my roof, I know it’s just a stupid acorn. I’m not delusional or anything. I know it’s not anything dangerous. But that sudden thump on my roof when it hits activates my fight-or-flight response. My heart rate goes up. My breathing gets shallower. My eyes go wide. I’m reliving the same terror I felt when I was 18 and my life was actually in danger. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you have some idea of what I’m talking about. It’s not fun when you aren’t in control of what your body is doing.

My conscious mind knows it’s just a stupid acorn, but my unconscious mind was trained a long time ago to spring into action when it perceives a threat. A loud noise is perceived as a threat.

There was a period of time in my life when not being hyper-alert might have gotten me murdered. This same heart-racing reaction, 17 years ago, could have saved my life. Now, it’s a nuisance. But, again, our hearts don’t listen to our commands.

A trigger can be anything that jerks a person with PTSD out of the present and smashes them up against the wall of their past trauma. It’s violent and it’s ugly.

I’m lucky. I don’t actually trigger all that easily, and when I do I’m pretty good at coping with everything until my body chills the eff out and goes back to normal.

What the #Triggered Joke Says

When I see someone post #Triggered as a joke, it tells me they are not a safe person for me to be around. They don’t understand the long-lasting effects of being traumatized, or they just don’t care.

And you know what else is a trigger for me?

Christians.

I already have a hard time trusting anyone who claims to be a Christian. I was traumatized by a group of Christians, after all. A #Triggered joke from one of them is like kicking me when I’m already down.

Oh, I get that they don’t mean it “that way”, but let’s get real. “Trigger” means something. Just because some kids use it incorrectly doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a real meaning.

But, Kristy, how can you get down on people who just don’t understand how damaging those jokes can be? Ignorance is innocence, right?

Well, this is me, explaining how damaging those jokes can be. And I don’t attack people when they do it. I try to educate them, but most people tend to be pretty damn resistant to be corrected on this one. I guess defending their joke is usually more important than saying, “I’m sorry I was an asshole to all the people out there who have uncontrollable and painful reactions to traumatic triggers.”

One of the factors that contribute to developing PTSD is a lack of social support after a traumatic event. And one of the contributing factors in healing from PTSD is positive social support. Which one do you think a “triggered” joke looks like?

It’s Just a Joke

Is it a joke that I was almost murdered? That when I was still just a kid, I woke up every day, wondering if that was my last day? If I’d have to kill or be killed?

Is it a joke that when I hear a noise at night, my body immediately jumps to, “I’m about to be murdered!”, even though I’m sitting there telling myself that that’s a ridiculous reaction?

Is it a joke that some vets can’t go to fireworks shows with their families because it takes them right back to a time when they were in a life-or-death situation, maybe even when they saw people being killed?

Triggers aren’t comments that offend us or upset us. Triggers are things that make us feel like we’re about to die. How is that funny?

But, Kristy, I’m not making fun of people with PTSD. I’m making fun of those kids who misuse “trigger”. Really? By making #Triggered comments that those kids won’t see, but people with PTSD will? By making a joke that further supports the misuse of that word, as if those kids are the ones who get to define it?

It’s Not My Problem

No, it’s not your problem. Lucky you.

I can’t speak for every single person who’s experienced a traumatic event, or for every person who developed PTSD symptoms after it, but I can speak for me. I don’t expect people to tip-toe around me. I don’t ask people to avoid talking about stalkers or assault or Christians. Sometimes people say something that sets me off on an unwanted heart-pumping adventure through my mental issues. But, that really isn’t that person’s problem. It’s my problem, and I deal with it on my own.

I can’t expect everyone to know what might trigger everyone’s PTSD. Hell, half the time people with PTSD don’t know what might trigger their PTSD, so we’re never going to be able to do that.

What I can expect is people to show some compassion and respect for people who have PTSD. To not make fun of people who were strong enough to survive whatever it was that could have killed them. To not make fun of people who are unexpectedly ambushed by their past, and have to learn how to live like that. It’s not easy to do.

Maybe you didn’t know making that #Triggered joke was such a big deal. Well, now you know. I forgive you. Now, do better.

Or don’t. Say what you want, but know that your words affect other people. It’s your call whether or not that matters to you.

For more information about PTSD.

Mandatory Year-end Blog Post 2016

2016 started rough. I was still working on the first draft of my memoir, and writing a book is hard, y’all. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I once managed to get my car out of a snowbank using nothing but McDonald’s bags). I feel like a wizard should show up to tell me I’ve fulfilled my destiny or some shit. Except I’m still revising a little, so the wizard will have to come back sometime in 2017.

Honestly, I haven’t done much this year besides write, read, watch Kimmy Schmidt, and eat insane amounts of wintergreen Life Savers. I have a super glamorous life.

 

Top Five Most Viewed Posts

What Does Being Stalked Look Like? 

Last year, my parents found several rolls of undeveloped film. When they developed them, we found a whole roll of pictures that were taken while I was being stalked. While working on my memoir, I pulled out all the pictures my family has of just before and after this time as well. Seeing a visual timeline spread out like that hit me harder than I thought it would. It was like watching my life fall apart. When I shared some of those pictures, I didn’t think people would be very interested in them. I’m still not sure why this post was so popular. Maybe it helps drive home just how young I was. Maybe people just like seeing me in tie-dye (I know I do).

 

When Supporters Strip Rape Victims

header imageVictims are often stripped of their voice. Because of fear or shame or people who won’t listen. It’s important to allow them to speak about their experiences, on their own terms, without projecting our own assumptions onto them.

Sometimes I write a post because I’m frustrated with a trend. This was one of those times.

 

The God Who Suffers

God knows what it’s like to be abandoned by the people you love. God knows what it’s like to be falsely accused. God knows what it’s like to be humiliated and shamed. God knows what it’s like to suffer.

While I don’t fully understand the Trinity (who does?), I have a much deeper appreciation for it. I’ve grown more attached to the crucified Christ through that.

 

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

What does forgiveness look like when you’re still broken? When you’ll never not be broken? How do you forgive someone who doesn’t think they did anything wrong?

If you ever get down on yourself for being slow to forgive, just remember it took me 15 years just to get started. (Bonus: Y2K fantasies)

 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Creeds

Credit: Steve SnodgrassChristians all over the world, in different traditions that wouldn’t normally agree on much, stand up together on Sunday mornings and as one body recite the same words Christians have recited for centuries. And that’s a powerful thing to be a part of.

More evidence that I’m some sort of denominational Frankenstein’s monster. (See? I know the monster’s name isn’t Frankenstein. How impressed are you right now?)